His stage victory in this year’s Giro shows that he still has the will and the legs to win a sprint. And his Astana-Qazaqstan team has even hired his old lead-out rider, Mark Renshaw, as a sprint consultant for as long as Cavendish rides in the Tour. Which may not be very long, because I can imagine that if he wins the short (169.9 km) stage 7, for example, Cavendish may want to celebrate right away and avoid the many tough climbs that lie ahead.
This will also be the final appearance in the Tour of the rider who holds the record for the most Tour Škoda green jersey wins with seven, Peter Sagan. The 33-year-old Slovak will be switching to MTB racing next year but he still harbours hopes of ending his Tour de France career on a high note. “I don’t have to be the best to win but I need luck and I need to be able to stay out of trouble,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “Maybe I can still force something in the points classification. An eighth green jersey is not impossible but with that new generation of riders, it will certainly not be easy.”
Actually, I think it is impossible for Sagan to win the Škoda Green Jersey an eighth time, just because there are so many talented “new generation” sprinters in the race, starting with my favourite for the points classification, Alpecin-Deceuninck’s Jasper Philipsen. He won two Tour stages last year, including the one everyone wants to win, the final stage with the finish on the Champs-Élysées. And the rider also known as “Jasper Disaster,” because of his previous run of gaffes and bad luck, has had a very good spring, with two stage wins in the Tirrenno-Adriatico, a victory in the one-day Classic Brugge-De Panne and an excellent second in the Paris-Roubaix, behind teammate Mathieu van der Poel.
Philipsen finished second in last year’s Škoda Green Jersey race, well beaten by a dominant Wout van Aert, who is not racing for green this year. The 25-year-old Belgian will also benefit from having van der Poel riding lead-out for him, as he has done before. To have a rider of that quality working for you is an advantage not to be taken for granted.
I wonder if Philipsen’s main rival for the Škoda Green Jersey, Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal–Quick-Step), will be similarly favoured and have his teammate Julian Alaphilippe lead him into the heart of the final sprint. In any case, there is little to choose between the two riders. Jakobsen finished fifth in last year’s Tour de France points classification but he was then still recovering from life-threatening injuries suffered in a horrific crash in the 2020 Tour of Poland. But he is fully recovered now and fit, and should give Philipsen a good battle. Both have been professionals for six years. In that time, Jakobsen has more professional wins than Philipsen (43-29), but the latter has amassed more PCS points (5,809-3,866).
Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) won a stage in last year’s Tour and finished just behind Jakobsen in the points classification. He also won the world championship road race in 2019 and the points classification in last year’s Vuelta a España, so he is a class rider. However, he has only had one race since the Giro d’Italia, the Danish national championship road race, where he finished 14th. If that was enough to get him fit for the Tour, he should be in the mix.
And so should Jayco Alula’s Dylan Groenewegen, who has won five Tour stages since 2017 and most recently won two stages in the Tour of Slovenia. The 30-year-old Dutch sprinter also had to recover from the crash that nearly cost Jakobsen his life, as he received a nine-month suspension from racing for his part in the incident and was subjected to a spate of hate mail and death threats afterwards. The fact that the two riders have not reconciled adds a bit of spice to the competition.
I’d love to add the Australian sprinter Caleb Ewan to the list of contenders for the Škoda Green Jersey but he hasn’t won a Grand Tour stage since the 2021 Giro – which was also his last major win. Ewan won five Tour stages in 2019 and 2020 but he seems to have fallen on hard times and now rides for the second-level UCI Pro Team Lotto Dstny.
A rider who may have an outside chance for the points classification win, if he goes for it, is Jumbo-Visma’s Christophe Laporte, who won two sprint stages and the green jersey in this year’s Critérium du Dauphiné. The 30-year-old Frenchman is better known as a consummate domestique, rather than a sprinter. But with a cyclist of the quality of Dylan van Baarle riding for Jumbo-Visma and Wout van Aert not going for the green jersey, the team bosses may have said to themselves, “Hey, maybe Christophe can do it. Why not let him try?” It is an intriguing possibility and could add some zing to what in any case will be an exciting competition.