Peter Sagan and his fans may have enjoyed the past six editions of the Tour de France where he has won the points classification on five occasions, but with the Slovakian set to win a sixth green jersey this year some are calling for a change in the rules to stop his dominance.
Insiders say that race organisers could return to how it ran the points competition up until 2010, giving more points at the finishes of flats stages, giving points further down the results sheet, and giving fewer points at intermediate sprints.
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“That would be a solution to make it more competitive,” said former professional and Mitchelton-Scott sports director Julien Dean who finished second in bunch sprints on two stages of teh 2010 Tour de France,
“If you look back 10 years ago, it was a different format for the green jersey, and we had a lot more closer competitions than we do now.”
ASO currently gives points on all stages to the top 15, with flat stages offering the most with 50 points for the winner. Before 2011, the intermediate sprints gave 6, 4, and 2 points, only three spots deep, but they now give 20 points to the first rider across the line with points going down to 15th place (although there is only one sprint per stage rather than two prior to 2011).
“It certainly favours a rider who climb a bit and can sneak some points mid-stage,” Dean added. “When we had the two sprints per day, the points differences were definitely a lot smaller.
“This could be a time to go back to that. We are in an era now where we have a lot of good sprinters.”
Many of the current riders in the bunch agree with Dean’s assessment, including Heinrich Haussler (Bahrain-Merida) who has spent much of this Tour leading out Italian sprinter Sonny Colbrelli.
“Yes, absolutely, change it to how it was before,” Haussler said. “The stuff in the middle is not interesting for the spectators watching on TV.
“It’s good for Sagan, but no one else has a chance. It should be just in the sprints. It’s a sprint jersey, but as it is, they should change the jersey to a combative or combination jersey.”
Sagan won the green jersey in Paris from 2012 through 2016. In 2017, the jury kicked him off the race following a clash with Mark Cavendish on stage four.
If he wins a sixth green jersey in 2018 he will match the record held by German Erik Zabel. With six stages remaining, there are 290 points still to be won, with Sagan holding a lead of 282 points over Alexander Kristoff (UAE Team Emirates).
That means that even if Kristoff wins all of the intermediate sprints and all of the remaining stages, including the mountain stages and the time trial, Sagan needs just a seventh place on one intermediate sprint or a ninth place on a flat stage to secure the green jersey.
“On the flatter stages there should be more points so the bigger sprinters will get more points and maybe that’ll give them more motivation to push on to Paris too,” added Haussler.
“And cut out the points on the uphill finishes, that’s how it was before. You don’t get mountain points on the sprint stages, so why this way around?”
Norwegian Thor Hushovd won the green jersey in 2005 and 2009, before the recent rule changes, but doubts whether any rule changes could break Sagan’s domination.
“To be honest, I don’t think [we’d see different winners]. Peter Sagan is such a good rider,” Hushovd said. “Even with the old system, he would get a lot of points and still be ahead of all the others. Maybe the gap wouldn’t be as much as now, but he’d still win.
“Sagan is also good at avoiding crashes, and he is also in good places at right moments, that’s why the situation is what it is today. Look at Gaviria’s crash in that stage two final, Sagan makes it through and gets the maximum points.
“You can’t start to change the system because he’s that strong.”