On Friday evening Sagan congratulated Bennett on winning the Tour’s prize for the best sprinter in a move that seems to throw in the towel for the competition.
“We gave it our best an I will certainly give it my all to try and win in Paris,” Sagan wrote on Instagram. “Congratulations to Sam Bennett for his green jersey in this Tour de France.”
Sagan currently sits in second-place in the green jersey competition with 264 points, with Bennett leading the standings with 319 points. Winning a stage of the Tour brings a rider 50 points, and Sunday’s flat stage from Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris also has a single intermediate sprint, which awards 20 points to first place. Thus, Sagan is still mathematically still capable of winning the competition outright, should Bennett fail to score any points during the Tour’s final stage.
Still, the strength of Bennett and his Deceuninck–Quick-Step team makes this scenario highly unlikely. Throughout the Tour’s second half, Deceuninck–Quick Step has repeatedly stifled Sagan’s attempts to attack into daylong breakaways to chase intermediate points. Meanwhile, Bennett has simply been faster than the Slovakian in the bunch gallops to the line.
Such a scenario played out during Friday’s stage 19 to Champagnole, when Sagan attacked into the final breakaway, only to be marked by Bennett and teammate Dries Devenyns.
Neither man had the opportunity to sprint for the stage win after Søren Kragh Andersen attacked for the stage win.
“I tried in every way possible today to go for the win and the team did its best to make that option happen,” Sagan wrote about the stage. “When we broke away with about 30km to go, the group grew to 12 riders and there were four teams I think that had two riders in there. As a result, it was impossible for me to respond to all the attacks on my own.”
Should the green jersey stay with Bennett it would mark a milestone for both riders. Sagan is the winningest rider in the history of the Tour’s points classification, and he’s dominated the jersey since his Tour de France debut in 2012. He’s never been beaten in the race for green; the only year he didn’t claim the jersey came in 2017, when he was ejected from the Tour for making contact with Mark Cavendish during a sprint.
Bennett, meanwhile, has spent the last few seasons looking to break into the elite group of heavy sprinters. He’s won multiple stages of the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia, however he’s never shown himself at the Tour prior to this year. Winning the green jersey, plus a stage, would catapult him into the elite ranks of the sport’s fast men.
Bennett seemed to recognize the historic moment on Friday afternoon, and shouted as he crossed the line in Champagnole.
“It was a delight that I didn’t break and I was strong,” Bennett said. “I know there’s more to go but today was a crucial day.”