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Tour de France Gallery: 10 most colourful sprinters

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Oscar Freire wins stage 14 of the 2008 Tour de France. He would win the overall points classification.

Oscar Freire wins stage 14 of the 2008 Tour de France. He would win the overall points classification. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cavendish has learned to vary his victory salutes over the years.

Cavendish has learned to vary his victory salutes over the years. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire in the green jersey in 2008

Oscar Freire in the green jersey in 2008 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Oscar Freire wins stage 14 of the Tour de France in 2008 to secure his green jersey

Oscar Freire wins stage 14 of the Tour de France in 2008 to secure his green jersey (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi got back to winning Tour stages in 2010 with this one on stage 1.

Alessandro Petacchi got back to winning Tour stages in 2010 with this one on stage 1. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The first green jersey of the 2010 Tour de France for Alessandro Petacchi.

The first green jersey of the 2010 Tour de France for Alessandro Petacchi. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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The green jersey in 2010 was a sort of career renaissance for Petacchi.

The green jersey in 2010 was a sort of career renaissance for Petacchi. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cavendish wins stage 18 of the 2010 Tour de France with his usual swagger

Cavendish wins stage 18 of the 2010 Tour de France with his usual swagger (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Tom Boonen in his bunch sprinter days at the 2004 Tour de France, stage 6 in Angers

Tom Boonen in his bunch sprinter days at the 2004 Tour de France, stage 6 in Angers (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Djamolidine Abdoujaparov in the green jersey at the 1991 Tour de France

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov in the green jersey at the 1991 Tour de France (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Two of the top sprinters of the 1993 Tour de France Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Mario Cipollini

Two of the top sprinters of the 1993 Tour de France Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Mario Cipollini (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Djamolidine Abdoujaparov sends some love from the 1993 Tour de France on stage 13.

Djamolidine Abdoujaparov sends some love from the 1993 Tour de France on stage 13. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mario Cipollini in the green jersey after stage 5 of the 1995 Tour de France

Mario Cipollini in the green jersey after stage 5 of the 1995 Tour de France (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Robbie McEwen at the start of his 2002 green jersey campaign, winning stage 2 of the Tour de France.

Robbie McEwen at the start of his 2002 green jersey campaign, winning stage 2 of the Tour de France. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen wins stage 6 of the 2002 Tour de France, back before he gave up his bunch sprint aspirations

Tom Boonen wins stage 6 of the 2002 Tour de France, back before he gave up his bunch sprint aspirations (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Robbie McEwen wins stage 5 of the 2005 Tour de France while Australian champion

Robbie McEwen wins stage 5 of the 2005 Tour de France while Australian champion (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cavendish in the early days of Tour de France stage wins. He will start 2013's Tour as the record holder for most bunch sprint wins with 23.

Cavendish in the early days of Tour de France stage wins. He will start 2013's Tour as the record holder for most bunch sprint wins with 23. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mark Cavendish emerged as the top sprinter in the 2008 Tour de France, beating the likes of Zabel, Freire and Hushovd.

Mark Cavendish emerged as the top sprinter in the 2008 Tour de France, beating the likes of Zabel, Freire and Hushovd. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi won four stages of the 2003 Tour de France, the second on stage 3

Alessandro Petacchi won four stages of the 2003 Tour de France, the second on stage 3 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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In the 1999 Tour de France Mario Cipollini won the stage to Le Havre

In the 1999 Tour de France Mario Cipollini won the stage to Le Havre (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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In comparison to his later outfits, this green jersey combo in 1995 was subtle for Mario Cipollini

In comparison to his later outfits, this green jersey combo in 1995 was subtle for Mario Cipollini (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Not to be confused with the US Pro champion, Mario Cipollini wore this red white and blue number in the 1997 Tour de France in honour of his American sponsor Cannondale

Not to be confused with the US Pro champion, Mario Cipollini wore this red white and blue number in the 1997 Tour de France in honour of his American sponsor Cannondale (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini wore the yellow jersey thanks to the time bonuses for his stage 1 win, and held it through stage 4

Cipollini wore the yellow jersey thanks to the time bonuses for his stage 1 win, and held it through stage 4 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Mario Cipollini won a career total 12 Tour de France stages, this one in 1999.

Mario Cipollini won a career total 12 Tour de France stages, this one in 1999. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Cipollini looks back to check his winning margin in the 1999 Tour de France. He won four stages in a row that year.

