Sprinters will face new challenges in the 2011 Tour de France in what’s already being hailed as a climber’s course.
Not only will the fast-twitch sprinters have to hump it through some legendary climbs, including the Galibier summit which sees a stage finish for the first time in Tour history, they will also see a major shakeup of the points classification for the green jersey competition.
Tour officials revealed that the green jersey will see more points awarded during each stage.
Instead of up to three intermediate sprints each day, worth 6, 4 and 2 points for the top-3, there will be just one major mid-race sprint worth 25 points, with the top-15 riders earning points. And the finish-line will see 40 points, instead of 35, on the flatter stages.
Contenders for the green jersey said they were caught by surprise by the changes in the points evaluation.
Mark Cavendish, runner-up the past two years in the green jersey race, said he will have to study the new formula with his teammates and staff to determine how it will change the Tour.
“I don’t know. It’s too early to say, we have to sit down and evaluate it. It might be brilliant, it might be awful,” Cavendish told VeloNews. “I can’t go for yellow, I can’t go for the white, I can’t go the polka-dot, so I have to go for the green. It’s a difficult route, but the Tour’s always hard. I don’t look at the overall route. I just look at how many sprint days and the rest of them I just have get through, even if it’s on my knees. That’s how that is. I see six sprints.”
2011 Tour de France by the numbers
- 3470km – rough estimation of the total kilometers
- 23 – number of major rated climbs, two fewer than last year
- 21 – number of stages, with the first stage a road stage, so no chance for yellow for the prologue specialists
- Six – total number of major mountain stages, three in the Alps and three in the Pyrenees
- Four – number of summit finishes: Luz Ardiden, Plateau de Beille, Galibier and l’Alpe d’Huez
- Two – number of time trials; one is a 23km team time trial in stage 2 and the other is a 41km hilly individual time trial in stage 20
- One – Italy is the lone foreign excursion beyond French borders this year
- Zero – Amount of time bonuses awarded at finish line and hot sprints
Thor Hushovd, a two-time winner of the green jersey, said the rule changes would have a major implication on how stages unfold.
The recently crowned world champion said the racing will be even more intense with so many points up for grabs in the lone intermediate sprint.
“It changes it a lot. The big difference is there are so many points, it will be very important to win that sprint, so maybe more of the teams will ride to have it all together. Or if there’s five guys up the road, we still have a crazy sprint behind to win the points,” Hushovd told VeloNews. “I didn’t like it too much, because it’s already very stressful to go for the green jersey, and now it’s going to be even more stressful. Now we have to sprint even if there are 10 guys up the road.”
Tour organizer Christian Prudhomme said the rule changes are designed to add more spark to the already-heated green jersey battle.
“That should make for an extra sprint every day,” Prudhomme said. “It should be very interesting.”
There will also be changes in the King of the Mountains competition, with the number of points doubled on summit finishes (four in 2011). Also, only the top-6 riders will score points at the top of each climb and only one rider will lodge points on Cat. 4 hills.