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Cycling History: The Green Jersey in the Tour de France

Points Classification vs General Classification

The most important classification of the Tour de France is the General Classification (G.C.). The leader of this classification wears the yellow jersey. Individual finishing times for each stage are totaled to determine this classification. The most important stages for G.C.-contenders are mountain stages and time trials.

In 1953, to celebrate the 50th birthday of the Tour, the organization introduced a secondary competition: the points classification. The leader of the points classification wears a green jersey. The points classification is considered a sprinters' competition. Most important stages for this classification are the flat stages.


Why green?

Why did they choose green? The first sponsor of the points classification was a lawn mower producer, La Belle Jardinière.

Green Jersey: records

Who are the most successful cyclists in the history of the green jersey in the Tour de France? Peter Sagan (Slovakia) has won the green jersey seven times. Erik Zabel (Germany) has won the points classification in the Tour de France six times. Sean Kelly (Ireland) won the green jersey four times.

Profile: favorites for the green jersey

The most points are scored in flat stages. These stages usually finish with a bunch sprint. However, to win the points classification a sprinter also needs a reasonable level of all-round skills. Marcel Kittel and Mario Cipollini were the best sprinters of their generations, but they've never won the points classification. Peter Sagan has a good sprint, but he's surely not the best sprinter of his generation. However, he has many all-round skills.


Peter Sagan (Slovakia)

Peter Sagan was born January 26, 1990 in Zilina (Slovakia). He has won the green jersey in the Tour de France in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019. His nickname is "Peter The Great". Sagan is one of the biggest stars of 21st century cycling. He has won three consecutive World Championships (2015-2017). Peter Sagan has won many classics, including the Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem.

Erik Zabel (Germany)

Erik Zabel was born July 7, 1970 in Berlin (East Germany). He has won the points classification in the Tour de France six consecutive years between 1996 and 2001. Zabel has won 12 individual stages in the Tour de France. He was a good sprinter, but he also scored points in hilly stages. Zabel has won several classics, including Milan-San Remo (1997, 1998, 2000 and 2001), the Amstel Gold Race (2000) and Paris-Tours (1994, 2003 and 2005).

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Sean Kelly (Ireland)

John James "Sean" Kelly was born on May 24, 1956 in Ireland. He was one of the most successful cyclists of the 1980s. Kelly has won the points classification in the Tour de France four times: 1982, 1983, 1985 and 1989. He was a true "all-round champion". The Irishman could win stage races, classics, time trials, flat stages and mountain stages. He won monuments like Paris-Roubaix, Milan-San Remo, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Giro di Lombardia. Kelly won the General Classification of the 1987 Vuelta a Espana. He won Paris-Nice seven years in a row. The Irishman was leading the FICP World Ranking for a record five years.

Sprinters: 2021 Tour de France

Who are the big names in the 2021 Tour de France? Famous sprinters in the 2021 edition are Caleb Ewan, Peter Sagan, Mark Cavendish, Wout van Aert, Arnaud Demare and Alexander Kristoff. Other notable sprinters in the 2021 Tour are Elia Viviani, Tim Merlier, Michael Matthews, Giacomo Nizzolo, Bryan Coquard, Jasper Philipsen, Nacer Bouhanni and Pascal Ackermann.

Points classification

How do green jersey points work? The rules varied over the years. In the early years, the riders received penalty points for not finishing with a high place in a stage. The competitor with the least penalty points won the green jersey.

The systems has changed in 1959. Points are awarded for the first riders to cross the finish-line or an intermediate sprint line. The competitor with the most point wins the points classification. The exact point system varied. Starting from the 2011 Tour the France, the current system was implied.

Points Tour de France

  • Flat stage: 50, 30, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 2 points.
  • Hilly stage: 30, 25, 22, 19, 17, 15, 13, 11, 9, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 and 2 points.
  • Big mountain stage: 20, 17, 15, 13, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point.
  • Individual time trial: 20, 17, 15, 13, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point.
  • Intermediate sprint: 20, 17, 15, 13, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 point.

Other Points Classifications in Cycling

The points classification competition in the Tour de France has inspired many other cycling races. The Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain) installed a points classification in 1955. They also use a green jersey. The Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) installed a points classification in 1966. The color of their jersey varied over the years. Some years they';ve used a red jersey. Most of the years they use a purple jersey.

Many other cycling races use a green jersey for their points classification: Criterium du Dauhpiné, Tour de Romandie, Tour of California, Tour of Ireland, Tour of Georgia and the Tour de L'Avenir.

© 2021 Van Staveren

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