Cipollini looks back to check his winning margin in the 1999 Tour de France. He won four stages in a row that year. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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World champion Oscar Freire wins stage 2 of the 2002 Tour de France

World champion Oscar Freire wins stage 2 of the 2002 Tour de France (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Petacchi was in demand at the 2003 Tour de France.

Alessandro Petacchi was in demand at the 2003 Tour de France. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Alessandro Pettachi wins stage 1 of the 2003 Tour de France

Alessandro Pettachi wins stage 1 of the 2003 Tour de France (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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One has to wonder if Petacchi's 2003 Tour stage win was only to be colour coordinated with the race sponsor

One has to wonder if Petacchi's 2003 Tour stage win was only to be colour coordinated with the race sponsor (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Baden Cooke (Fdjeux) animated the sprints in 2003

Baden Cooke (Fdjeux) animated the sprints in 2003 (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Baden Cooke after his stage 2 win in the 2003 Tour de France

Baden Cooke after his stage 2 win in the 2003 Tour de France (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Though he won four stages in 2003, Petacchi only held the green jersey one day.

Though he won four stages in 2003, Petacchi only held the green jersey one day. (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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Baden Cooke would have a vicious battle with McEwen in the 2003 Tour but would come out victorious in the green jersey competition

Baden Cooke would have a vicious battle with McEwen in the 2003 Tour but would come out victorious in the green jersey competition (Image credit: Fotoreporter Sirotti)
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McEwen was one of the Tour's most exciting and volatile sprinters

McEwen was one of the Tour's most exciting and volatile sprinters (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Tom Boonen wore the green jersey in 2005, but wouldn't take it home until two years later

Tom Boonen wore the green jersey in 2005, but wouldn't take it home until two years later (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Erik Zabel won the green jersey six straight years. This one was the Tour de France 2001

Erik Zabel won the green jersey six straight years. This one was the Tour de France 2001 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Erik Zabel won stage 19 of the 2001 Tour de France

Erik Zabel won stage 19 of the 2001 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Ever enthusiastic, Mark Cavendish reacts to winning stage 7 of the Tour de France 2011

Ever enthusiastic, Mark Cavendish reacts to winning stage 7 of the Tour de France 2011 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Changes to the points classification rules helped Mark Cavendish to win the overall in 2011

Changes to the points classification rules helped Mark Cavendish to win the overall in 2011 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cavendish celebrates his green jersey in 2011

Cavendish celebrates his green jersey in 2011 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan emerged as the new sprinter on the block in the Tour de France 2012 on stage 1

Peter Sagan emerged as the new sprinter on the block in the Tour de France 2012 on stage 1 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan (Liquigas - Cannondale) doing his "run Forrest, run!" salute on stage 3 of the 2012 Tour de France

Peter Sagan (Liquigas - Cannondale) doing his "run Forrest, run!" salute on stage 3 of the 2012 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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One of three stages won by Andre Greipel in the 2012 Tour de France, this one stage 4 in Rouen

One of three stages won by Andre Greipel in the 2012 Tour de France, this one stage 4 in Rouen (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Greipel made it two in a row on stage 5 of the 2012 Tour de France

Greipel made it two in a row on stage 5 of the 2012 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan, when not putting on a display in the flat finishes, still manages to put on a show.

Peter Sagan, when not putting on a display in the flat finishes, still manages to put on a show. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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The intermediate sprints became more and more important with rule changes to the points classification in 2012.

The intermediate sprints became more and more important with rule changes to the points classification in 2012. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Matthew Goss (Orica - GreenEDGE) goes up against Peter Sagan (Liquigas - Cannondale) for points behind the breakaway

Matthew Goss (Orica - GreenEDGE) goes up against Peter Sagan (Liquigas - Cannondale) for points behind the breakaway (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) celebrates his third stage win of the 2012 Tour de France.

Andre Greipel (Lotto Belisol) celebrates his third stage win of the 2012 Tour de France. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Although Mark Cavendish spent the 2012 Tour de France working for overall winner Bradley Wiggins, he still managed to win three stages as world champion.

Although Mark Cavendish spent the 2012 Tour de France working for overall winner Bradley Wiggins, he still managed to win three stages as world champion. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Peter Sagan was able to win the green jersey in 2012.

Peter Sagan was able to win the green jersey in 2012. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd battled for the green jersey in the 2010 Tour with Alessandro Petacchi.

