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.
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.