Peter Sagan appears to have conceded the Tour de France green jersey race to Irishman Sam Bennett.
On Friday night, Sagan congratulated Bennett for winning the Tour award for best sprinter in a move that seems to throw in the towel for the competition.
“We did our best and I will definitely give my all to try to win in Paris,” Sagan wrote on Instagram. “Congratulations to Sam Bennett for his green jersey in this Tour de France.”
Sagan currently sits second in the green jersey competition with 264 points, with Bennett leading the standings with 319 points. Winning a stage of the Tour earns a rider 50 points, and Sunday’s flat stage from Mantes-la-Jolie to Paris also has a single intermediate sprint, which awards 20 points to first place. Thus, Sagan is still mathematically capable of winning the competition, if Bennett fails to score points on the last stage of the Tour.
Still, the strength of Bennett and his Deceuninck – Quick-Step team makes this scenario highly unlikely. Throughout the second half of the Tour, Deceuninck – Quick Step repeatedly stifled Sagan’s attempts to attack in one-day breakaways to chase the intermediate points. Meanwhile, Bennett was simply faster than the Slovenian in the peloton galloping towards the line.
One such scenario unfolded during Friday’s Stage 19 at Champagnole, when Sagan attacked in the final breakaway, only to be scored by Bennett and his teammate Dries Devenyns.
Neither man had the opportunity to sprint for the stage victory after Søren Kragh Andersen attacked for the stage victory.
“I tried every way I could today to aim for the win and the team did their best to make it happen,” Sagan wrote of the stage. “When we broke up with about 30km to go, the group grew to 12 runners and there were four teams, I think, that had two runners. As a result, it was impossible for me to respond to all the attacks on my own. ”
If the green jersey remained with Bennett, it would mark a milestone for both riders. Sagan is the most successful rider in the history of the Tour’s points classification, and he has dominated the jersey since his Tour de France debut in 2012. He has never been beaten in the green race; the only year he didn’t claim the jersey came in 2017, when he was sent off the Tour for making contact with Mark Cavendish during a sprint.
Bennett, meanwhile, has spent the last few seasons looking to make the elite group of heavy sprinters. He has won several stages in the Vuelta a España and the Giro d’Italia, but he has never been on the Tour before this year. Winning the green jersey, plus a stage, would catapult him into the elite ranks of the sport’s fast men.
Bennett appeared to recognize the historic moment on Friday afternoon and shouted as he crossed the line at Champagnole.
“It was a pleasure that I didn’t break and that I was strong,” Bennett said. “I know there is still a lot to do but today was a crucial day.