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Who Will Win The Mountains Jersey?

rafał majka tour de france

It’s the 40th anniversary of the polka dot jersey so expect a greater focus on this jersey. It’s an unsettled competition, the green jersey points competition has been tweaked to reward the fastest sprinter but the polka dot mountains jersey still doesn’t go to the best climber.

History: The term “best climber” began in 1905 when the L’Auto newspaper started to label a ride in the race but it was merely a label in the newspaper associated with the race, a subjective term. 1933 saw the first formal classification and in 1975 the competition got a dedicated jersey. 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 other races even use a dotted jersey for the competition.

Points: The classement général du meilleur grimpeur is the strict title. It is a points competition and the bigger the climb, the more points:

  • Hors Catégorie climbs: 25,20,16,14,12,10,8,6,4,2 points respectively for first 10 riders to finish
  • Category 1 climbs: 10,8,6,4,2,1 points
  • Category 2: 5,3,2,1 points respectively
  • Category 3: 2, 1 points
  • Category 4: 1 point
  • Points are doubled for the final climb on a stage with a summit finish (Stages 10, 12, 17, 19 and 20)

Here’s the split of climbs for the 2015 race, the finishes reflect the doubled point opportunities.

HC Finish 1 Finish 2 Finish HC 1 2 3 4
No. of climbs 3 1 2 4 5 11 13 18
Total Points 150 20 20 100 50 55 26 18

The total points score is for the first rider on the climb. As you can see the points scale is heavily weighted towards the stage winners of the big summit finishes. All those efforts sprinting for third and fourth category climbs might bring the jersey early but they’re unlikely to help a rider keep it. To exaggerate to make the point should a rider bag every single third and fourth category climb in the race they’d earn 26+18 = 44 points or less than winning one summit finish atop an HC climb with 50 points up for grabs.

Raiders of the lost art: the jersey has gone to raiders who have taken off for the day to score points, often going on two or three big breakaways across the mountain stages. It’s the most subjective of all the jerseys, there’s no disputing the overall winner and the points competition is usually emphatic but the climber’s prize has a varying legitimacy. Nairo Quintana’s win in 2013 seems appropriate, Thomas Voeckler’s 2012 win was a popular triumph but Anthony Charteau in 2010 is an example of the kind of arithmetic winner who has the points but not the flair, the art. Not that it’s easy to get the jersey, just that its status varies according to the wearer.

All this makes it the hardest jersey to predict. The default picks are between the overall candidates especially those capable of sprinting for the win in the three HC-rated summit finishes on Stages 10, 12 and 20, it’s here that Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana get the nod ahead of Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali because the latter two might prefer to take time elsewhere, on a descent or a transition stage ambush. When the route was announced Froome bemoaned the parcours suited the climbers but he’s excellent on a summit finish. But this is still highly speculative.

Let’s turn to the pure climbers. Rafał Majka won last year because Alberto Contador crashed out and Tinkoff-Saxo had a find alternative goals. If Contador stays then Majka is likely to play lieutenant, maybe enough to score points but in an HC-finish surely he’s being paid to help Contador get ahead. The same with Movistar where Alejandro Valverde is supposed to be on duty to help Nairo Quintana. What’s needed is an autonomous rider free from team duties….

Pierre Rolland is an obvious but scary choice in case he goes for the full measles outfit, a horrific sight in 2013. He’s a proven force over three weeks and aggressive too. However he’s prone to something going terribly wrong and will lose minutes across both of the time trial stages which gives him room for manoeuvres. Team mate Thomas Voeckler is getting back into form and could end his career with a high.

If things go wrong for Thibaut Pinot or Romain Bardet in the opening week then the polka-dot jersey will become a welcome Plan-B, especially as it lands certain popularity on TV and the crowds. Warren Barguil isn’t being tipped as much for the overall but could try too, but is he regular enough? Trek Factory Racing’s Julian Arredondo had a great 2014 season but hasn’t quite built on it yet but the mountains competition could be just his thing as he sprints so well uphill, he’d do it via breakaways and taking maximum points on intermediate climbs in the Pyrenees. Dan Martin could do the same, he’s yet to convince as GC contender but is a gifted climber and attacking rider. Louis Meintjes is another climber and he was on the attack in the Dauphiné rather than playing for a GC position.

It’s hard to see Joaquim Rodriguez going for the overall, he’s been close before but the combination of the opposition and his advancing years mean poaching stage wins and the jersey could be more successful. Rui Costa has time on his side but his record in grand tours isn’t good, as if he’s not been consistent enough. He has protected leader status now which he didn’t get before but still, perhaps he’s another candidate.

