Last year’s mountains competition in the Tour de France was exciting with several riders in contention until the contest was accidentally won by Tadej Pogačar. Now the system has been changed to make this kind of inadvertent win less likely.
As well as influencing the organisers, Pogačar is having wider effect with many big name riders coming to the Tour de France with the stated aim of winning stages and the mountains prize rather than go for the overall classification. This should make the mountains competition more lively too so here’s a closer look at the mountains competition for the Tour de France and some of the likely contenders.
The Tour de France mountains competition was interesting last year, at least until it wasn’t. Wout Poels had the polka dot jersey, Nairo Quintana, Michael Woods and Wout van Aert were close behind and all were scrapping for the jersey. Then Tadej Pogačar won Stages 17 and 18, these had the “double-HC” climbs of the Col du Portet and Luz Ardiden with twice as many points on offer and he collected 2 x 40 = 80 points to shoot to the top of the competition without thinking of it as he was just aiming for the stage wins.
Let’s be petty for a moment: this is not the best climber competition, it’s a points competition awarded in the mountains. The mountains jersey is not a test of who might have the highest VAM on Alpe d’Huez. It’s arguably better because of this, with riders tasked with thinking about how to outwit rivals in breakaways and we get to see riders sprinting each other for the white line at the top of a pass, something you wouldn’t get if they just used timing chips for every climb or Strava PBs.
Points are awarded for categorised climbs and mountain passes, graded from the easier 4th category to the hors catégorie, literally “beyond categorisation” because they’re so hard, a touch of hype in an era when we can classify everything from elementary particles to exo-planets. In reality these gradings are subjective although there is an algorithm and if you want to know more about how the climbs are rated, see How Are Climbs Categorised? This year’s points scale is as follows:
- Hors Catégorie (7 in total): 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points
- Category 1 climbs (10): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
- Category 2 (6): 5-3-2-1 points
- Category 3 (16): 2-1 points
- Category 4 (22): 1 point
New for 2022
This year’s Tour has two significant changes. First, recent editions of the race have had double HC-climbs, meaning selected HC climbs offered double points, 40 points to the winner, typically the last climb of the day. These double climbs have gone meaning the 2022 competition is less tilted to the stage winner.
Second, there are three summit finishes with HC-rated climbs but the other four HC climbs come in the middle of a stage, tilting the competition further to breakaway raiders who can collect points on the way rather than the summit finish.
There are three types of contenders. First is the accidental type, the GC rider who stands to take the competition on their way to wearing yellow in Paris just like last year. For reasons set out above, this is less likely here but less likely, not impossible.. So if other contenders cancel each other out then the obvious picks are Tadej Pogačar (UAE) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) because they both pack a punch for a stage win, more so than Jonas Vingegaard.
The second type is the involuntary challenger, someone who started with bigger ambitions but a crash or another problem has caused them to settle for another goal. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is the sort of rider who could fall into this bracket but then excel, he’s got a sharp sprint to collect points, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) as well. Adam Yates (Ineos) could be here too although if the Tour doesn’t work for him, he might be working for others. This relies on something going wrong and that’s hard to predict, it’s not to say Gaudu, Quintana or Yates are accident-prone, just that their ambitions of a high GC finish are a big ask to start with so a reset might be needed mid-way.
Then come those who’ll just aim for the jersey. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain) is very punchy, his challenge might be the longest and highest climbs. Michael Woods (Israel) wants a stage but the polka dots suit, he’s got a good kick to collect points but can be error prone at times with tactics and descending.
Ruben Guerreiro (EF Education) has won the Giro’s mountains competition and is in great shape after winning the Mont Ventoux Denivelé Challenge. Geoffroy Bouchard (Ag2r Citroën) has gone better, taking the Giro and Vuelta prizes and now wants to complete the set. But both he and Guerreiro will find much tougher opposition here.
Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is stage hunting so he’ll aim to be up the road on the mountain stages. He seems the obvious pick for the polka dots but his technique of winning mountain stages often relies on letting others get carried away before he makes his move, so he might not be sprinting for every sign to start with. His chances for the mountains competition might depend on whether he can get a stage win in the Alps, if so he can then use the Pyrenees to go points hunting.
Romain Bardet (DSM) rides but not for GC given the long time trial on Stage 20 and his post-Giro form, so he’s bound to be contender, having won the competition in 2019 before.
Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step) is another past winner but (update) he won’t start as while he’s made a fast recovery from his crash on the road to Liège, his team need him to be at 100%. Max Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe) is a punchy rider similar to Alaphilippe who was looking good until struck by Covid in the Tour de Suisse.
Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) is doubling up from the Giro where he was caught out between GC ambitions and stage wins. So what about the mountains instead? He’s a great climber but his weakness is a lack of punch to take the points. A similar story for Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), who can win stages but sprinting again and again is harder… (update) but his team mate Giulio Ciccone could be worth watching as he can sprint well and seems to be back to his best.
Finally Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels) won the jersey in the Dauphiné and is in great shape with talk of him ending his career soon he’d like to finish with a flourish. Easier said than done but look to see if he can get into the jersey early in the race and build up a small points lead.
- In case you’re wondering there’s 120, 50 and 25 UCI points for the first three on the mountains classification in Paris, the same for the points competition