Part two of my “control the jersey” series is focused on the polka dot jersey. In part one, I focused on the green jersey, so now we go to the mountains for part two.
This jersey is awarded to the rider who reaches the most mountain summits and gains the most points. The polka dot jersey is points-based so it is not to be confused with how the yellow jersey is won. Although the yellow jersey is often won by riders who dominate in the mountain stages, the polka dot jersey is comprised of mountain summit points throughout the Tour and not overall time. There is a unique strategy to holding the polka dot jersey.
An understanding of the contenders in the peloton and an awareness of which riders are involved in the breakaway each day are imperative here. To be successful throughout the event, you need to know the summits to attack and their point values. Combine this with patience and timing your break, and you will be in a position to hold the jersey or be in a position to win it off your competitors.
The point system for the polka dot jersey depends on the classification of the mountain itself. Each mountain summit within a stage has a point value. These values depend on how difficult the mountain is to summit. From easiest to hardest, here’s how points work out:
- Category four climbs are 3,2, 1 for the top three riders
- Category three points are 4,3, 2, 1
- Category two climbs are 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5
- Category one climbs are 15, 13, 11, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5
- For HC climbs the points are 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5
After the point system is established, you will have to decipher where to save energy and where you should ride in front to join the breakaway. Take the time to determine your pre-race strategy. Planning out your attack on the stage layout will benefit you. Be aware of which riders are either ahead or behind you in points that will contribute to your strategic decisions. If you are leading the polka dot jersey competition, then you should only worry about riders that are behind you in the standings. Keep a watchful eye on which riders attack in the breakaway and which riders hang back. If the riders that break are low in the standings, then there is no point to counterattack — it will only deplete your energy. Choosing to not counterattack is just as important as choosing to attack.
As mentioned in part one of this guide, often in Tour de France stages there are breakaway attempts right off the starting line. When you are targeting the prestigious polka dot jersey, you do not need to be in the breakaway each time. However, you do need to be in the breakaway when riding on the highest classification mountains. Remember you aren’t seeking a stage win — although stage wins will be within your grasp if you are in every breakaway and are able to manage your stamina correctly.
For the polka dot jersey, the main concern is scoring points. If you gain the points you need for the stage, then the rest of the stage is just a ride to survive and recover for the next day. If there is no breakaway, then don’t try to break alone, unless you think you can use the energy. Rather, sit in the peloton and force your competitors to make the first move because no one breaking away would be a rare event. In other words, just patiently wait for the break of the line and counterattack behind them to catch their wheel.
The goal is to ride their wheel as much as possible to regain energy and recover from your counterattack. Let the front riders break the wind for you. However, be sure to work with them once the group gains a couple of minutes on the peloton. If you don’t take your turn at the front, the breakaway will slow or they will attack you for not sharing the time at the front breaking the wind.
Patience And Timing
Once the breakaway has created a large enough gap on the peloton and has the mountain to themselves, you just need to be patient. Wait and control your ride up the mountain. You won’t be able to break away from your competitor at the base of the mountain and have enough energy to make it over the top. Therefore, as you work your way up, try to test their energy with small attacks and wait to see if they respond.
This is effective in mountains that occur late in the stage. If you know your rider is stronger in the mountains, ride at a high tempo and force your competitors to try to hold your wheel. Slowly wearing your opponents down before you reach the summit will help you plan how you want to attack. In the best-case scenario, bring your next strongest mountain rider on the team with you in the breakaway.
This will help you push your opponents to ride hard as well. You can use your teammate to set a high tempo up the mountain while you hold his wheel and maintain some energy. Remember, the points only go to the rider who crosses the line first so you have to think about timing.
Often, the mountain-top sprint comes within the last kilometer of the summit. Position your rider in the third to the fourth position back from the front rider. This allows you the ability to monitor your opponents and to be ready for any attack. Remain on their wheel and watch their pedal stroke. If they look sluggish, make your move. If not, sit closely behind their back wheel and slip out and attack. When your competitor is in front of you, they will be slow to respond if you attack first. But if they attack you first, you will also have to quickly respond.
Holding the polka dot jersey is a prestigious honor. Strategizing every day of the Tour de France as the king of the mountains is one of the best parts of Tour de France 2020. However, if you fall behind early in the competition, it can also be an absolute grind day after day trying to win the jersey back. Grab the bike, get on the mountains, and make history in Tour de France 2020.