Tour de France primer: What is the polka-dot jersey?

Learn all about the Tour de France’s King of the Mountains competition

July 3, 2023

Richard Carapaz is leading the Tour de France’s King of the Mountains classification.

That is why he is wearing the polka dot jersey.

How does the competition work?

Riders race for points at the tops of mountains on the course. Climbs in the Tour de France are ranked according to their difficulty, from fourth category through to first, with the hors catégorie—beyond category—designation reserved for the hardest, most prestigious ascents. King of the Mountains points are awarded in accordance with this classification. The harder the climb, the more points the first riders to cross its summit can earn.

During the race, the rider who has accumulated the most points so far in this contest wears the polka dot jersey. To win it by the end of the Tour in Paris, a rider needs to be more than just a great climber though. Competing for King of the Mountains points requires a great deal of calculation. Do they go in an early breakaway and try to earn points on the first climbs in a stage? Or do they wait till later, when the breakaway is likely to be caught, and go for the later ascents, where they may have to climb against the riders who are racing for the yellow jersey? Every day, contenders for the climbers’ competition have to study the race map and make such decisions, always keeping in mind that the Tour de France is a three-week event. Every point counts, but if they race up every hill, they might not have the strength they will need for the biggest alpine passes, where they could earn the most points. To be crowned King of the Mountains in at the end of the Tour, a climber needs to race smart.

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