≡ Menu

Tour de France Mountains Competition Contenders

Having looked at the points competition and green jersey contenders yesterday, now the mountains competition and polka dot jersey competition. If the green jersey competition has been tweaked, this year’s mountains competition has had some big changes with the hors catégorie climbs becoming all important.

Points scale: 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:

  • Hors Catégorie above 2,000m passes (5 in total: the Tourmalet, Izoard, Galibier, Iseran and Val Thorens): 40-30-24-20-16-12-8-4 points respectively for first eight riders
  • Category 1 climbs (13 in total): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • Category 2 (12): 5-3-2-1 points
  • Category 3 (21): 2-1 points
  • Category 4 (14): 1 point

Normally it’s 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points for the HC climbs but this year the HC climbs above 2,000m get double points and all the HC climbs are above this threshold. This changes the competition substantially, harvesting points on mid-mountain stages and early climbs won’t be as effective this time. “Best climber” is a subjective label at the best of times but the competition has become an uphill sprints contest in recent years but now the weighting given to the HC climbs changes things.

  • If you want to know how the climbs are graded, it’s a mix of science and art, an algebraic formula and a subjective take and it’s explained in an old blog post: How Are Climbs Categorised.

The Contenders

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) won last year and is a prototype rider for this type of competition but the change in the points scale makes things hard for him as he’ll have to sprint at altitude and crucially after some very long climbs which will sap his punch. He’d be an obvious pick if he rode the 2018 Tour all over again but this route and the points scale makes it harder.

Warren Barguil pushed Alaphilippe at times last year but didn’t have the zip in his legs to win the sprints. Now he’s just won the French championships and crucially looked better in the Dauphiné as well so he’s improving. Whether he can find those “legs of fire” from 2017 is another question but when asked what he wanted after winning the French title he said “a stage win wearing the polka dot jersey” so the ambition is there.

Egan Bernal (Team Ineos) is a contender because if he wants to win the Tour then he’s got to place well on the Tourmalet summit finish, the Galibier and Val Thorens so he could win mountains prize just by aiming for the yellow jersey (and take the white jersey too). The same goes for the other GC contenders and this year’s point scale suits them a lot more. So take your pick from the others too.

Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) took the prize in the Giro and convincingly so. This makes him a contender but he’s got Richie Porte to support this time and it’s one thing to win in the Giro, another in the Tour and especially just weeks later.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) told La Gazzetta Dello Sport polka dots are a goal but perhaps said this as a pressure release mechanism, to downplay expectations as after all he’s doing the Giro-Tour double. He says he’ll see how he fares at the Planche des Belles Filles, the first summit finish but it may not be so binary, should he lose a time on this relatively short climb he may well prefer to keep a focus on the yellow jersey for the long climbs to come and that third week of a grand tour.

Fabio Aru (UAE Emirates) is a late entrant to the race after iliac artery surgery earlier this year and a comeback that saw him a surprise starter in the Tour de Suisse and the experience went well. He’s surely still short of form to challenge in the Tour so could feature.

Simon Yates is another surprise entrant and could go for the jersey. But Mitchelton-Scott probably have other goals, Simon could be rested much like Adam was during the Vuelta in order to help on big days.

Thomas de Gendt could go on some raids but seems to prefer saving energy to deliver a stage win and it’s hard to see him winning two or more HC climbs.

Sometimes the mountains prize can be a consolation for a GC contender who sees their chances of an overall bid fall apart thanks to a crash or illness. So take your pick from any of the contenders. Thibaut Pinot, Mikel Landa, Rigoberto Urán, Dan Martin and Romain Bardet come to mind as climbers who could be on the back foot. Michael Woods could feature too.

Egan Bernal, Julian Alaphilippe
Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa
Warren Barguil, Vincenzo Nibali, Romain Bardet
Dan Martin, Urán, Woods


Comment: it’s a difficult pick because the result is often circumstantial, a successful breakaway can propel a rider into the jersey, so can a failed GC bid with a big name on the lookout for a consolation prize in the third week. The real lesson of this blog post is the new points scale and with four out of the five HC climbs on Stages 18,19 and 20 the jersey will be decided late.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • StevhanTI Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 2:44 pm

    Not even a single-chainring-nod towards Majka, or any of his climber-teammates (Buchmann, Konrad, Schachman…)?

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 3:32 pm

      Majka’s not riding while Buchmann maybe, the same with Konrad but can they outsprint Alaphilippe and outclimb the likes of Bernal? Not sure, Schachmann the same.

  • Anonymous Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 3:47 pm

    KOM is always the most unpredictable jersey, you’ll never really know who’s gonna go for it. Many names, but Aru is most definitely the very last who would come to my mind.

  • Davesta Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 4:28 pm

    One of the minor intrigues for me in the TdF, is who manages to pick up the KOM jersey in the early stages…

    With points available on the Muur & Bosberg on stage 1, I wonder if we’ll see a cobbles rider from a smaller/non-GC team aim for it – perhaps Terpstra, Politt, even GvA? Who else can we add to the list?

    • StevhanTI Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 5:36 pm

      Maybe Alaphilippe tries to wear it from Brussels to Paris?

    • KevinK Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 7:27 pm

      I was going to make the same comment about enjoying seeing riders scrap to nab the polka dots for a day or three in the early stages. It’s such an iconic jersey, and in the early stages a breakaway rider can borrow it for a few days. Since the TdF usually starts with relatively flat stages, the green jersey seems to be worn by a seriously fast finisher, and besides, wearing that jersey briefly at the beginning of the TdF doesn’t seem to mean as much. But the KOM jersey seems to bring out the dreamer is a wide variety of riders who have no chance of holding it into the mountain stages.

    • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 7:55 pm

      I think we may see one of the wildcard teams go after it on the first few stages, Wanty or Total Direct Energie perhaps?

      • Davesta Thursday, 4 July 2019, 10:20 am

        Yes, Wanty is a good pick – perhaps Backaert or Offredo?
        Terpstra is the obvious possibility for Total Direct Energie I think, and maybe Turgis as well.
        Will Dimension Data try for it – Valgren?

  • J Evnas Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 4:54 pm

    Surprised to see Simon Yates in this race as that surely scuppers any defence of his Vuelta title.
    Maybe team politics mean that the Vuelta’s been promised to Chaves. That seems a big risk, though, as I’d have thought Simon Yates was more likely to win it, plus it’s not all that likely that Adam Yates will win this race.
    I’ll plump for Nibali to take this jersey as I can’t see him doing too well in the GC following the Giro.

    • DJW Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 7:15 pm

      You’ must be right, MTS surely won’t send S Yates on a third GT. This leaves Chaves – though two GTs sounds a heavy load for a rider recovering from Epstein-Barr, Nieve (at home), Jack Haig (after a light season through injury) or A Yates – and which of these top climbers will keep going to Lombardy after 2 GTs each?

    • Digahole Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:12 pm

      Might be just as simple as Simon having better form than Chavez after the Giro and the team believing in Adam’s chances

      • Digahole Thursday, 4 July 2019, 7:13 am

        No chainrings for Thomas??
        Seems a year that if you’re a contender for GC you’ll be up there for the polka dots as well. An indication maybe that you think it’ll be Thomas riding for Bernal rather than vice versa?

        Could also see Pinot or Kruijswijk successfully targeting the polkas if they were to lose time early on.

        • The Inner Ring Thursday, 4 July 2019, 9:24 am

          Bernal seems to bring the best assurances for scaling the mountains but there’s a long way to go so didn’t want to flood the table with possibilities. Perhaps should have had a generic [GC contender] inclusion in the chainrings above but it’s a hard pick.

          • Digahole Thursday, 4 July 2019, 12:28 pm

            Thinking whoever wins on the Tourmalet, GC or specialist, will be short odds for the polkas

  • Anonymous Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 6:54 pm

    i’m just glad that one or two riders are even talking about the jersey as a goal: Nibali, Barguil, Alaphilippe … it gives the competition some credibility again. A few years ago it really was just a side show to whoever was high on GC.

    • The Inner Ring Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 7:44 pm

      Good point. Sometimes it is won accidentally on the way to winning yellow, like Froome in 2015 but even then others try to target it but they just can’t get the points. Ideally we end up with some kind of suspense late into the race but it’s impossible to script or design a points system for this ahead of the race.

    • Ecky Thump Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 8:02 pm

      Looking at the HC weighting and the facts that they are clustered in the last week, with some as summit finishes and some on the shorter stages, points towards a GC contender winning the Polka Dots jersey for me.
      So, Bernal, Thomas, Fuglsang, Quintana though Bardet could be possible too?

  • Bob Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 7:40 pm

    Guillame Martin wins this surely?

  • Stuie Wednesday, 3 July 2019, 10:26 pm

    Good chance of it being a good battle for the polka dots. Could see some of the top domestiques going for it if their leaders fall foul in the early stages.

  • Richard S Thursday, 4 July 2019, 8:51 am

    With the weighting of HC points on the 2000m+ climbs for Alaphilippe to win this he’d have to be climbing amongst the best on the really long climbs. And if he can do that, plus he has as good a TT as any GC man bar Thomas and is on a team noted for its TTT prowess, why not go for overall? There are a lot of metronomic dullards who will go for GC with far less chance of winning. As much as Ineos bore me it would be interesting to see what they could do with Alaphilippe. I think he’ll wear the jersey a lot this year but not take it to Paris. It’ll be won by a GC man by accident I’d say, probably Bernal.

    • Strictley Amateur / The GCW Friday, 5 July 2019, 5:07 am

      Off the radar.
      Huge talent.
      Yellow would be surprising but not surprising.
      However, I’m rooting for another underdog, the under-raced, Uran.

  • Chapeau Thursday, 4 July 2019, 9:40 am

    How about the “Porte looses a bunch of time in the first few uphill stages, out of GC contention, goes for a few stage wins and the polka dots to try and salvage something from another tour disappointment” theory?

    • Anonymous Thursday, 4 July 2019, 1:04 pm

      Avoiding crashing out on stage 9 will be a victory of sorts for him.

    • DaveRides Thursday, 4 July 2019, 2:34 pm

      That would require Porte to log in to the store and download the Positive Racing Tactics 101 App.

  • kavan Thursday, 4 July 2019, 10:03 am

    Just a pity that Hugh Carthy isn’t riding. He would have had a good chance at this.

  • Rooto Thursday, 4 July 2019, 10:32 pm

    So – counting only cat 2s, cat 1s and HCs – I make it 195 points available before the final Thursday, and 200 points available in those ‘last’ 3 stages alone. Surely this means it’s going to be a GC contender. If anyone who’s down on GC gets in the break / in the lead group on all 3 of the Alpine days, then they’ll have been playing a very long game!