Tour de France analysis: Who will win the polka dot jersey?

Image courtesy of Fredrik Kessiakoff

The polka dot jersey is perhaps the most iconic in cycling – with the exception of the maillot jaune, of course. The question now, as we head into the Tour’s final week, is who will have the honour of becoming the meilleur grimpeur on the Champs-Élysées next Sunday?

The fight for this classification is hotting up, with numerous riders still in contention with the big climbs which are yet to come. It seems like this year the best climber will go to a rider outside the main contenders, and is currently led by Astana’s Fredrik Kessiakoff.

The Swedish former mountain biker is almost an hour-and-a-quarter behind the race leader, but leads the mountain classification by 14 points:

Current standings

1. KESSIAKOFF Fredrik 187 ASTANA PRO TEAM 69 pts
2. ROLLAND Pierre 29 TEAM EUROPCAR 55 pts
4. VOECKLER Thomas 21 TEAM EUROPCAR 37 pts
5. SCARPONI Michele 41 LAMPRE – ISD 33 pts
6. FROOME Christopher 105 SKY PROCYCLING 32 pts
7. PINOT Thibaut 146 FDJ-BIGMAT 32 pts
10. CASAR Sandy 141 FDJ-BIGMAT 20 pts

How are points awarded?

According to the official 2012 Tour de France regulations:

The general best climber ranking is established by adding together the points obtained on all passes and hills, according to the following tables:

  • ‘Highest level’ (HC) passes: 25,20,16,14,12,10,8,6,4,2 points respectively to the first ten riders to reach the summit.
  • Category 1 passes: 10,8,6,4,2,1 points respectively to the first six riders.
  • Category 2 passes: 5,3,2,1 points respectively to the first four riders.
  • Category 3 passes : 2, 1 points, respectively to the first two riders.
  • Category 4 passes: 1 point to the first rider.

Points awarded are doubled for the summit finishes on stages seven, 11 and 17. In the event of a tie between two riders in the general best climber ranking, the rider with the most first places at HC summits is declared the winner. If the riders are still tied, the first places obtained in the category 1 passes will be used to determine the winner. If necessary, the first 38 places achieved at the summits of category 2, category 3 or category 4 passes or hills will be taken. As a last resort, the final general time ranking will be used. Riders must finish the Tour de France in order to appear in the best climber ranking.

What does this mean?

Put simply, there is still all to play for. Fredrik Kessiakoff may be getting comfy in the polka dots, but it’s highly likely that in order to keep it up until Paris, he’s going to have to get himself in a breakaway on one of the remaining mountain stages. Having executed such an energy-sapping manoeuvre twice this Tour already, that’s easier said than done.

Pierre Rolland (image courtesy of Europcar)

Pierre Rolland lurks dangerously in second place (image courtesy of Europcar)

Pierre Rolland (Europcar), currently in second place, is the biggest threat, mainly due to his climbing ability. He is better at ascending than the current classification leader, and adding a third career stage win (and second at this year’s Tour) on stage 17 would see him into the lead of the competition. But, with the tendency towards breakaway success at this year’s Tour, that mightn’t be possible. In addition, at eighth place in the general classification, he may be a little too dangerous for the peloton to allow him to escape.

One exception to the rule that a favourite won’t win the polka dot jersey is Chris Froome. He has shown himself to be the strongest rider in the race, and may fancy adding to his earlier stage win with another in the mountains. In all likelihood this wouldn’t be enough to dethrone Kessiakoff, but it’s a possibility.

The next few stages will prove crucial in determining the overall winner, and it largely depends on how Kessiakoff is feeling. If he has enough left in the tank for another long breakaway in the mountains it’d likely be enough to secure the maillot à pois rouges. All will become clear over the next two stages – which respectively offer a maximum of 70 and 62 points – after which there are no big points up for grabs.

Tour Tweets of the Week: The Hurt Locker, #WAGWAR and Fathers & Daughters

Funny, cruel, odd, personal … you get it all on Twitter. Each week, we’ll have a rundown of some of our favourite tweets. Here are the tweets for the week ending 15th July 2012.

I hurt myself today

No matter who you may be, cycling hurts. It is no respecter of jerseys …

Even the hardest of the hardmen was feeling it this week.

You said what about my man???

So, as we all recall, during a stage last week looked like Chris Froome might well have gone off-piste and dropped his own team leader, who just happened to be the yellow jersey, who just happened to be Bradley Wiggins. The explanation was a combination of mixing up ‘Slow Slow’ with ‘Go Go’ or no radios or doin’ a rope-a-dope manoeuvre to fake out Nibali and Evans. All it really served to do is turn the Twitterstream into a red-hot river of fire with the accusations, excuses and explanations flowing fast and furious. So much so, it looked like there might be a bit of a cat fight … or #wagwar … In the Mod corner, Cath Wiggins, in the Froomedog corner, Michelle Cound. It begins with this RT of a Cath Wiggins shout-out after that infamous stage.