One impossible factor to predict is who will be the third week hero, the kind of rider who seems to run wild while others are flagging. Cast your back to the Giro and think of Steven Kruijswijk or Ryder Hesjedal who rode as if they had motors in the frames, it’ll certainly be hard to do this all over again in July. Who will be the energy bunny of July?

Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome
Thibaut Pinot
Alberto Contador, Romain Bardet, Pierre Rolland, Dan Martin, Joaquim Rodriguez
Arredondo, Barguil, Meintjes, Valverde, Wellens, Rui Costa

The yellow jersey can make a rider but sometimes it’s the rider that makes the mountains jersey. A champion winner adds lustre to the polka dots whereas a lesser rider having a great third week can struggle to convince they’re really the best climber. As contests go this one blows hot and cold.

It’s easy to set out the points above but hard to pick a winner as circumstances decide what happens. A rider might have great legs but find the move they go clear in on an Alpine stage is chased down and someone else gets clear in the following move to scoop maximum points. This all points to the jersey being a breakaway contest rather than a contest of Watts per kilogram, the empirical way to measure the best climber.

If Nairo Quintana and Chris Froome are to win the Tour they’ll surely do it by summit finishes and therefore collect maximum points when it matters. Otherwise the likes of Pierre Rolland, Dan Martin or Joaquim Rodriguez fit the profile of potential winners.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • HWSB Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 4:08 pm

    Especially as time bonuses are available at the finish lines, this year it seems certain that one of the top 3 GC riders will take the polka dots. They’ll be focussing on getting those extra seconds and the mountains jersey will be a by-product.

    • Cam Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:04 pm

      Pretty sure the time bonuses only apply to stages 2 to 8?

      • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:06 pm

        All stages. It was announced they’d apply early but the UCI rules don’t allow for selective application, it’s all or nothing and so they apply for all three weeks.

        • Cam Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:08 pm

          This is the UCI. Couldn’t they selectively apply the rules?

        • Cam Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:11 pm

          Interesting: http://www.letour.com/le-tour/2015/us/sporting-stakes-rules.html
          Still says: They had disappeared since 2008. Bonus seconds will again be awarded at the finishes of the 2nd to the 8th stage. The bonuses will be of 10, 6 and 4 seconds for the first three of each of these stages.

          • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:12 pm

            And it’s wrong. The official rulebook says it’s all stages except the two time trials.

          • Cam Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:15 pm

            ah, but in the rules doc on the same page:
            Des bonifications sont attribuées dans toutes les arrivées des étapes en ligne, donc à ’exception
            des étapes contre la montre « individuel » et « par équipe ». Elles sont de 10, 6 et 4 secondes aux trois premiers coureurs classés.
            Which I think means all stages except time trials…

  • M Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 4:35 pm

    How about a Yates brother?

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 4:37 pm

      Why not? They both climb well and have a good finish on them. But can they go on all day raids for three separate days?

      • Augie March Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 5:05 pm

        It might be an option. Unlike the GC riders, the Yates brothers can pretty much sit out the stressful first week, just roll across the line a few minutes down on the haggard GC contenders who along with their teams have been battling for position all day, ready to hit the mountains still feeling relatively fresh.

    • Q Thursday, 2 July 2015, 9:55 am

      That’s one Yate, two Yates, I believe…

      • PT Thursday, 2 July 2015, 11:05 am

        Pay that.

  • Callum Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 5:29 pm

    Since ASO introduced the double points on summit finishes in 2011, the jersey has gone to GC contenders 2/4 years.
    The 2 years it didn’t were 2012 & 2014 for varying reasons. 2012 there were no HC summit finishes so the GC contenders would have had to consistently go on day long breakaways, which wasn’t going to happen especially with how imperious team SKY were then. In 2014, the winner of the jersey was climbing as well as any of the GC contenders (- Nibali) but he had purposefully taken it easy at the beginning to be fresher in the mountains.
    This year, stages 10 and 12 are suited to a GC contender winning with the many flat roads. So, if Froome and Quintana finish in the top 2 on both of these stages they would already have 80-100 points and would only need to consolidate their lead on stages 19 & 20
    Favouris, non?

    • Jeff Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 5:57 pm

      You could consider Majka a GC contender (just look at his giro results) who lost time early on/worked in service of his team leader. He can put in a good TT and probably would have made the top 10 if he was a dedicated leader from the start.

  • Callum Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 5:31 pm

    P.S You said in the passage that stage 19, not 12 was HC.

  • Anonymous Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 5:41 pm

    The polka dot everything must be a Europcar thing. I recall Tommy Voeckler pulling the same measles outfit in 2012 when he won the jersey. I shudder at the thought.

    • One Man Grupetto Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:35 pm

      Pretty sure that Fredrik Kessiakoff wore the full outfit (excepting the bike) when he led the mountains jersey in 2012 before Vocekler took it off him.

