Green and Rainbow? A classic combo

The season is under way and it’s the time of year when riders start revealing their goals for the season. Contador, Schleck and Armstrong will all want to take the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, Cancellara will want to finally win the Tour of Flanders, sprinters such as Greipel, Petacchi and Farrar will want to rack up as many stage wins as possible, while some riders will simply be hoping to make it to their first Grand Tour. One of the most interesting battles throughout last season was the one which took place between Hushovd and Cavendish for the Green Jersey at the Tour de France. Sure enough, both riders have announced that the Green jersey will be top priority again for 2010. But will Cavendish be up to the task of doing what he couldn’t do last year?

Cavendish lost out on the Green jersey last year due to a disqualification on Stage 14 in an incident with Thor Hushovd himself (video: about 5 minutes in). This time, the Manxman will be out to set the record straight. They seemed to put their differences behind them when they were seen playfully sprinting to the top of Mont Ventoux towards the end of the Tour. But recently, Hushovd has teased Cavendish by saying that “he was the fastest but the jersey is not for the fastest sprinter, it’s for the best sprinter, that’s why I won it”. Hushovd is certainly not wrong, as over the years winning stages hasn’t proved to be a prerequisite for ending the Tour in Green. Indeed, in ’98, ’99 and ’05 the winner didn’t win a single stage. The following is a table of the Green jersey winners over the last 20 years and the amount of Tour stages they won when they took the jersey:

List of points classification winners at the Tour de France for the last 20 years and the number of stage wins earned by the winning rider each year.

No points classification winner in the past 20 years has come close to Cavendish’s six stage wins last year. Hushovd, who’s won the Green jersey twice, in 2005 and 2009, only won one stage altogether in those two years. Erik Zabel, winner of a record six Green jerseys managed nine stage wins during those six years, one less than Cavendish has managed over the last two Tours. Going back even further, the great Sean Kelly only managed a measly one stage throughout the four years when he took Green. It clearly isn’t about stage wins but about dogged consistency, although stage wins certainly help.

Cavendish has won a classic and not the Green jersey, Hushovd vice versa. They have both stated a desire to win both this coming year. Cavendish will be aiming to win Milan San Remo for the second year running, while Hushovd has said he’ll also target La Primavera along with the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. The Green jersey and a classic? Lofty goals. Throughout history ten cyclists have managed this feat: Stan Ockers, Jan Janssen (twice), Eddy Merckx (three times), Freddy Maertens (twice), Bernard Hinault, Sean Kelly (three times), Eddy Planckaert, Laurent Jalabert, Erik Zabel and Oscar Freire. Should either of the two sprinters achieve this feat they will be joining quite the elite group.

As if this wasn’t enough, the pair have also said that they’d be targetting the World Championships Road Race in Australia this September. The parcours is much flatter than last year but it’s not without its difficulties. To achieve all three of their goals the riders will have to first peak in the Spring, then again in July and finally in September. Getting to peak fitness three times in one season is a huge task, especially amongst the current peloton where there will be plenty of riders who have only one goal in the season and will be basing their entire year around the same races that Cavendish and Hushovd will be targetting. Winning a classic, the Green jersey and the Rainbow jersey is something that has only been achieved by three men. In 1955, Green jersey winner Stan Ockers also won Fléche Wallone and Liége-Bastogne-Liége along with the World Championships. In 1971, Eddy Merckx completed his hat-trick in emphatic fashion by winning three of the five monument classics along with Green and Rainbow jerseys. Finally, the last man to complete this amazing feat was Freddy Maertens, who in 1976 won both jerseys along with the Amstel Gold and Gent-Wevelgem.

It’s been 32 years since a cyclist did what Cavendish and Hushovd are attempting to do this coming season. It will be a fascinating battle between them and it begins on March 20th at the Milan San Remo.

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