Polka Dot Jersey Contenders

Recent recon rides in France have seen that the sunflower crop is only a few centimetres tall right now after a damp and grey start to summer. But sans sunflowers you know it’s July when you see the polka dot jersey. He’s a look at the riders who might be sporting it soon.

The maths
Points are awarded as follows:

  • Cime de la Bonnette: 40-30-24-20-16-12-8-4 points
  • Hors Catégorie (6 in total): 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points
  • Category 1 climbs (10): 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
  • Category 2 (11): 5-3-2-1 points
  • Category 3 (19): 2-1 points
  • Category 4 (21): 1 point

It’s the same system as last year. The old scale where the final HC climb got double points is gone and only La Bonette has double points.

One difference this year is the Galibier comes on Stage 4, an HC climb where the GC riders are likely to be riding hard. A climber or punchy rider can try and take points on the second and third category climbs. But we won’t see a 2022-like scenario where Magnus Cort held the jersey for eight stages with just 11 points.

There are two suggested routes to the polka dot jersey. One is accidental where the GC contenders pick it up by virtue of being on the attack in the mountains without really making it a priority, we’ve seen Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard win the competition this way, typically winning a mountain stage late in the third week to take over the lead.

However the “new” points system means there’s less weight given to stage finishes. Giulio Ciccone showed this second route last year after he won the competition thanks to several raids, pipping Felix Gall who collected beaucoup points at the Col de la Loze and tried to get more but the Italian was more incisive.

Giulio Ciccone is an obvious contender again. At his best he can hang with the stars in the mountains and has a searing sprint, he’s even got the better of Primož Roglič. Yet he’s also erratic and so all the better suited to stage hunting and the mountains competition.

Pello Bilbao climbs well and is punchy for a sprint to the top of a mountain but he’s never won a mountains competition in any race. Nor has Bahrain team mate Wout Poels although he was runner-up in this competition in 2021; today’s points system suits more. There’s a French saying of “never two without three” and the team has a third card and possibly an ace in Santiago Buitrago.

Felix Gall (Decathlon-Ag2r La Mondiale) is here for GC but le maillot à pois could be un plan B if need be and he’s an excellent climber with his dainty high cadence style but he might have to strike out from afar on the climbs rather than sprint for the last 100 metres.

Fourth overall last was a result for Simon Yates (Jayco) but he wasn’t exactly blinded by the limelight. Having avoided relegation the team don’t have a pressing need for UCI points this season so a stage win or some podium time with the polka dots could suit as well. He’s leaving the team and his contract is sorted so he can sort of do as he pleases with the sort of freedom he probably won’t have again at Visma-LAB, his reported destination.

Romain Bardet (DSM-Firmenich) won in 2019 but it didn’t seem a joyous result, more a salvage operation after his GC ambitions ended but an impressive turnaround. He’s now here for breakaways and freedom so we’ll see for the polka dot jersey in his last Tour. Team mates Warren Barguil, the 2017 winner, and debutant Oscar Onley could feature too.

Groupama-FDJ are having a rough season and Lenny Martinez starting the Tour is proof. He was due to do the Vuelta but plans have been revised as they need results and visibility. Since he’s leaving the team there’s no point having a “take it as it goes, learn what you can” Tour. Form is the concern as he was turning stale in the Tour de Suisse so will he be fresh come the third week and the big climbs? He is an exciting rider and if he doesn’t win this year perhaps he’s bound to win at some point like his grandfather Mariano. David Gaudu can also be suited to this competition as he’s punchy and has good race craft but a discreet Dauphiné and determination to aim for GC means he’s less of an obvious pick at the outset.

Neilson Powless (EF Education-Easypost) had a good run at the jersey last year but his problem is the same again, he’s great in the mid-mountains but how to score big when it comes to the Galibier, Tourmalet or La Bonette? Richard Carapaz can take over instead while Ben Healy is strong but in a linear way, he just charges for the finish line rather than sniping points.

Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno-X) is due a result but the highest mountains are his challenge. Likewise Stephen Williams (IPT) who is a punchy climber as we saw in this year’s Flèche Wallonne but he’s been excelling on shorter climbs, can he handle a longer effort? The other question is whether he’s retained to help Derek Gee. Second on the Grand Colombier last year Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) is another rider who packs a punch but can he do it in the high mountains?

We’ll come to Ineos for the GC picks but can they go for this competition? It almost seems contrary to their style of towing the peloton. To some extent they’ll want to shepherd Carlos Rodriguez to a high GC position but can a rider be spared for breakaways? Tom Pidcock might find this fun.