      • Anonymous Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 7:01 pm

        I knew I spoke too soon when I said that.

      • Ferdi Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 9:03 pm

        Others have done it too in the past. I remember Egoi Martinez. Horrendous anyway.

        • Garuda Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 9:45 pm

          Dont forget the chicken. Full getup including bikes in 2005-2006

          • GTGTGT Thursday, 2 July 2015, 5:26 am

            Sammy Sanchez in 2011 IIRC too….

            Awful, awful look.

    • Andy WRX Thursday, 2 July 2015, 6:43 pm

      I think it looks great !

      I wonder if Prendas will be selling a replica ?


      • Ryan Saturday, 4 July 2015, 4:51 am

        I think it looks awesome. If I had the chance to wear the jersey, you know the shorts will be included.

  • Tyler Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:30 pm

    Thomas de Gendt – no GC rider on the team to take care of.

    • Tyler Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:30 pm

      also Rigoberto Uran will be free too

  • Ronan Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 6:43 pm

    With the addition of geo tags to bikes, could they revamp the competition and take the time of ascent for certain climbs and award the jersey that way. Wouldn’t need to be all climbs in the race. Organisers could pick one per stage that people could target, maybe early in a stage to add something to a minor col.

    • Dave Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 7:37 pm

      they could, but it would become too technical and in all probability mean us not seeing any racing on the road – the fastest ascender could be on the front of a chasing group, not one of the riders battling it out at the front for a summit finish. It’d be like awarding the green jersey points to the rider with the biggest recorded power meter reading at the end of each stage.

  • SeeingElvis Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 7:38 pm

    Great write up as usual and super string of intelligent, thought-provoking comments, thanks to all.

    Getting fired up to see some great climbing!

  • Othersteve Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 7:50 pm

    Thanks as well Inrng,

    Once the Garmin boys chances for GC have diminished, DM and AT may put in a sustained polka dot/ stage wins effort.

    • SeeingElvis Thursday, 2 July 2015, 5:50 am

      I thought of that as well, Othersteve, and perhaps even TJVG as well. Heck, Froome, for all we know.
      So much depends upon who gets through the first week unscathed and undropped.
      Any and all climbers/GC hopefuls who lose time could re-orient towards polka dots with the freedom to go on long harvesting raids.

      And maybe even wear black bibs if they have sartorial sense.

  • Special Eyes Wednesday, 1 July 2015, 8:05 pm

    It could be quite possible for Tinkoff to take all three major jerseys, could it not ?
    Berti for Yellow and Polka, Sagan for Green.
    What a horrible thought, not because of the riders concerned, but their owner…

    • SeeingElvis Thursday, 2 July 2015, 5:51 am

      Imagine his hair dye job if that happened…

  • Steppings Thursday, 2 July 2015, 12:03 am

    Hopefully Dan Martin, if he were with another team then my hope would be stronger.

  • Parker Say Thursday, 2 July 2015, 4:37 am

    Very nice preview!
    For what its worth, I broke down the polka dot battle here: https://the5thq.wordpress.com/2015/06/25/a-rookies-guide-to-the-tour-de-france-polka-dot-jersey-breakdown/
    I came up with many of the same names as were mentioned, however I wouldn’t be surprised if a dark horse contender were to take it. Just too hard to nail down.

  • Alex Thursday, 2 July 2015, 12:40 pm

    No mention of the climbers jersey winner at the Dauphine – Teklehaimanot? Seems worth a line, if not an outside shout.

    • Special Eyes Thursday, 2 July 2015, 12:59 pm

      Not for me, though I do agree with the comments reported today by his team boss that there will be an African GT winner in the (near) future – he reckoned five years, I’ll say ten.
      But it is an inevitability, sooner or later.
      *ps – this does not include Chris Froome !

    • SBGRad Saturday, 4 July 2015, 2:30 am

      Teklehaimanot is gonna go for it, that’s for sure. He went raiding in California, raiding at the Dauphine, I bet tries again in France.

  • Sven Sunday, 12 July 2015, 7:03 pm

    So what is your take on the mountain classification on the eve of the first rest day? I think it is likely Froome will win overall, so he´d be out. If a GC rider gets the polka dot, my guess would be Quintana.

    Adding up all the mountain points (from inrng´s table above), however, I get 190 for finishes and 249 for the other mountain points, so it seems equally likely that some non-GC rider wins the mountain classification. Joaquim Rodriguez has been quite strong so far, and even though he said general classification is still his primary goal he now is sitting in 18th, almost 4 min down on Froome, so he might switch objectives…

    • The Inner Ring Sunday, 12 July 2015, 7:25 pm

      I’ll do a round up of this and more some time tomorrow.