Belgium’s Tom Boonen (Quick Step) is expecting the toughest battle in Tour de France history for the green jersey next year, after the race’s organiser announced a dramatic overhaul to the classification’s points system. The three intermediate sprints on sprint stages from previous years have been replaced with one intermediate sprint in 2011 and the whopping 20 points on offer to the first rider across the line will make it a more tactical race for sprinters, according to Boonen.
“With the new system for assigning points for the green jersey, the struggle among the sprinters will be harder than ever,” said Boonen. “In the stages arriving with sprints, there will always be two of them. Whoever is trying for the green jersey will not only have to sprint over the finish line to take the stage, they will also have to sprint at the intermediate sprint that will assign important points up to 15th place.
“For sprinters' teams it will be important to plan the race with tactics that don't leave too much room for fugitives to manoeuvre and collect important points,” he added.
Amaury Sport Organisation’s changes will see stage victories carry 45 points, an increase from 40. The biggest change however is to intermediate sprints. In previous years, six, four and two points were awarded at three intermediate sprints per stage but next year there will be just one intermediate sprint per stage with 20 points going to the winner and 15 riders also picking up points on a sliding scale.
Boonen will be hoping to return to top form at the Tour de France for the first time since 2007 next year. He claimed the green jersey as well as two stage victories in 2007, but poor form and injury has plagued the rider’s bid for success at the Tour in recent years.
Since Boonen’s last success Mark Cavendish has dominated the Tour’s sprint finishes. The Manxman has won 15 stages over the last three years however he’s also uncertain if the points structure changes will assist him in securing the green jersey that he’s failed to win despite his impressive stage win tally.
Overall Boonen spoke positively about the route unveiled in Paris yesterday. At first glance the sprinters expect to have six stages finish in a way suited to their abilities.
“It's going to be a nice Tour: challenging and nervous right from the start on the roads of Bretagne, which are typified by the wind that beats the Atlantic coasts, and the spectacular as it is insidious ‘Passage du Gois’,” said Boonen. “Each stage will be a battle, as it always is and always has been at the Grande Boucle.”