Jasper Philipsen takes his fourth stage win of the 2023 Tour de France.

Who will rule the roost in the Tour de France sprint stages?

As many as eight stages of the race will end in sprints, which has drawn a huge field of fast finishers. How do they stack up?

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 28.06.2024 Photography by
Kristof Ramon and Cor Vos
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Although the 2024 Tour de France gets underway with some spicy stages that will have the punchier climbers licking their lips, there is also a very generous helping of sprint stages on tap at this year’s race. In fact, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if roughly eight stages of this Tour went to the fast finishers, which means that we’ll probably see the same familiar faces throwing their bikes at the finish lines over and over (and over and over) again across the next three weeks.

This Tour with plenty of sprint chances has, perhaps unsurprisingly, also drawn plenty of sprinters, and it is an interesting field with a single pre-race favorite for the bunch kicks, and then a huge clutch of challengers that includes plenty of big names. There are just as many big questions. Can Jasper Philipsen can keep his top spot? Can Sam Bennett, Fabio Jakobsen, and others regain their former heights? And, of course, can a certain Manxman win that elusive, record-setting 35th stage?

In short: aside from the expected GC battle, the sprint finishes could be some of the most captivating moments of the race. Read on as we sort out the sprint field of the 2024 Tour de France – and remember that as the sprint stars rack up victories on the road, they can also score points for you in Escape Collective’s Tour de Fantasy!

The top dog: Jasper Philipsen

Last year’s green jersey winner is the clear favorite to win the most sprint stages at this year’s race. Jasper Philipsen track record at the Tour (six career stage victories, four of them last year) speaks for itself, his Alpecin-Deceuninck team has no GC aspirations and is built to secure stage wins, and having turned 26 this year, he should be in his prime. He has had a fine season too, winning Milan-San Remo amid a stellar Classics campaign.

Head-on shot of the Milan-San Remo sprint finish with left to right: Tadej Pogačar, Michael Matthews and Jasper Philipsen.
Jasper Philipsen (right) sprinted to a Monumental win at Milan-San Remo.

All that said, Philipsen hasn’t actually done a whole lot of sprinting in top-tier stage races lately. A single stage win at the Baloise Belgium Tour earlier this month was his first stage victory in any race since he won stage 2 of Tirreno-Adriatico back in March, and those are his only two stage wins at any level all season. There is little other indication that his pursuit of Classics success has done much to dampen his top-end speed, but it’s at least worth pointing out that his favorite status is not quite as robust as what we saw during the peak years of Mark Cavendish or Marcel Kittel.

He has a very good (largely thanks to Mathieu van der Poel) but not spectacular leadout train, but he sometimes comes up short on days where he looks like the obvious top pick to win (ahem, Paris last year), and he also has a bit of a reputation for argy-bargy, which could come back to haunt him if he pushes his luck with the race jury in a sprint at this year’s race. In short, although Philipsen is the clear favorite for the sprint stages and for the points jersey as well going into the 2024 Tour, there are reasons to wonder whether someone might challenge him.

A crowded field of challengers

The list of riders in the next tier of potential sprint stage winners is a long one, and it includes other Classics heavyweights with very fast finishes as well as the greatest sprinter of all time.

Mads Pedersen celebrates victory in the stage 1 bunch sprint at the 2024 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Mads Pedersen took a bunch sprint win on the opening stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Mads Pedersen is much more than a “pure sprinter” – but he’s a really good sprinter too. The Dane gives Lidl-Trek a chance to take more sprint wins in a second Grand Tour this year after Jonathan Milan’s strong Giro d’Italia (and in case you were wondering, Milan is one of the few top sprinters skipping the Tour). Pedersen has a big engine and can work his way up to an impressive top speed, which will come in handy on the many, many stages in the first half of the race with finishes on long straightaways. He has already bested Philipsen in a pure sprint battle, and he could do it again this year. He is also a great contender for green.

Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike) is much, much more than a “pure sprinter,” although his form is a question mark after his long injury layoff. He said Thursday he’s never come to a Tour with his form this poor. He was pretty good at the Tour of Norway, but the Tour de France is on another level of difficulty and there’s no way around the fact that Van Aert’s Tour prep was suboptimal. On top of that, his teammates have other things on their minds with Jonas Vingegaard hoping to defend his overall title. Still, Van Aert will surprise no one if he wins a sprint stage or two in this Tour, and who knows? Maybe green is a possibility for the former points champ as well, particularly if Vingegaard’s own injury recovery prevents him from challenging for a third-straight yellow jersey.

Arnaud De Lie wins the Belgian national title.
It’s not easy to beat Jasper Philipsen in a sprint, but Arnaud De Lie did it less than a week ago at Belgian nationals.

