For nearly a decade, the Slovakian superstar was king of the points competition. “Super Sagan” barnstormed to seven green jerseys from eight editions between 2012 and 2019 to set a new mark, until he ran into Sam Bennett last year.
The Irishman beat Sagan at his points game and dashed to the podium in Paris to become the first Irishman since Sean Kelly to wear the green jersey. A controversial relegation in stage 11 sealed Sagan’s fate, and he was a beat behind for the remainder of the race.
Will Sagan be back at his consent best to win another one in 2021? Or will new, sprint challengers rise to the occasion, and end the Sagan era once and for all?
Our VeloNews editors take sides:
Andrew Hood — No, Caleb Ewan will be the man in green
Sorry, Sagan fans, and I know there are a lot of you out there, but it’s Caleb Ewan who will end up in green this year.
The Aussie pocket-rocket is consistently the fastest so far in the sprints of 2021, and while the green jersey is rarely won by the purest of sprinters since the Tour tweaked the points allocation, this year’s course coupled with Ewan’s fast kick should see him end up in Paris in green.
It’s Sagan’s ability to be there on the harder, hillier stages that typically gives him an advantage against the pure sprinters.
And for 2021, that part of the equation hasn’t changed. Sagan proved in the Giro d’Italia he is still capable of grinding through a classics-style course and deliver the “W.”
What has changed is that Ewan is faster than ever.
Though he pulled out of the Giro early, and he’s already laid out his plans to try to win stages in all three grand tours, I expect Ewan to make a serious run for green.
Ewan’s started seven grand tours, but he’s only finished two — the 2019 and 2020 Tours. In his debut in 2019, he was second to Sagan on points. Ewan is even faster and more experienced and will be able to go deeper in this Tour.
With a team of dedicated stage-hunters and sprint helpers, Ewan will see plenty of chances in the Tour.
Sagan could get an early lead in the points category in the opening week’s lumpy profile, giving him an advantage that he will try to hold on all the way to Paris.
The only rider capable of derailing the Sagan Express this summer will be Ewan, and I think he can do it.
Sadhbh O’Shea — Yes, Peter Sagan will be an unstoppable green machine
Peter Sagan will be back and more eager than ever after being relinquished of his grip on the green jersey title. I don’t think there is anyone that can stop him from romping into Paris decked out in the maillot vert, champagne in hand.
Sam Bennett’s win last year was the first time the Slovakian has been beaten to green since he began his streak way back in 2012 – was it really that long ago?
The only blot on his copybook was in 2017 when he was controversially kicked out of the race for causing Mark Cavendish to crash during the opening week.
Not to take away from Bennett’s brilliant victory last year, but Sagan was not his usual self during the 2020 Tour de France after a lackluster return to racing following the COVID-19 imposed break over the summer.
It is a different story this year where Sagan appears to have found his flow again, with stage wins in Catalunya, Romandie, and the Giro d’Italia — plus the ciclamino jersey at the Italian grand tour.
With his future still unconfirmed as contract negotiations continue for 2022, Sagan will have the ammunition to go into the Tour all guns blazing. Even the best seem to step up another level when there is a new contract on the line.
Of course, Sagan is not the fastest man out there anymore and he’s unlikely to walk away with the most victories, but his weapon is his consistency. His aggressive approach to racing will also serve him well and, as he has shown in the past, he won’t be afraid to really take the race to his rivals.
During the Giro d’Italia, Bora-Hansgrohe rolled the dice on some of the lumpier stages in an effort to burn off some of the sprinters over the climbs. It’s a tactic that had mixed results but the German team won’t be afraid of doing it again.
Sagan is not going to go down without a fight in the green jersey battle and the other sprinters better come prepared if they hope to better him.