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NUITS-SAINT-GEORGES, France (Reuters) - The pure sprinters finally have their chance to claim the green jersey for the points classification in this year's Tour de France, and not just because Peter Sagan is out of the race, said three-time champion Greg LeMond.
On a grand tour, points are awarded at the end of each stage - 50 for the winner of a flat stage, 20 for the winner of a mountain stage - and at the end of the intermediate sprint at some point during a stage.
Because Sagan could manage decent results in both flat-stage sprints and in the hilly stages, unlike the pure sprinters, he had won the last five green jerseys.
But the world champion was kicked out of the race for sending Mark Cavendish crashing on Tuesday, leaving the race for the green jersey wide open. That is not the only reason, though.
"For the last few years the green jersey was no longer for a sprinter, but this year is different, because there are no semi-hilly stages (where Sagan would pick up most of the points) and even Sagan would have struggled," LeMond, on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, said in a daily chat with Reuters on Friday.
There are also more purely flat stages decided in a bunch sprint, and German Marcel Kittel has already won three of them. He leads French champion Arnaud Demare by 15 points.
"I think Marcel will start to really believe he can get it," said LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, 89 and 90.
The Tour gets to the mountains on Saturday and Sunday before the sprinters take centre stage again.
While Demare is likely to best Kittel in a slightly uphill bunch sprint finish, Kittel has been too powerful on the flat, straight sprints. LeMond believes the German has an advantage.
"More stages to come are for Marcel," he said.
Demare's hope would be to get in a breakaway in the mountain stages and pick up the intermediate sprint points.
"Marcel won't stay in the climbs, maybe Demare can but I'm not sure," said LeMond.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Larry King