Le Maillot

The King of the Mountains jersey is known in French as the “Maillot à Pois“, literally the Pea Jersey. Only with Anthony Charteau’s win, it’s more like petit pois. I salute his win but last year he wasn’t even picked by Caisse d’Epargne to ride the Tour.

How it should be: polka dot and yellow go head to head

I long to see KoM jersey in action with the lead group in the mountains, a recognised climber who is able to last with the best. But this isn’t the case these days. Long gone are the days when the favourites would launch attacks before the final climb, allowing the big names to bag points all day long. Instead the favourites tend to leave it to the last climb, allowing smaller riders to win points. Certainly I can remember the late Thierry Claveyrolat, no mean climber, going on solo raids to bag points, a trick copied by Virenque, Jalabert and others.

Something must be done
It’s a bit mean but Charteau’s win might stir ASO into action. Whilst they’ll be delighted with a French winner, the average Frenchman in the street hasn’t heard of Charteau. The race media didn’t fuss over him and when he went for a haircut on the rest day in Pau, nobody recognised him as he walked into town.

This isn’t just Charteau’s problem, the competition is sponsored by Carrefour and they’ll want a return on their money, they’ll want a high profile winner. So what can be done to encourage this competition to be taken more seriously by the big names? Some suggestions:

  • Prestige: This is a circular argument but the jersey needs to be seen as more prestigious. If it was won by some big names then others would be add their name to the list.
  • Money: if the prize pot was increased the incentive to win would grow. I’m not sure how much would be needed because an increase in the pot might just encourage lesser riders to chance their luck; the big names are already on big salaries and would need a big incentive to lift themselves out of the saddle.
  • Points: I can’t help wonder if there’s been some inflation in the categorisation of climbs. One time second and first category climbs seem to have been upgraded. For me an hors catégorie must be over 2000m above sea level and needs some tough sections too. Making the big climbs pay might reward real climbers.
  • Points: to contradict the suggestion above, maybe it’s the big HC climbs that distort the competition. Cresting the Madeleine put Charteau into the lead, maybe the points need to be allocated more evenly to reward consistent climbing?
  • Wait: no rider gets lucky and if Charteau was a clever winner, maybe the same rules will generate a decent winner next year. Besides, as much as poor old Charteau is leaving many of us thinking ” yes… but…“, he’s still miles ahead of busted Bernhard Kohl and Franco Pellizotti of the suspicious passport.

1 thought on “Le Maillot”

  1. I'd be interested in general to see a solution to the "final climb problem", meaning all the racing happens in the last few kilometers of the last climb, and early attacks by the favorites are rare.

    First of all, you would, I suppose, want to look at some data to ascertain whether it's really true that they wait more than they once did. Obviously, we remember the 'epic attacks' and read about them much more than 'last climb battles', and that's true for the past just as it is for today.

    If it is indeed true, what could be done? Hard to change geography much, but having fewer flat roads between the big hills would help. Straight down and straight up means you don't need to worry quite so much about teammates.

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