Peter Sagan and the green jersey: A natural fit

Some things just go together. Thunder and lighting, peaches and cream, tequila and bad decisions, and Peter Sagan and the green jersey. He has often made it appear easy but, as he targets a record-equalling sixth, the world champion says he's not bored of it yet.

"I try to do my best to get another one, and then the next year another one, and then maybe I'm bored," Sagan told a packed house at the Specialized store in the centre of Düsseldorf.

"I don't know. It's a very hard competition, the Tour de France; you have to concentrate for 21 days. It's not sure, to take a green jersey is very hard. You have to fight for that from the first day to the last one. It's hard, and for sure it's not boring."

Sagan first won the points classification with his romping Tour de France debut in 2012 and has not looked like giving it up since. Over the years, many have tried and failed to rip the jersey from his grasp, and some will try again this year, but the closest anyone has got to achieving such a feat was André Greipel in 2015, who, even after winning four stages, was still 76 points shy of the Slovak's tally.

Last year was the zenith of Sagan's powers in that competition when it seemed that almost nothing and nobody could touch him. By the time he reached Paris, he had won three stages and had amassed 470 points, more than he had in any other year. Marcel Kittel, his closest rival had just 228.

There has been talk about how the 2017 course has opened up the general classification battle, giving many more riders a chance get into the top places, and it has also done the same to the competition for the green jersey. There are many more opportunities for the pure sprinters, while an in-form Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) should give Sagan a run for his money. While it is almost impossible to look past the world champion after his previous performances, he refuses to take it for granted that he will be on that podium in Paris in just over three weeks.

"From the start, everybody has a chance," he said. "In the Tour de France, anything can happen. You could have a crash, or get an injury, or you could do bad sprints from the start, there are many different situations. For sure, there are a lot of strong people at the Tour de France, and we have to be focused all the time."

Should he carry the green jersey into Paris, Sagan will equal the record of Erik Zabel – which is fitting considering where the Tour de France starts this year. Zabel's record has stood since 2001, and it would be a major achievement to match it, even by Sagan's high standards.

Sagan is superstitious - in an interview with Cyclingnews earlier in the year he ran off to knock on wood at the first mention of the green jersey - and he protests that he's not taking the record into consideration.

"Why are you always asking me about the future? I don't know. I will try to do my best. It's like in life, if you want too much then you can lose too much," he said.

"I'm doing my career. I'm not thinking about records, but for sure it's something more."

As the press conference came to a close, a question came that has dogged him, in particular in during the 2014 and 2015 Tours de France, where he racked up an impressive number of top three placings without actually raising his arms in victory: "What would you prefer, a stage win or the green jersey?"

Back then, the question may not have received an answer, or if so a terse, "why don't you try it," might have come through gritted teeth.

With three wins in his pocket in 2016, the question was met with a little more humour. "Both," was his immediate response, before adding, "I also prefer to be one day in the white jersey. I'm getting old guys."

While 27 is certainly not old by most people's standards, it is just a little too old for that particular ambition and will have to let that one slide. The green jersey, however, is his to lose.

Sagan and green: The story so far

Sagan's career began in the same way Mark Cavendish's did before him, and Fernando Gaviria's has done now. They are different types of riders, but they have one thing in common: they were winning right from the off.

The lean years

In his early years, winning seemed a mere formality for Sagan, but with each endeavour the peloton learned to be cautious of him. His sheer strength worked against him sometimes and he was often too eager to show his hand too early. A lack of support in the sprints meant that he had to do the graft himself, which the other teams were all too willing to let him do.

On top of his game

Sagan's fifth jersey was his best yet, and a masterclass in how to take out the points classification in style. Freed by him World Championships victory at the end of the 2015 season, Sagan was in commanding form in 2016 and the Sagan of his debut Tour de France was back. The uphill finish to Cherbourg on stage 2 gave Sagan his first shot for victory and he took it with both hands, beating Julian Alaphilippe and putting himself into yellow as well as green.

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