Peter Sagan odds-on to gain green jersey redemption
Breakaway raiders have eyes on iconic polka-dot award
The battle for the green jersey turned into one of the most fascinating aspects of the 2017 Tour de France after Peter Sagan’s controversial disqualification from the race blew apart the points classification.
World champion Sagan had been just a 1-2 shot to win a sixth successive green jersey before he was thrown out by Tour organisers for his role in a crash on stage four that left Mark Cavendish with a broken shoulder and ended the Manxman's race prematurely.
Sagan is back seeking redemption this year and everything we have seen of him throughout the season suggests he has this classification at his mercy once more.
The Slovakian won a second Monument at Paris-Roubaix with a sensational solo attack, while more recently he claimed a stage and the points jersey at the Tour de Suisse and a sixth Slovakian national road race title only two weeks ago.
However, he is again long odds-on and if last year’s extraordinary occurrence demonstrated, anything can happen in the cut and thrust of a sprint stage at the Tour de France.
Aussie Michael Matthews took advantage of Sagan’s exclusion to claim his first green jersey last year.
He is a similar type of rider to Sagan in that he is able to climb better than out-and-out sprinters so is able to take points at intermediate sprints on mountainous stages. But he hasn’t had the best of seasons and the same can be said of sprint rivals Marcel Kittel and Cavendish.
The new guard of sprinters are led by Fernando Gaviria and Dylan Groenewegen, who perhaps have the best opportunity to give Sagan something to think about in the points classification.
Colombian Gaviria won the points jersey at the 2017 Giro d’Italia and can benefit from having arguably the best lead-out train in the business in his Quick-Step Floors team.
He will surely become the next sprint star over the next few years but on his first visit to the Tour, stage wins look a more achievable target than battling Sagan at intermediate sprints on mountainous stages.
Groenewegen, meanwhile, tasted victory on the Champs-Elysees last year and he is another sprinter firmly on the up. He has won a stage of every race he has contested this season including an uphill drag at Paris-Nice.
The Dutchman is around double the price of Gaviria and looks a solid each-way play against favourite Sagan.
The race for the iconic polka-dot jersey is always a compulsive part of the Tour but what happens in the first week of the race can have a huge bearing on who targets the King of the Mountains classification.
Last year’s winner Warren Barguil heads the market but has had a poor start to the season with his new team and looks poor value at 3-1.
General classification contenders can win this as a by-product of going for the yellow jersey, but Barguil showed that opportunists who are able to get in breakaways are still big players for the polka-dot jersey.
Two such riders at this year’s Tour are Omar Fraile and Lilian Calmejane.
Fraile has serious pedigree for this particular classification having won the mountains jersey at the Vuelta a Espana in 2015 and 2016 and finishing third in the 2017 Giro climbing standings.
He has already won twice this season including the final stage of Paris-Nice.
Frenchman Calmejane marked himself out as a contender with a stage win up to Station des Rousses on his first Tour appearance in 2017 and with his Direct-Energie team having no GC contender, he is likely to be given the freedom to go on the attack.
BoyleSports go a standout four places each-way on the battle
to be crowned King of the Mountains.
2pts e-w 7-1 general
King of the Mountains
1pt e-w 33-1 BoyleSports
1pt e-w 40-1 Coral, Ladbrokes
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