LOURDES, France (VN) — Alexander Kristoff (UAE-Emirates) says Peter Sagan is the real winner of the Tour de France green points jersey.
Kristoff is stating the obvious. The Bora-Hansgrohe superstar started Friday’s final mountain stage with an insurmountable lead over Kristoff, 467 points to 196 points.
The problem is that Sagan struggled early in Friday’s final mountain stage. And Kristoff is next in line to inherit the green jersey if the three-time reigning world champion cannot make it to Paris.
“Peter has already won it if he just manages to finish,” Kristoff told VeloNews at the start Friday. “It would be cool to win the green jersey, but it wouldn’t be like I won it because Peter is so far ahead.”
Sagan’s near-perfect Tour with three wins nearly ended Wednesday when he crashed heavily on a descent on stage 17. Sagan suffered heavy blows to his arms, legs, back, and buttocks, but he safely negotiated Thursday’s transition stage. Sagan even sprinted to eighth on the stage to add a few more points to his running total.
On Friday, Sagan struggled to keep pace in the first of four climbs across the Pyrénées. Though it looked like he should be able to finish with the gruppetto, there was a danger he could be time cut or even abandon.
“After a crash, the hardest time is always 48 hours later,” Bora-Hansgrohe sport director Patxi Vila told French TV. “Peter is having the hardest day of his cycling life ever so far. He wants to make it across to the gruppetto, but it all depends on the reaction of his body.”
Many of Sagan’s green jersey rivals have already abandoned the Tour, including Quick-Step Floors’s Fernando Gaviria, who won two stages in the first part of the race to challenge Sagan early.
If Sagan is suddenly out of the race, Kristoff would take over the green jersey.
“Suddenly I could be in green if he crashes really bad, but lucky for him he could ride,” Kristoff said Friday morning. “He looked quite OK [Thursday], maybe not at the top level, but he is still at such a high level, I think he will manage to get through.”
On Friday’s start in Lourdes, Kristoff was not thinking about the green jersey but instead trying to win his first Tour stage since 2014 when he won two stages. Since then, he’s been second or third eight times without winning a stage.
The Norwegian sprinter is hoping to end that streak Sunday on the Champs-Élysées.
“I have my final chance in Paris,” Kristoff said. “I hope to have some good legs on Sunday.”
Kristoff’s chances for victory are greatly enhanced following the early exits of nearly all the top sprinters in this year’s Tour. Only a hobbled Sagan and Arnaud Démare (FDJ) remain among the peloton’s pure speedsters.
Other riders in the race will also be holding out for Sunday’s finale, including John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing), Christophe Laporte (Cofidis), and Sonny Colbrelli (Bahrain-Merida), who could all win in Paris.
“I was very close the other day when Sagan beat me on the line,” Kristoff said. “It’s been like this the past couple of years. I have had many seconds and thirds, and I only won in 2014 two times. It is a long time since I have in the Tour, so I am used to not winning in the Tour.
“I know I am not the fastest rider in the world anymore,” Kristoff continued. “I know if I am lucky I can win. If the race is a little harder or challenging and it comes down to a smaller group, I am good. It’s like this when you are getting older when you are a sprinter and younger guys coming in with faster legs. It’s harder to compete against them.”
And what happens if both Sagan and Kristoff are suddenly out of the Tour? Démare, who won Thursday’s stage, is third with 183 points and could win the green jersey.