Who won the Vuelta’s mountains competition? Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quickstep) but only after his GC plans imploded. He won’t even want to think about it now but if he can’t hang with the top contenders in the mountains then he could have kind of reset and change his goals for breakaways, stage wins and the polka dots. All this getting a bit conditional, that if X happens then Y is an option but that’s the point: it’s often the nature of the competition so including Evenepoel this way helps to illustrate the point.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) and Jonas Vingegaard (Visma-LAB) get mentions of course. They central case is that as GC contenders they stand collect the jersey on the way to something bigger; but there’s also the consolation angle where if one is sapped from the Giro or the other is short of form then stage wins and the mountains competition can help. Hopefully they are both sizzling and an open question is what will happen in the third week, will the GC hierarchy be established or contested? If it’s the latter we can see the GC contenders and their teams going all in and the likes of UAE, Visma, Bora and Ineos riding down the breakaways making things much harder for Ciccone et al.



51 thoughts on “Polka Dot Jersey Contenders”

      • The climbs have become TTs. Steady state efforts led by mountain trains characterised more by attrition than attack these days.

          • Pretty much. Especially if the last Giro was anything to go by. Sure there’s an attack by Pogacar but generally just the one, late in the decisive climb, from the wheel of his last climbing domestique and when only a few competing riders remain. It’s effective but very calculated and quite predictable. In my view at least…

          • It’s clearly false, or true only in some instances and up to a certain point, suffice it to say that several time the finale was far from scripted, Monte Pana being the prime example. Monte Grappa is probably the only example of a full plan execution (we might add Prati di Tivo although in that case there was barely any attrition/selection) whereas Torino and Livigno implied a high degree of improvisation due to a couple (or three) of issues both negatively within UAE (underperforming, lack of organisation) or in positive terms because of the good performance by some breakaway rival. What about Oropa with the flat and no powermetre from then on?
            It’s also worth noting that the attack by Pogi is produced normally when the selected group isn’t still hugely selected, 4-5 GC rivals are still there and on the wheels. You don’t see “things” à la Ax3D o LPSM (and I’m speaking of collective race dynamics rather than the captain’s performance as such). At the Giro (the TDF might be different due to some impressive line-ups) you didn’t see 4 or 5 UAE out of a selected group of 10-12, either…

    • Another name for the list, couldn’t cite all the climbers (Tejada, Christian Rodriguez, Meintjes, Formolo, De Plus, Guillaume Martin among more picks) but thought Harper might work for Yates but he’s been in great form this season, one to watch in the mountains but can he sprint atop a mountain.

      • Unfortunately, Harper has no sprint at all. I think he’ll be trying for a top 10 in GC, with Yates given more freedom to stage hunt.

        Interesting you mention Stevie Williams above – I think he is an outsider for stage 1 (or perhaps, more likely, stage 2). His punchy sprint is not to be underestimated and I think he may be the only rider this year who has put Pogacar in the hurt zone on a short, steep, climb (in Catalonia?).

  1. I’d like to see Pidcock give Ciccone a run for his money. Would INEOS let him? IMHO Pidcock doesn’t seem all that eager to work for someone else in a team anyway, so maybe they let him take his chances here before he moves over to the Redbull super team?

  2. The traditional maillot a pois with larger dots set along the diagonal was a thing of great simplicity and beauty.

    I can’t get used to the E.Leclerc-sponsored jersey with the small polka dots arranged in rows and columns. The ratio of white ground to red dots doesn’t pulse and the horizontal/vertical rows don’t spark.

  3. Interesting hidden in there is that S Yates is off to Visma. I’m guessing Lenny Martinez must be off to UAE?!

    I reckon Ciccone might have the right balance of ability and no other distractions to bag this one.

  4. S Yates hasn’t raced for two months after an anonymous 11th in Romandie. Has he been ill, training and saving himself for the Tour…? If he’s fit and well, and has a little team support the polka dots seem realistic as does a top five GC.

  5. According to Julien Chesnais writing in the official Tour de France programme, we need look no further than Romain Bardet describing him as a “grimpeur hors pair”. Unfortunately, he rather ruins this in the next paragraph by writing about David Gaudu “le meilleur grimpeur Français, c’est lui”.
    They are both awarded 4/5 stars, the same as the Danish pasty and one more than Roglic & Remco for their overall chances.
    Perhaps M. Chesnais has been concentrating on the football this year.

        • In the UK Guardian this morning, William Fotheringham described him as the mournful-looking Dane which resonates equally.

