In 2018, the Tour de France implemented a significant change by reducing the team size from nine riders to eight. This initially controversial adjustment was aimed to increase the intensity and unpredictability of the race. The dominance of big ‘super teams’ like Team Sky was definitely one of the reasons behind this too. With one fewer teammate in support, team leaders were faced with a harder task of controlling the peloton and defending their positions. This change encouraged more aggressive racing tactics (think Jumbo Visma in the 2022 Tour) as teams had to adapt their strategies to the new size limit. It has certainly made for more engaging, exciting and unpre-dictable racing in my opinion.
Restructuring the Green Jersey competition
The Škoda Green Jersey, is awarded to the rider who accumulates the most points throughout the race. The structure of this competition has undergone significant changes in recent years. Prior to 2011, the Green Jersey was primarily based on the accumulation of points in intermediate sprints and finish line placements. However, the rules were revised to increase the emphasis on stage victories on flat stages, leading to a more exciting competition that rewarded the sprinters rather than GC riders. After all, the Škoda Green Jersey is unofficially the ‘Sprinters Jersey.’
The current points structure is as follows (Points given to the first 15 riders):
Largely flat stages without any major difficulties
Stages deemed “very difficult” (Mountain stages)
As you can see, the points are weighted heavily towards the ‘easier’ stages with flatter terrain, to keep the point distribution in favour of the ‘fastmen’. This restructuring aimed to encourage sprinters to compete for stage victo-ries, rather than merely focusing on intermediate sprints and getting high placings but not winning.
King of the Mountains competition
The King of the Mountains competition or ‘Polka Dot Jersey’ celebrates the climbers’ prowess in the mountains and hills. Over the years, the rules gov-erning this competition have been adjusted to increase its competitiveness and add excitement for fans. A very recent change in the rules means rid-ers no longer get double points over the top of hors catégorie climbs (the hardest) – something which used to favour the GC riders over the breaka-way specialists. This makes it a higher probability that a rider targeting the jersey will win it, not a GC rider who amasses points almost by accident.
The number of points awarded depends on the difficulty of the climb, with harder climbs offering more points. The rider with the highest number of points at the end of the Tour is crowned the King of the Mountains.
The KOM points are distributed as follows:
Hors Catégorie: 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-2 points
Cat.1 climbs: 10-8-6-4-2-1 points
Cat.2: 5-3-2-1 points
Cat.3: 2-1 points
Cat.4: 1 point
The evolution of Intermediate and Finish-line time bonuses
Time bonuses have played a significant role in the Tour de France, influenc-ing tactics and way the race unfolds. Over the past 20 years, the implemen-tation and distribution of time bonuses at intermediate sprints and finish lines has evolved significantly.
In the past, time bonuses were awarded at both intermediate sprints and the finish line to incentivise aggressive racing and make sprint stages more relevant. However, in 2007, the organisers decided to remove the time bo-nuses for intermediate sprints, focusing solely on the finish-line bonuses.
The current time bonus structure includes bonuses at the finish line for the first three riders in every stage apart from time trial stages and are awarded as follows: 10-6-4 seconds. These bonuses are subtracted from the riders’ overall time, potentially providing crucial advantages in the general classifi-cation.
Additional time bonuses are also awarded on strategic mountain passes and smaller climbs towards the end of a stage, on certain pre-selected stages. The first three riders across these pick up bonuses of 8-5 and 2 seconds. These were first introduced in 2019 and have proved to be the catalyst for aggressive racing. In fact, the extra time bonus placed on a climb towards the end of stage 3 in 2019 saw Julian Alaphilippe attack for the points, only to continue on, win the stage and take the yellow jersey.
I’m sure you’ll agree that these rule changes have significantly impacted the racing dynamics at the Tour, which I think has made for an overall more exciting spectacle for everyone. GC riders have extra impetus to race ag-gressively and use unorthodox tactics due to teams being smaller and the addition of these extra ‘super’ time bonuses. The climbers and sprinters re-spective competitions now focus more than ever on their specific skill sets, allowing and encouraging them to showcase these talents to a higher de-gree. The Tour is the best it’s ever been. I’m just keen to see what they have up their sleeve for the next 20 years!