The Dotty Jumper. Or the polka dot (climbers) jersey, or the king of the mountains.
This is the jersey that is currently the least predictable of those up for grabs in the Tour, and also currently the least closely followed (this is perhaps untrue in non-Anglophone countries, but comparing the amount of coverage that Cav gets in his green jersey battles, as opposed to Anthony Charteau in his dotty battles, I don’t think so).
Basically riders receive points for crossing the tops of climbs first, and the bigger the climb, the higher the points received. Climbs are categorised from 4th (easiest) to hors (ridiculousest) throughout the race.
Why they don’t just go from 5th category to 1st I don’t know, but I’m sure there is a tradition in there somewhere. Considering that Octave Lapize famously called the organisers assassins (which is French for murderers I’m told) for making them ride the Col du Tourmalet in 1910, that the Tourmalet is an hors category climb, and that the Tour at that stage was a grand total of 7 years old, I’m unsure as to when the tradition of hors cat. rather than 1st cat. started, but it’s there, and I’ll just shut up about it.
Anyhoo, there have been issues with this jersey of late — the main ones being that it has either gone to breakaway specialists who aren’t gun cyclists like the winners of the green and yellow jerseys; or to drug cheats. A rider who is no threat to the boys gunning for the overall can win this jersey by getting into the break on a couple of lumpy stages and cleaning up all of the points for all of those climbs.
They may not even win a single stage, and invariably can’t stay with the big hitters when the race for the overall is on, and so sort of limp their way to the jersey. Otherwise, a look at the past five winners of the jersey is a bit of a cycling hall of shame, with at least three having been accused of, or actually caught using performance enhancing drugs. Not ideal.
For the racing, Cat. 4 climbs can usually be covered pretty quickly by any of the pros, with the sprinters and bigger lads being able to power up them only slightly slower than the whippets who can climb.
If things are very late in a stage, they will cause a lot of stress and speculation as we all worry if our man will be able to get up a hill still at the front of the bunch or not, which makes for super exciting racing as the really strong guys who can climb a bit fancy their chances against the super quick blokes that struggle on the bergs.
Cat. 3 climbs are even less likely to include the fast men, and are weighted even more towards the punchy power men, Cat.2 climbs start to lean more to the climbing specialists, and then Cat. 1 & Hors Cat. climbs are for the pure climbers, with everyone else gasping in their wake unless they go a long way up the road in breakaways.
I do remember one hilarious day where Tyler Farrar, not normally known for his awesome skills on the uphills took out climbing points on a stage of the Giro back in ’09.
It was a super long stage that started in Innsbruck, Austria, went through St Moritz, Switzerland, through the Maloja Pass to end up in Chiavenna just back across the Italian border. The one categorised climb for the day was an on paper impressive 1.3km vertical climb, however it had taken them about 200km to cover that climb as the race meandered along the one valley without any steep hills whatsoever.
Ty said he saw the signs saying 1km to go and mistook them to mean for the intermediate sprint, and figured since he was there and points were available, he may as well contest for them. As he bullishly made his way through the peloton he said he thought it was a little tame compared to the normal seat of your pants hair raising stuff that happens prior to big sprints, but let it slide.
Watching on TV, it was so funny to see all these waif-like climbers battling each other to get to the line to bolster their chances of having the climbers jersey, and then having Tyler go past them like a man amongst boys. The best part was seeing Ty hit the line, and simultaneously realise what’s just happen and sheepishly move to the side to let them get on with the rest of the stage. Classic.
As for my tips for winners of this jersey? I honestly have no clue. The Tour organisers have attempted to make it a jersey that good bike riders can win and still actually race for the gc by changing the points structure, and so on the basis of that, I’ll plump for
- Frank Schleck
- Andy Schleck
- Alberto Contador.