This one’s hard to predict because of the points scale and a lottery touch, getting in the right breakaway can count for so much. Here’s a look at the competition for 2018 with the contenders and what’s new with the points scale.
Polka dot: also known as the “King of the Mountains” jersey, points are awarded at the top of categorised climbs and mountain passes, with these graded from the easier 4th category to the hors catégorie climbs which are supposedly so hard they are off the scale. There is an algorithm to measure the climbs but it’s subjective too, miniscule hills are elevated to “mountain” status early in the race, later a 5km mountain pass in the Alps isn’t worth a single point. Again the rider with the most points wears the jersey. It is sponsored by Carrefour, a supermarket.
- Hors Catégorie passes (9 in total): 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points respectively for first eight riders
- Category 1 climbs (10 in total): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
- Category 2 (7): 5-3-2-1 points
- Category 3 (9): 2-1 points
- Category 4 (18): 1 point
Points are doubled for the final climb in each of the Stages in the Pyrenees: the Portillon (1st category so 20-16-12-8-4-2 points), the Portet and the Aubisque (both HC so 40-30-24-20-16-12-8-4).
Raider or GC rider? The mix matters because the balance of points early and late in the start tilt the balance between the raiders who go in search of the jersey and the big names going for the overall classification who win points accidentally. It’s a difficult balance for the organisers, to reward a rider who goes on an audacious raid but not to give the jersey to someone who manages to pick off the points over two early mountain passes before being caught and dropped; to reward the best climber in the race but via a competition rather than an overall contender collecting the jersey by arithmetic accident on their way to the yellow jersey.
Last year saw the points doubled on the final summit finish on the Izoard, this year’s system with three climbs offering a lot of points tilts the competition back towards the GC riders or at least puts them closer in running. Warren Barguil was the model victor last year, going in the breakaways but also able to match and even outclimb the GC contenders and won by a big margin.
Warren Barguil has been invisible, he’s not had the results he wanted and starts the Tour de France without great expectations. Yes, that’s where he was this time last year only to have a dream race with two stage wins and winning the mountains competition with more than double the points of his nearest rival. Can he do it again? Yes in that he’s not going for GC at all and if he’s lacked lustre this season then note that while others almost have a second home atop Mount Teide he hadn’t even been once on training camp in the mountains until mid-June. Still he seemed to have such great legs last summer that repeating the form, let alone the breakaways and tactical success won’t be easy, especially now he’s joined Fortuneo-Samsic, a small team that hasn’t won a single pro race this year and the pressure is on him to start delivering.
Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) is a past winner of the competition in 2014 and back after a horror crash on the first mountain stage last year. He’s one of those climbers more likely to be chasing glory than the stealthy pursuit of UCI points. But the Bison of Zegartowice isn’t a certain prospect, his win rate is low.
Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) was sixth overall last year but if the TTT goes wrong for him he’ll have more room for stage wins and racking up mountain points. It’s still hard to see him on a long raid but he can hang with the main contenders and then dart off for the stage win – and the points – just as he did in the Dauphiné last month. Team mate Darwin Atampuma could have a go too.
Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) can go on the breakaway raids and mop up a lot of points this way but his challenge is building up a big enough lead to hold off those taking the big points in the Pyrenees, or for he himself to save energy for a raid in the Pyrenees that takes him over the Aubisque in first place. Team mates Tiesj Benoot and Jelle Vanendert could feature too.
Pierre Rolland (EF-Drapac) is a contender, able to go on big raids but he’s tried before, notably in 2013 and lost out, mercifully sparing us the eyesore of him in full polka dot kit. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) has the jump to sprint at the top of a mountain pass, he just needs to get there and he seems to be on the limit on the long mountain passes. Both are French and this counts, there’s a roadside communion with the French public.
Mikel Landa (Movistar, pictured) is a great climber which is necessary but not sufficient to take the jersey. If things go wrong for him along the way then the polka dot jersey could be a consolation prize but more likely he has to work for Nairo Quintana or Alejandro Valverde. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) could win two ways, one via his bid for the overall classification and another as insurance in case things go wrong in the first week for him. What about Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)? He’s not starting the race to win the polka dot jersey but if he wants to win the Tour he’s got to take a risk or two and going clear over a mountain pass ahead of the others is an obvious route. Otherwise Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) are safe picks to rack up a lot of points.
Lotto-Jumbo bring a strong team Steven Kruijswijk, Robert Gesink and Primož Roglič, who was second on points last year. Gesink is a raider and if the GC bids implode the other two could aim for this but ditto lots of others like Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo). Omar Fraile (Astana), the Izagirre brothers (Bahrain-Merida) could feature. Finally other mentions go to Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Guillaume Martin (Wanty-Groupe Gobert), David Gaudu and Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ) although they’d almost sign today for a couple of days in the jersey, let alone taking it to Paris.
|Majka, Martin, Barguil|
|De Gendt, Landa, Froome, Quintana|
|Porte, Bardet, Alaphilippe|
Comment: it’d sound great to make authoritative picks but it’d be dishonest. Nobody is a five chainring pick, even four seems generous so these ratings should be taken with a shovel of salt, it’s dependent on who gets into the right breakaways, eg the best climber could go in a move on a mountain stage that gets reeled back because another team chases it down leaving the climber fatigued an unable to jump in the successful move.
- The term “best climber” began in 1905 when the L’Auto newspaper started to label a rider but this was merely a subjective award
- 1933 saw the first formal classification
- the competition got a dedicated jersey in 1975. The polka dots came about because the sponsor of the competition was Poulain, a chocolate company that used red and white packaging at the time. It’s stuck despite the change of sponsors and it’s become so symbolic that other races use a dotted jersey for the competition too.
- Warren Barguil won last year
- The record is seven titles, held by Richard Virenque