Tour de France: Mark Cavendish, Peter Sagan, Marcel Kittel and the other sprinters compared
By Matt Westby, Velon Media Team , 27 Jun 2017
Marcel Kittel, left, and Mark Cavendish, right, are expected to be among the leading sprinters at the Tour de France (Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

The key storyline at the Tour de France is the race for the yellow jersey, but the battle to be king of the sprints could be just as intriguing.

Here, we pick out the 10 leading Tour sprinters and analyse their results from the season so far to see who could be challenging for stage wins.

They are ordered by their average finishing posiiton in sprints in 2017.

Arnaud Demare (FDJ)

Age: 25
Nationality: French
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 14
Wins: Seven (50 per cent)
Podiums: 12 (86 per cent)
Average position: 2.1
Career Tour de France stage wins: None

Only Marcel Kittel has won more sprints this season than Demare and only Peter Sagan has a better podium percentage, so the Frenchman has been both challenging for victories regularly and winning regularly in 2017. In fact, his average sprint position of 2.1 is better than Sagan’s - the model of consistency - albeit it narrowly. Demare has never been a major factor in Tour sprints before, but the statistics suggest that could change this year. He also carries could form into the race, having won a stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné and the French national road race title in the past few weeks.

Peter Sagan (Bora-hansgrohe)

Age: 27
Nationality: Slovak
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 11
Wins: Four (36 per cent)
Podiums: 10 (91 per cent)
Average position: 2.2
Career Tour de France stage wins: Seven

Sagan is only the joint-fifth most prolific sprinter of the season so far with four wins, but where he leaves his rivals trailing is his remarkable record of podium finishes in 2017. The main conclusions we can draw from this contrast are: Sagan could struggle to beat the likes of Kittel in a pure sprint; his chances of winning will increase on the lumpier sprint finishes; and he is the overwhelming favourite to win the points classification for a sixth year in succession.

Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis)

Age: 26
Nationality: French
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 16
Wins: Four (25 per cent)
Podiums: 13 (81 per cent)
Average position: 2.7
Career Tour de France stage wins: None

Bouhanni has been somewhat of a nearly man this season. From his 16 sprints, he has finished in the top five 15 times and in the top three 13 times, all of which is underlined by his impressive average position on 2.7. However, there is no escaping the fact that his win percentage is only the sixth best on this list. Like Demare, Bouhanni is still waiting for the first Tour stage win of his career and, on the evidence of his results so far this year, he will need to make improvements to bring that wait to an end.

 

Dylan Groenewegen (Team LottoNL-Jumbo)

Age: 24
Nationality: Dutch
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 16
Wins: Five (31 per cent)
Podiums: 11 (69 per cent)
Average position: 3
Career Tour de France stage wins: None

Groenewegen has been one of the rising stars of sprinting over the past two years and is enjoying another solid campaign. He has the fourth-highest number of wins among the Tour sprinters in 2017, the fourth best win percentage and the joint-fourth highest podium rate, so although he can’t be considered as one of the very best sprinters, he isn’t far away and stage win would not be a major shock. He also has decent form after picking up two wins at the recent Ster ZLM Tour, one of which was over Greipel.

Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors)

Age: 29
Nationality: German
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 13
Wins: Eight (62 per cent)
Podiums: Nine (69 per cent)
Average position: 3.5
Career Tour de France stage wins: Nine

Kittel goes into the Tour as the most prolific sprinter of the season, having picked up wins in five different stages races and the Scheldeprijs one-day Classic. His win rate - 62 per cent of sprints contested - is also by some distance the best of the sprint contenders at the Tour and it looks like he will be the man to beat. 

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Mark Cavendish (Team Dimension Data)

Age: 32
Nationality: British
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: Eight
Wins: One (13 per cent)
Podiums: Five (63 per cent)
Average position: 4
Career Tour de France stage wins: 30

Cavendish dominated the sprints at last year’s Tour with four stage wins, which took him to 30 for his career and to within sight of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34. His chances of eclipsing the Belgian great this summer currently look slim, however, given that much of his season has been wiped out by a bout of glandular fever. Although healthy again, he is lacking peak condition and it is unknown how competitive he will be in the Tour’s sprints, particularly the early ones. Cavendish’s only win this season came at the Abu Dhabi Tour in February.

André Greipel (Lotto Soudal)

Age: 34
Nationality: German
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 19
Wins: Four (21 per cent)
Podiums: 10 (53 per cent)
Average position: 4.1
Career Tour de France stage wins: 11

Greipel has been the busiest sprinter of the year - contesting 19 sprints so far in 2017 - but he has been inconsistent at times and his win percentage is the second-worst of the riders on this list. When he has won he has looked unstoppable, but on other occasions he has started sprints in poor positions and has ultimately been unable to get back on terms. However, Greipel has won a stage of every Grand Tour he has entered since 2008 and it would not be a surprise if he continued that streak at the Tour, particular if his lead-out train clicks.

 

Alexander Kristoff (Team Katusha-Alpecin)

Age: 29
Nationality: Norwegian
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 16
Wins: Six (38 per cent)
Podiums: 11 (69 per cent)
Average position: 4.1
Career Tour de France stage wins: Two

Kristoff has gone slightly under the radar this year by competing in a clutch of lower-ranking races, but close inspection of his results reveals an impressive season in which he has been the third most prolific sprinter on this list, with the third-highest win rate and the joint-fourth-highest podium rate. He has also raced and beaten top-bracket sprinters, so all the signs point towards a competitive and potentially successful Tour for the Norwegian. 

John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo)

Age: 28
Nationality: German
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: 17
Wins: One (six per cent)
Podiums: Seven (41 per cent)
Average position: 4.5
Career Tour de France stage wins: None

Degenkolb has the lowest win rate of the leading Tour sprinters, with his sole victory coming at the Dubai Tour in February, and his podium rate (only Matthews’ is lower) would also suggest that he is unlikely to be challenging for wins in the pure sprints. But like Sagan and Matthews, he will be promoted to one of the favourites on the rolling and uphill sprint finishes.

Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb)

Age: 26
Nationality: Australian
Bunch sprints contested in 2017: Nine
Wins: Two (22 per cent)
Podiums: Two (22 per cent)
Average position: 5.4
Career Tour de France stage wins: One

Matthews has been one of the quieter sprinters in the Tour field, with only the illness-plagued Cavendish contesting fewer sprints so far in 2017. His first win came at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in a sprint not packed with pure fast men, but his second was a resounding victory over Sagan and John Degenkolb at the Tour de Suisse that suggested he will go into the Tour in fine form. Like Sagan, he is likely to struggle to threaten the likes of Kittel in the pure sprints, but he could come into his own on the more testing finales.

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