I’m not sure if it’s because I’m too fat to climb and therefore admire those who aren’t, or if it has something to do with the masochistic nature of sprinting to the top of every hill during a three-week race, but the competition for the best climber in the Tour de France has long captured my imagination.
The ugliest of all jerseys, it is also somehow the coolest one, despite the many abominations that have been created in the recent trends of matching the rest of one’s kit to competition leader jerseys. Who would have the nerve to design a jersey made up of a pattern or red dots? The French, apparently.
I first noticed it in the 1988 and 1989 Tours. Here were these crazy, tall, lanky Dutchmen dominating the mountains. The Dutch are flat landers for whom, aside from those living in the Southern province of Limburg, the phrase “Living at Elevation” means living at three meters. But it turns out that tall Dutch guys can climb, as is routinely demonstrated by Robert Gesink in his countless mountain escapades – not to mention in yesterday’s finale up to Morzine-Avoriaz.
Recent memory has this jersey particularly stained by drug scandals, but a review of what is involved in challenging for – let alone winning – this jersey makes it somewhat easier to appreciate that a little dose of EPGo might help out. The jersey is decided based on points awarded at the summit of each categorized climb along the route based on the following scale (from Wikipedia):
- Hors Catégorie climbs: 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6 and 5 points respectively for the 1st until the 10th rider to climb the mountain.
- First category climbs: 15, 13, 11, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 points respectively for the 1st until the 8th rider to climb the mountain.
- Second category climbs: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 and 5 points respectively for the 1st until the 6th rider to climb the mountain.
- Third category climbs and hills : 4, 3, 2 and 1 point, respectively for the 1st until the 4th rider to climb the hill.
- Fourth category climbs (hills): 3, 2, and 1 point, respectively for the 1st until the 3rd rider to climb the hill.
Consider, then, the profiles of mountain stages like we’ll have tomorrow to St.-Jean-de-Maurienne, and the weight of this competition starts to weigh heavy on the legs. Climbing these mountains in the first place is hard enough, but to add a sprint to the top of them is something else altogether. Drugs or not, that requires a heaping spoonful of Rule #5 and an intimate exploration of the depths of Rule #10. Personally, I think JérÃ´me Pineau might just be mad enough to try for it this year, although it might also come down to Gesink if he were to give up his GC ambitions for the chance to take home the Spotted Tog.
In any case, whoever wins it will have my admiration. And then I’ll hold my breath in anticipation of the doping suspension.