Staying with the topic of versatile talents, Walloon wunderkind Arnaud De Lie (Lotto-Dstny) is set to make his Grand Tour debut on Saturday. He can handle some climbing, but he should also be a real contender in the purer sprints too. Although the 22-year-old had a disappointing first few months of the season with suspected Lyme Disease, he came back with a vengeance from late April onward. It’s really hard to know what to expect from him in his first Tour, but he is one of the most promising prospects in the sport and helms a team focused on stage wins.

On the opposite end of the age spectrum is Mark Cavendish. All eyes will be on the Manxman as he tries to set a new record for career Tour stage wins, and almost all of the Astana-Qazaqstan squad is built around making that dream a reality. Much like the others already mentioned here, Cavendish has not done a whole lot of winning in traditional stage race sprints this year, with one stage win each at the Tour Colombia and the Tour de Hongrie, but more than probably anyone in the pro peloton, he probably doesn’t really care about getting wins outside of the Tour. He will be ready to contend, and setting that new record is a real possibility.

Can Mark Cavendish get his first Tour stage win in Astana-Qazaqstan kit to make it 35 in his career?

There are a few former up-and-comers hoping for a revival in this race as well. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-AlUla), who has five Tour stage wins to his name, has had a nice run of form recently, beating a decent field to a stage win at the Tour of Slovenia and then besting the very speedy Olav Kooij for a Dutch national road title.

You could say many of the same things about Sam Bennett, a former green jersey winner at the Tour who is leading the way for Decathlon-AG2R la Mondiale this year. He dominated a weaker sprint field at the Four Days of Dunkirk and took runner-up honors behind Pedersen in a Dauphiné stage, and he also has a committed team that has done a nice job of building around its stage-hunting goals.

Fabio Jakobsen probably belongs in this tier as well, but it’s really tough to say after two disappointing months for the Dutchman, who never really challenged for a win at the Giro d’Italia leading his new DSM Firmenich-PostNL team. Still, when healthy, he is a very fast finisher. He is the sort of rider with a high ceiling and a low floor: He could very well win some stages, but he could also leave the race without a hint of a result.

The outsiders

With at least some question marks around basically every sprinter on the start list, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that one of the many, many names further on the fringe could contend. Let’s start by pointing out that Phil Bauhaus of Bahrain Victorious has come really, really close to winning a Grand Tour stage on several occasions so far in his career. He also rides for a team that has seemingly figured out how to win more in the past year and a half than they were doing in their first few seasons.

Another German, Pascal Ackermann, has won quite a few Grand Tour stages, though a Tour de France stage victory has remained elusive. Now with Israel-Premier Tech, Ackermann has yet to win this year, but with his track record in the Giro and the Vuelta, he can’t be ruled out.

Biniam Girmay (Intermarché-Wanty) has one Giro win to his name and some close calls at the Tour. He’s unlikely to best the very fastest sprinters in a high-speed finish, but he is versatile enough to have a better chance than most to win a stage where some of these other names have been dropped, while his teammate Gerben Thijssen also has a nice kick and could surprise people in the sprints.

Bryan Coquard wins stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse.
Bryan Coquard took his first-ever WorldTour win in Europe on stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse.

Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) has finally started taking WorldTour wins after many years of coming up short, and he recently did so at the Tour de Suisse. He gives Cofidis a contender in the sprints. Fellow Frenchman Arnaud Démare (Arkéa-B&B Hotels), on the other hand, has the track record but not the recent form, with eight Grand Tour stage wins on his palmarès but nary a victory so far this year. Left off Groupama-FDJ’s Tour team last year, he switched mid-season to Arkéa and doubtless wants to prove his former team was wrong not to select him. He is a longshot but if he is in shape for the biggest race of the year, he does know how to win a bike race.

Movistar’s Fernando Gaviria, Alexander Kristoff of Uno-X, EF Education-EasyPost’s Marijn van den Berg, the versatile Michael Matthews (on days where his Jayco-AlUla teammate Groenewegen gets dropped), and the aforementioned Mathieu van der Poel (when he gets the green light for himself) are others worth keeping an eye in the sprints.

The Escape Collective star ratings of the Tour de France sprint field

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐: Jasper Philipsen
⭐⭐⭐⭐: Mads Pedersen
⭐⭐⭐: Wout van Aert, Mark Cavendish, Arnaud De Lie
⭐⭐: Sam Bennett, Fabio Jakobsen, Dylan Groenewegen, Mathieu van der Poel
⭐: Phil Bauhaus, Pascal Ackermann, Biniam Girmay, Marijn van den Berg, Michael Matthews, Alexander Kristoff, Fernando Gaviria

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