Tour de France 2020 Tips: Sagan supreme for Green

Peter Sagan at Tour de France
Despite the short odds, it's hard to see past Peter Sagan for the Green Jersey

Cycling fans are rightly excited about upcoming Wout Van Aert, writes Jack Houghton, but he is unlikely to challenge Peter Sagan for the Green Jersey

"It seems that only some kind of accident or misdemeanour should prevent Sagan from making it eight Green Jerseys..."

With a course preview and Yellow Jersey predictions dispatched, it's time to turn our attention to the ancillary jerseys at this year's Tour de France, which rolls out of Nice on Saturday, 29th August.

Is the Green Jersey a Sagan certainty again?

Winner of seven of the last eight Points Classifications, it would be easy to assume Peter Sagan (1.625/8) was a certainty to win the Green Jersey again in 2020. Often carrying the misnomer of the "sprinter's jersey", any would-be winner needs to be able to do much more than win some bunch sprints. Sagan embodies the versatility required. He can place highly (and sometimes win) bunch sprints on flat stages. He is the best in the peloton when it comes to finishes on short, punchy climbs. He has the day-in-day-out endurance to contest and win most intermediate sprints. And, crucially, he is a good enough climber to be able to hoover up these intermediate sprint points on mountain stages, while his rivals toil out the back with the gruppetto. It seems that only some kind of accident or misdemeanour (he was chucked out of the race in 2017 for causing Mark Cavendish to crash) should prevent Sagan from making it eight Green Jerseys, then.

Except that this year many are predicting that new wunderkind, Wout Van Aert (6.005/1) from Team Jumbo-Visma, has valid claims to challenge Sagan. Van Aert is certainly talented: his wins in Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo in recent weeks provide more evidence of the versatility we have seen from him in the last couple of seasons. Like Sagan, he is a punchy climber, can mix it in bunch sprints, and he's a decent time trialist, too.

It's unlikely Van Aert will be given full freedom to contest the Green Jersey, though, as he has two viable GC contenders in his team who he will need to be on domestique duty for. And anyway, at this relative stage in their careers, Sagan is simply better. 1.625/8 represents value for Sagan to top the Points Classification again. The sprinter's roster for this year's Tour is depleted (for a reason, check out the route description here) meaning Sagan will place higher (and likely win) more flat stages than usual. Further, his Bora-Hansgrohe team are not taking Max Schachmann to the race after he was hit by a car at Il Lombardia, and they have doubts about Emmanuel Buchmann, too, meaning Sagan is likely to be the team's sole focus.

As for the likes of Sam Bennett (6.005/1) and Caleb Ewan (10.009/1), they will be fighting out the few flat stages that end in bunch sprints, but they do not have the adaptability required for the Points Classification, and would only become viable contenders should misfortune befall Sagan.

A typically confusing Polka-dot picture

On occasion, as in 2013 with Nairo Quintana and in 2015 with Chris Froome, the Mountains Classification goes the way of a leading General Classification contender who, by virtue of their ever-presentness at the head of high-scoring summit finishes, manages to collect enough points to secure the Polka-dot Jersey.

More often, though, it is a rider who is out of contention for top honours who is successful: not considered a danger to the ambitions of Yellow Jersey hopefuls, they are allowed to breakaway early on every mountains day, sweeping up the points on the early climbs before usually capitulating by the stage's end.

Even predicting who the contenders are in any given year is difficult, then. Take 2019 Polka-dot winner Romain Bardet (10.009/1) and 2018 winner Julian Alaphilippe (5.004/1), who head most Polka-dot betting lists. Both are excellent prospects if given the freedom required by the peloton. After his 2019 exploits, though, which saw him wearing the Yellow Jersey for two weeks, the leading teams are unlikely to allow Alaphilippe to go riding up the road untethered. Likewise Bardet, who might be an unlikely outsider for the GC, but is nonetheless among a group of riders who will be watched closely.

For those wanting to bet on the Mountains Classification pre-race, Thomas De Gendt (15.0014/1) is worth a small interest. He is known for his breakaway exploits, is not a contender for the Yellow Jersey, and has shown the ability to repeatedly ride prominently on every stage of a three-week race.

That small bet aside, though, it's worth waiting until the first rest day before entering this market full gas. There are a whole host of riders with Yellow Jersey credentials who, should they already be out of contention for overall honours, will naturally turn their attention to either individual stage wins or the Polka-dot Jersey. Possibles include Thibaut Pinot, Tadej Pogacar, Daniel Martinez, Mikel Landa, Miguel Angel Lopez, Rigoberto Uran, Richie Porte, and Adam Yates. By assessing their behaviour in the first week and, crucially, their position in the General Classification, we should have a better indication of the real contenders for Polka-dot. Read our daily Tour de France previews for updates.

Egan Bernal should win the White Jersey

At odds of (1.625/8), Egan Bernal is all-but guaranteed to be wearing the White Jersey in Paris (given to the rider, aged 25 or under, who finishes highest in the GC). Others who qualify - like Tadej Pogacar (3.505/2) and Daniel Martinez (13.0012/1) - only have a realistic chance if misfortune befalls Bernal.

There is a potential arbitrage strategy here of backing Bernal for the Yellow Jersey, whilst laying him in the Young Rider Classification, on the assumption that if he bombs out of one, it will be because he has bombed out of the other, too. That strategy is not genuine arbitrage, though, as the race route could conceivably see Bernal losing Yellow in the final time trial but doing enough to hold on to White.

Movistar's Enric Mas, at around 15.0014/1, is of interest, largely because he competes as part of a stripped-down team who no longer bring multiple contenders for the General Classification. He could conceivably get the support of his team, then, in a White Jersey assault, but again, this would require Bernal to be out of contention.

For those wanting a short-priced prospect to get stuck into, Bernal is hard to see past, but this is probably a market to sit out given how much its outcome depends on the fight for the Yellow Jersey.

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