I fear controversy, as I fear the dogs which routinely run towards me, smelling my panic (and possibly my mouldering trainers) when I am out running. Therefore I have chosen to express these strong views about a piffling thing of not much consequence on a forum of my choosing in which it is not possible to post comments that may in any way detract from my world view. Echo Chamber? You bet. Right here.
The Piffling Thing in question is the Polka Dot jersey competition, AKA “The King Of The Mountains, AKA “The Virenque Prize”.
I have been surprised by the attitude of many others (it could indeed be everyone in the world, except for me) which seems to suggest that it’s a good thing that Tadej Pogačar might win the King of the Mountains competition this year. This school of thought pre-supposes that the King of the Mountains is supposed to be, somehow, the King of the Mountains. This is cycling, though. How could it possibly be that simple.
Before today’s stage, which was always going to be the big GC shakedown ahead of the final ITT on Saturday, everyone knew that the Hors Catégorie Col de la Loze would yield double points. 40 in total, to the winner. Everyone also knew that, as is the way of things, the GC teams would probably do battle for the stage win, and not allow a breakaway to contest the points.
And so, Tadej Pogačar has taken the jersey and leads by a handsome 30 points to Benoit Cosnefroy who has turned himself inside out to defend that jersey, day after day, getting in moves, hurting himself to hang on, attacking and attacking over and over again. And in one fell swoop, better climbers than he have negated his Tour de France, nullifying his valiant efforts and reducing to rubble his cause.
It’s not just about Cosnefroy. Look at the madly various list of names in KOM contention before stage 17 came along with its heavy-handed bias to GC riders and crush all hope. It was a competition, much like the green jersey, that was brewing up nicely and offering a path to success for repeated tenacity and bravery against the odds – finer details which should never go missing from the complexity of a Tour. It’s hard to get in a break, harder still to score in a break, and even harder to do it day in day out.
The polka dot jersey is a reward for such riders. I don’t agree that it should come as a bi-product of racing GC. I didn’t like it when Froome won the jersey in 2015 as well as THE RACE. I like Tadej Pogačar, and I am certain that we’ll see him on the podium in Paris alongside Roglič, as well as in the white jersey in his own right. But he has much greater prizes ahead, and will one day wear yellow. The race structure should leave the polka dot jersey for the likes of Thomas Voeckler, for example, or Warren Barguil. It meant a huge amount to Romain Bardet.
Have a heart, for God’s sake. Don’t @ me. 😉