The Polka Dot Jersey: Celebrating the ‘King of the Mountains’
The Polka Dot Jersey or ‘Maillot à Pois Rouges’ of the Tour de France has captivated audiences since 1933, with its unique design and the majestic honor it represents. Awarded to the ‘King of the Mountains’, the best climber of the tour, this jersey is a symbol of perseverance, grit, and unrivalled endurance. Let's delve into its genesis and honor the legendary climbers who wore it with pride

Part I: The Birth of the Polka Dot Jersey

The ‘King of the Mountains’ competition was introduced in 1933, but the Polka Dot Jersey made its debut later in 1975. The race organizers selected a white jersey adorned with red spots because it's visually captivating and stands out against any landscape. Since then, the jersey has become a key element of the Tour’s visual tapestry.

Part II: Conquering the Mountains - The Scoring System

To win the Polka Dot Jersey, riders need to accumulate the highest points on mountain stages, the points being distributed at the top of categorized climbs and hilltop finishes. The climbs are ranked from least to most difficult, known from Category 4 to 'Hors Catégorie' (Beyond Category). The harder the climb, the more points are awarded, making the competition intense and captivating.

Part III: Legendary Kings of the Mountains

The Polka Dot Jersey has been worn by many incredible climbers, such as:

  • Richard Virenque: The French climber took home the Polka Dot Jersey a record seven times, redefining the climber’s profile.

  • Lucien Van Impe: The Belgian 'Mountain Man' claimed the jersey six times, setting a benchmark for future riders.

  • Federico Bahamontes: Known as the 'Eagle of Toledo', the Spanish rider wore the Polka Dot Jersey twice and was the first to secure 'King of the Mountains' six times.

Gruber Images
Gruber Images

Conclusion: More than a Jersey

The Polka Dot Jersey epitomizes the essence of the gruelling mountain stages of the Tour de France. It is a mark of extraordinary resilience, illustrating that cycles are not just won on flat stages but conquered on steep ascents. This glorified jersey carries the weight of effort and labor put in by riders to achieve the title of 'King of the Mountains'.

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