The Green Jersey at the Tour de France - A Brief History

The best sprinter at the Tour de France is given the green jersey. But how long has the green jersey been around?

The green jersey (or maillot vert) is second only to the world's most famous yellow jumper as the most coveted prize in all of cycling. It signifies the leader of the points classification at the Tour de France.

Points are awarded at stage finishes and intermediate sprints. Currently, 50 points are given to the stage winner on a flat stage and 20 points are given to the winner of each intermediate sprint. Less points are awarded at the finish line on hilly and mountain stages, which means the sprinters start with the best chance of winning the points classification.

Current Tour de France standings

Tour de France 2021 Guide

Joining the breakaway can be a great method to gain an upper hand in the green jersey. This way, competitors can reach intermediate sprints ahead of their rivals. However, this tactic often requires climbing skills and powers of recovery, something that not all sprinters possess in abundance. Therefore, the eventual winner of the green jersey must be a somewhat complete rider and not simply the fastest sprinter.

To win the green jersey, the victor must complete all 21 stages of the Tour de France. This means the winner must be able to cross the highest mountains within the time limit and recover well between stages.

The green jersey was introduced at the 1953 Tour de France. The winner that year was Fritz Schär. In stark contrast to the modern profile of green jersey winners, Schär came third in the overall general classification the following year.

Fritz Schär at the 1953 Tour de France. Photo credit: RDB/ullstein bild via Getty Images

In 1968, the leader of the points classification wore a red jersey due to a change in sponsorship. The eventual winner that year was Franco Bitossi, though the colour of the jersey reverted to green only one year later, in 1969, and has remained green since.

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Winners of the Points Classification / Green Jersey

Peter Sagan in the green jerseyCover image: A.S.O./Alex BROADWAY

  1. Peter Sagan - 7 (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019)
  2. Erik Zabel - 6 (1996,1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001)
  3. Sean Kelly - 4 (1982, 1983, 1985, 1989)

Peter Sagan has won the points classification seven times, more than any other rider. He won the green jersey every season between 2012 and 2019 bar the 2017 Tour de France where he was disqualified from the race after colliding with Mark Cavendish on stage 4. Sagan has only been defeated in the points classification once in a Tour de France he has completed — Sam Bennett won the green jersey ahead of Sagan at the 2020 Tour de France.

Erik Zabel previously held the record. He won the points classification every year between 1996 and 2001 whilst riding for Team Telekom. Although he never won the green jersey again after the 2001 Tour de France, Zabel finished second or third in all of the six Tour de France he entered between 2002 and 2008.

Jan Janssen, Eddy Merckx, Freddy Martens, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov and Robbie McEwen are the five riders that have won the green jersey on three occasions throughout their careers.

Cover image: A.S.O./Charly Lopez

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