Thor Hushovd battled for the green jersey in the 2010 Tour with Alessandro Petacchi. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cavendish had to wait until stage 5 to win in the 2010 Tour and it was an emotional victory.

Cavendish had to wait until stage 5 to win in the 2010 Tour and it was an emotional victory. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) donned the maillot jaune in 2006 after winning the prologue

Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole) donned the maillot jaune in 2006 after winning the prologue (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd held the yellow jersey for two stages in 2006

Thor Hushovd held the yellow jersey for two stages in 2006 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Robbie McEwen has a career total of 12 Tour de France stage wins

Robbie McEwen has a career total of 12 Tour de France stage wins (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Back when there were time bonuses, Tom Boonen spent four stages as race leader, while world champion even though he didn't win a stage in the 2006 Tour.

Back when there were time bonuses, Tom Boonen spent four stages as race leader, while world champion even though he didn't win a stage in the 2006 Tour. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Boonen in yellow with points jersey holder and notable sprinter Daniele Bennati in 2006

Boonen in yellow with points jersey holder and notable sprinter Daniele Bennati in 2006 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins stage 5 of the Tour in 2006

Oscar Freire (Rabobank) wins stage 5 of the Tour in 2006 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Robbie McEwen does his running man salute in the 2006 Tour de France

Robbie McEwen does his running man salute in the 2006 Tour de France (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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McEwen and Freire clash in the 2006 Tour

McEwen and Freire clash in the 2006 Tour (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Robbie McEwen does a wheelie to celebrate his green jersey victory

Robbie McEwen does a wheelie to celebrate his green jersey victory (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish in the green jersey at the Tour in 2009

Mark Cavendish in the green jersey at the Tour in 2009 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish made himself known for special victory salutes with this HTC-specific call

Mark Cavendish made himself known for special victory salutes with this HTC-specific call (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) took one Tour stage in 2009

Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) took one Tour stage in 2009 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cavendish continued his special salutes with one for Oakley in 2009

Cavendish continued his special salutes with one for Oakley in 2009 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Hushovd and Cavendish clashed in the green jersey competition in 2009

Hushovd and Cavendish clashed in the green jersey competition in 2009 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Cavendish got more stage wins, but Hushovd won the green jersey thanks to a relegation of Cavendish

Cavendish got more stage wins, but Hushovd won the green jersey thanks to a relegation of Cavendish (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Mark Cavendish wins the sprint on the Champs Elysees in 2012

Mark Cavendish wins the sprint on the Champs Elysees in 2012 (Image credit: Bettini Photo)

The Tour de France has always had its share of colourful characters, but none more so that the sprinters who vie for the green points jersey. The sprinters of the peloton bring excitement to the flatter stages, not only with their raw power and speed, but with the steely nerves of fighter pilots, navigating their way through tight spaces at breakneck speeds all with one goal: winning a Tour de France stage.

Looking back over the past 20 years, the Tour's bunch sprints have been the domain of a small number of riders: Mark Cavendish has won 23 in the past five editions, Robbie McEwen is next with 15, Mario Cipollini and Erik Zabel both won 12, Thor Hushovd has amassed 10, Tom Steels, Djamolidine Abdujaparov each have nine, while Tom Boonen claimed six, Oscar Freire and Andre Greipel joined Jeroen Blijlevens and Jan Kirsipuu with four apiece, while last year's green jersey winner Peter Sagan is just getting started with three.

Fans are fortunate enough to have a Tour de France sprint legend in the current peloton: Cavendish holds the record for most Tour de France sprint stage wins. He surpassed the record of 22 stage wins by Andre Darrigade - one that stood for almost half a century - with his final victory on the Champs Elysees last year.

Cavendish began amassing his stage win tally in 2008, averaging five wins per Tour de France until 2012, when he was racing in the service of overall winner Bradley Wiggins and could manage "just" three.

Yet the victories are not the most memorable moments of the Tour's sprint stages - the clashes, both physically and of personality, have led to numerous incidents, from Tom Steels' bottle-throw in 1997 to the Mark Renshaw head-butt incident of 2010. Tempers may flare, but sprinters understand it's all part of the game.

Sprinters also have a good sense of humor, and aren't afraid to show it: from Mario Cipollini's audacious kits to McEwen and Sagan's enthusiastic and creative victory salutes, sprinters can provide both a thrill and a laugh.

Enjoy this gallery and reminisce on the many colourful moments of the past 20 years in Tour de France bunch sprinting.