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Tour Coach: It’s All About The Green
Insight St.21:I forget exactly which year it was, but one of the six years that German sprinter Erik Zabel won the green jersey points competition he didn’t win a single stage. This year, Columbia HTC’s Mark Cavendish won SIX stages and DIDN’T win the green jersey. There’s little doubt that Cavendish is the fastest sprinter on two wheels, so it’s a testament to Thor Hushovd’s savvy as a competitor that the Norwegian captured the second green jersey of his career.

– By Chris Carmichael –

I know, I know, I really should be talking about the yellow jersey, the whole big-picture of the 2009 Tour de France, Lance’s comeback and his prospects for 2010. But I’ve talked about that a lot over the past three weeks, and today I’m more interested in the sprinters.

The interesting thing about the green jersey competition is that it’s the only jersey competition contested by riders who are not going to be high up in the overall classification. To win the polka dot jersey, you don’t have to finish in the top ten overall, but you generally finish higher up than the sprinters because to gain mountain points you need to be at, near, or off the front in the mountains – where the time gaps are huge. For example, the King of the Mountains this year – Franco Pellizotti – finished 37th overall, 56 minutes behind Alberto Contador. In reality it’s not really a great overall placing for Pellizotti, considering he was third at the Tour of Italy and previous King of the Mountains winners often did finish in the top 10 overall, but it’s a lot better than Hushovd or Cavendish who finished 2:45 and 3:21 behind Contador – and that first number is hours, not minutes.

Count em: 1,2,3,4,5,SIX stages this year for Mark Cavendish.

The fact the green jersey point contenders are not able to ride at the front of the peloton during a significant number of stages within the race makes the competition more difficult to win. To win it you have to carefully pick the places where you are going to apply your best efforts. The obvious places are the handful of stages well-suited to sprint finishes. Cavendish certainly capitalized on those, crossing the finish line first on six occasions, including today. With 35 points for winning a stage, his victories alone earned him 210 points. For Hushovd to win the green jersey despite Cavendish taking maximum points on six individual stages is incredible.

There were three stages that made a world of difference in the points competition. The first was Stage 6 into Barcelona. The finish was at the top of a 1.5-kilometer climb. It wasn’t the steepest or longest climb of the race, but it was steep enough and long enough to blunt Cavendish’s speed. Hushovd capitalized on this and took his only victory in this year’s Tour de France. Cavendish finished 16th and earned 10 points to Hushovd’s 35.

The next stage of major significance in the green jersey competition was Stage 14 to Besancon. If you remember, that was the day George Hincapie missed out on taking the yellow jersey by just 5 seconds. His Columbia HTC team was trying to slow down the peloton in the final kilometer, but still needed to help Cavendish get across the line in front of Hushovd in order to earn green jersey points. Cavendish did cross the line ahead of Hushovd, but the race officials relegated the British rider for deviating off his line.

As a result, Cavendish earned no points and Hushovd earned 13. And finally, there was Stage 17 to Le Grand Bornand. Hushovd probably sensed that his lead in the green jersey competition was not enough to win in Paris if Cavendish won the final stage on the Champs Elysees (at that point Stage 19, which ended up in a sprint won by Cavendish wasn’t considered to be well-suited for the sprinters). As a result, he fought hard to get himself into the long breakaway on Stage 17, suffered his way over two major mountain passes, and took maximum points at both of the day’s intermediate sprints. That effort added 12 points to his total and Cavendish earned none.

Today, standing on the podium resplendent in green, Hushovd won the points competition by a mere 10 points. It is often said that the green jersey is won by the most consistent rider in the Tour de France, but this year I don’t know if that is true. For consistency, you have to look to Cavendish, who won more than a quarter of the stages in the whole race (even more if you only consider the road stages and remove the two individual time trials and the team time trial). Instead of consistency, Hushovd’s path to the green jersey had more in common with Alberto Contador’s path to yellow: He kept his rivals close at all times, and found a few key places where he could turn big efforts into maximum gains.

Thor Hushovd’s path to green was not defined by many victories, in fact, only one, but the Green Jersey is not a win contest.

As we reach the end of another Tour de France, I want to congratulate Alberto Contador on his second yellow jersey, Andy Schleck for a fine performance and his second white jersey as Best Young Rider, and Franco Pellizotti on his victory in the King of the Mountains competition. And of course, congratulations to Lance Armstrong on a successful return to the Tour de France. I would also like to thank Richard Pestes and everyone at for their tremendous coverage of the Tour de France and for the honor of being able to contribute to that coverage. I hope everyone enjoyed the 2009 Tour de France, and that like me, you’re looking forward to another great race in 2010.

Chris Carmichael has been Lance Armstrong’s coach for 20 years and is the founder of Carmichael Training Systems (CTS). Chris’s newest book, “The Time Crunched Cyclist: Fit, Fast, and Powerful in 6 Hours a Week” has just been released and signed copies are available at There you can also get information on CTS’ Create Your Own Comeback program, the free Do the Tour…Stay at Home™ training program, and the free CTS Tour de France Newsletter. You should also follow Chris on Twitter.

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