The mountains classification at the Tour de France is a competition in which riders receive points for being among the first to cross the summit of categorised climbs during individual stages.
Although the meilleur grimpeur (best climber) at the Tour has been recognised since 1933, the polka dot jersey, also known as the maillot à pois rouges – worn by the current leader of the competition – was only introduced as recently as 1975.
Climbs are ranked according to difficulty. At the Tour, they are graded from category four (easiest) to hors catégorie (HC), which are so difficult they are ‘beyond classification’. Points are given to the first riders over the summit. A Cat 4 climb earns the first rider over the summit one point and this goes up until HC, which awards the first rider 20 points, with points being awarded down to sixth. Summit finishes rated at Cat 2 and upwards earn double points.
The most successful King of the Mountains is Richard Virenque, who won the jersey seven times between starting in 1994 and 2004. The winner of the polka dot jersey in 2011 was Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Samuel Sanchez.
The classification is often won by a rider who is not in direct contention for overall victory, as they will be given the freedom to escape in the day’s breakaway, giving them the opportunity to accumulate points from a smaller group.
For general information on the other Tour de France jerseys, click here.