        • Oh gawd, please no! I don’t want to “inspire” anyone. Pissing them off is another thing but I refuse to get into listing the times this fellow has won Le Beeg Shew. I’ll just refer to him as the “defending champion” from now on, OK? No more “cadaver” though I get where Fotheringham is coming from 🙂

      • It greatly depends also on how you use it 🙂 And I thought we agreed it was “the last two years´ TdF champ”?!

        Lars could be a Danish guy and use it as an affectionate nickname – or, for that matter, more or less”ironically”, to make fun of those who use it in a pejorative manner – but what the heck is “end of the bell”??!!

    • He was Covid positive (apparently quite ill) and withdrawn from the National Champs last Sunday. Will he be recovered enough to put Martinez in his place?

      • All the blood tests are ok say his team.

        To be a bit provocative if Martinez was staying in the team then Gaudu’s job might literally be to put Martinez in his place… as in guiding him into position on a climb. Gaudu is still a good rider but Martinez is capable of doing better but as he’s off to pastures new he’s was quickly seen as belonging to the new team.

  6. Just seen a weather forecast predicting highs of 37C for Saturday afternoon. All set for a row about the extreme weather protocol?

    • It’s hot but not so bad, are you looking at Firenze? Because it’ll be cooler inland and in Rimini plus woodland offering shade on some of the climbs. The heat protocol takes in a humidity and it’ll be relatively dry. So probably “orange” level which means the feed zones get extended, an extra moto to supply water to riders etc.

      • I thought it might be typo because Rimini was showing low 30s but just checked it again. Now saying 36 for Florence but only 28 for Rimini.
        Having said which meteo france is struggling to predict 24 hours ahead at the moment so who knows.

        • Same in Italy and Spain. Historically strong weather forecast services are struggling big time.

          That said, Florence is usually one of the worst cities in Italy (the worst in 2023) as far as heat waves and extreme temperature are concerned.


          I was riding around there with some 42°C in 2006.

          OTOH people are still wearing their parkas in La Laguna, Tenerife
          Next, tourists coming in looking for rainy cool weather.

          • I wasn’t gonna pack a pair of short pants until I looked at the weekend forecast for Bologna.
            I laughed at the yellow with blue lettering “BADA LA GENTE” flags being waved at the Tour presentation today since I just had a dozen t-shirts printed-up with that on the front and “CANE VECCHIA SA” on the back. Guess we’ll not be the only ones saluting Riccardo Magrini of Eurosport. W Magro! 🙂

    • Adam “CYA” Hansen must be warming-up his fingers to start whining about the heat.
      Watching RAI TV’s feature on Ottavio Bottecchia tonight I couldn’t help wondering what would have become of grand tour cycling had there been an Adam Hansen back then? 🙁

  7. There is so few large points hauls in the first 2 weeks for somebody targeting this competition i wonder if this increases the chances of a GC win as nobody will be able to get a big early lead needed to compete against the super GC teams chasing everything down in the last week.

  8. It’s lucky the Tour lasts three weeks. Two weeks to identify the teams and riders (Arkea, Visma, Jayco, Bora…) in their new kit, and one to follow and enjoy the race. Life was easier when Molteni was Molteni, Brooklyn, Peugeot, Mercier, BIC, Ijsboerke, TI-Raleigh and, of course, Watney all season long.

    • And you had 15 minutes of TV. 50 years ago when Poulidor attacked to win the stage at Pla d’Adet I’m not sure even sure the TV coverage caught his attack lower down the climb, it’s on the INA archives somewhere.

      • and, of course, Peugeot had a jersey tailor-made for monochrome TV while Brooklyn was easily picked out too.

        At that time most fans views of the jerseys would be at the roadside or in (b&w) press images.

      • Is this an either-or choice? I’d vote for more distinctive jersey designs too. What puzzles me is the idea behind the crap they create now…I thought the idea was to market your product(s) which one would think might be done best by making the logo/design easy to see in a peloton of 200 riders…but what do I know?
        Some of this stuff looks like it’s a product of the Braille Institute!

  9. What do we think Riiiiiiiiiiiiichaaaaaaaaard Carapaz will look to achieve this race?
    Not much form line to go on, GC or hunting stages and KOM?

    • Sadly he doesn’t seem to have the form lately to contest top five GC and I doubt that’ll change this Tour.

      I’d expect him to chase marquee stages in particular, but I doubt he’d contest the KoM among breakaway riders. He would perhaps think, as a former Giro winner and Olympic champion, that sprinting for a few points from a break on lower category climbs is beneath him. I’m inclined to agree and hope he’s going well enough to contest stage finishes rather than intermediate points.

Comments are closed.