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Is the Slovak being helped by the current format of the Tour's points competition?

Photo: A.S.O.

PETER SAGAN

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TOUR DE FRANCE

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29.07.2016 @ 08:15 Posted by Jesper Ralbjerg

On Sunday, Peter Sagan of Tinkoff claimed his fifth consecutive green points jersey at the Tour de France after completely dominating the opposition in that particular competition and he now looks set to tie Erik Zabel’s record of six jerseys in 2017, and very likely will break it the following year.

 

Sagan is widely regarded as having no equals when it comes to winning the green jersey in the Tour. One of Zabel’s former teammates, Rolf Aldag, current sport director at Dimension Data, said he sees no one stopping Sagan from racking up green jerseys.

 

“The way it is now, it’s impossible for anyone else to win the green jersey,” Aldag told Velonews. “If they want Peter Sagan to win the green jersey for the next 10 years, then they leave the points system the way it is.”

 

Sagan has looked imperious and unstoppable in his quest for the coveted green jersey since maiking his Tour debut in 2012. This year, he amassed 470 points, dwarfing Marcel Kittel’s second-place total of 228. The reason? A points system introduced in 2011 that Aldag claims tilts the balance in favor of Sagan’s all-round skills against the pure sprinters.

 

Aldag did not begrudge Sagan his triumphs but pointed out that the current system does not necessarily mean that the fastets rider in the peloton wins the green jersey.

 

“Does he deserve it? Under this points system, absolutely,” Aldag said. “Do you want to have the fastest man winning the green jersey? Then you have to think about changing the points system.”

 

Aldag maintains that heavy intermediate sprint gives Sagan a huge advantage over his pure-sprinter rivals because Sagan can often get over early and mid-stage climbs to earn intermediate sprint points almost unchallenged by the sprinters. Subsequently, he has the engine to kick into the top 5 in nearly every other stage with a mass gallop.

 

“No one is as dominating as Sagan, there is no question about that. He is a great bike rider,” Aldag said. “The question becomes, is the points system unfair, or is Peter Sagan just that good? He is there every day. You cannot drop him. Because he can get over a first-category climb, and he takes the intermediate sprint, and you are on the back foot. He does it twice, and it’s lost.”

 

This year’s green jersey race is a case in point. Mark Cavendish of Dimension Data won four stages before Sagan won into Bern, slamming the door on Cavendish to open up an unassailable lead of 405-291 when the Manxman decided to quit the Tour to prepare for the Olympics. No one else was even close.

 

Under the previous system, with fewer points in play in the intermediate sprints, the green points competition was one of the most contested of the Tour. Sprinters would fight and scrap for every point they could, and the jersey sometimes was not decided until the final sprint on the Champs-Élysées.

 

The new rules that were introduced in 2011 appeared tailor made for Sagan. In his five consecutive green jersey victories, no one has been able to seriously challenge him. The closest was André Greipel in 2015, when the German won four stages and Sagan was left empty handed in term of stage wins.

 

“This year was a sprinter-friendly Tour de France, we’ve had eight sprints in this Tour, and no one can come close to Sagan,” Aldag said. “That shows his quality, but it also says that if you want to have it exciting, close, and have the fastest people competing for it, you have to think about making some changes.”

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