That’s when the twitterati plowed in and Mrs Wiggins was on the defensive.

Even Peta Todd got involved! And with most fights between girls, the boys got involved – purely in a spectator sport sort of way.

Then the climbdown:

But with a sense of humour, as Michelle’s tweet regarding Wiggins’ slight burn brought on by idiot spectators who were running with flares.

Mistaken identity

Oh, it’s so funny when mainstream newspapers try to act like they know anything about cycling. For the second time this year, David Millar was mis-identified as Robert Millar. Because obviously the subs on the backbench know nothing about the sport.

And although we don’t have the visual evidence, apparently news reporters are getting Fabian Cancellara and Jens Voigt mixed up. This is what The Jensie had to say about that!

But then if the Velits twins wanted to play with sportswriters’ minds, that might be fun!

Anyone with a long memory would know that this was a reference to one of Tyler Hamilton’s doping defenses – he claimed something along the lines of, he had a twin who hadn’t developed and was inside him and all of a sudden started producing a different kind of blood, just like that, after oh, 30-some years! It’s a medical miracle! Or it wasn’t, as we later found out.

Tour de Pologne

While much of the peloton were racing around France, trying to fend off the Velvet Samurai and tacky attacks, there was another stage race going on in Poland. One of the big names who was racing was a certain Tom Boonen. This picture was bobbing about in the Twitterstream this week and it was just too bizarre to leave out. I will, however, refrain from making jokes about magnificent boonens …

Mr Boonen also tweeted a picture of Niki Terpstra, all mummified after a crash earlier in the week.

But a Tweets of the Week favourite, Ted King, was also at the Tour of Poland (which just goes to show that the #KingfortheTour campaign failed pretty miserably) and for his sins he gets fed mayonnaise for breakfast.

Fathers and daughters

But life is not all about racing, as we can see by the new arrivals this week and a poignant tribute to a loved one gone.

This congratulatory tweet from Frank made me laugh – ‘Frank, it’s Fabian. I’ve got a daughter!’ ‘That’s wonderful, Fabian! What’s her name?’ ‘Her name? Um, well, it’s … oh, is that the doorbell? yeah, yeah, that’s the doorbell, gotta go! Love to Andy…’

And Greg Henderson had some good news!

Saturday’s stage, however, brought us the other end of the spectrum. Saxo-Tinkoff’s Michael Morkov broke away from the breakaway and tried to take a stage win on the fifth anniversary of his father’s death. Everyone who was watching was cheering him on. Although he didn’t win the stage, he did win the combativity prize and the hearts of everyone watching.

You did win that stage, Michael. Believe me.

Till next week, tweeties!

Riding High: Shadow Cycling the Tour de France – Paul Howard

Published by Mainstream Sport

If you cycle, you’ll have thought about riding the Tour de France. Could you too complete this amazing feat? The author Paul Howard, a reasonable club-cyclist, did just that in the year of the event’s 100th anniversary: 2003, the year of the heat wave.

I have to be honest, this is a re-read. The first time around I didn’t do the book justice. I bought it in the aftermath of my maiden Tour, 2004, ostensibly because it was one of the few books on cycling not about Lance Armstrong, although he does get a few name-checks between its covers. But there’s not a lot about the race as the author was taking a well-earned rest while the professional peloton rode over the finishing line.

Neither my husband nor I had started cycling, nor had we watched any Tour stages live, when I first read the book. I therefore lacked any context by which to judge it and the undoubted endeavours of its writer. I now bring a far greater appreciation of the enormity of the challenge, both physically and logistically.

Each chapter covers one stage of the Tour prefaced by a small summary of salient facts a la Bridget Jones dear to the author’s heart pertaining to each overnight stop. Just as for the professional teams, these run the gamut of awful to quite reasonable. Sustenance also looms high on the agenda, particularly gaining access to it at the right times and in the requisite amounts. Not easy when your morning starts in the early hours, to be on the road well ahead of the caravan and Tour proper, or you need dinner well before its anointed hour in France.

Much of each chapter is given over to the parcours and Paul’s state of mind, a fragile beast at best, beset by worries over his physical condition and exacerbated by the French gendarmerie thwarting his attempts to finish key stages. I now understand exactly what he faced. But you don’t have to cycle to enjoy the book.

Rating: 8/10

The book was shortlisted in the best new writer category at The National Sporting Club “Sports Books of the Year” in 2003.

Paul has since written a number of other cycling books:

  • Sex, Lies and Handlebar Tape: The Remarkable Life of Jacques Anquetil, the First Five Times Winner of the Tour de France
  • Two Wheels on my Wagon: A Bicycle Adventure in the Wild West
  • Eat, Sleep, Ride: How I Braved Bears, Badlands and Big Breakfasts in my Quest to Cycle the Tour Divide