Always an intriguing battle, the polka dot jersey tends to fall in one of two categories – the consolation prize or prized possession. It’s notoriously difficult to pick a winner here because sometimes it can be the luck of the draw when the breakaway riders are settled each day.
How the points will be accumulated –
The fiercest battles will be fought on the five Hors Catégorie (HC) climbs on offer this year - Tourmalet, Izoard, Galibier, Iseran and Val Thorens - and will be worth 40 points for the first man across the line, with 30, 24, 20, 16, 12, 8 and 4 points for the next seven riders. Category 1 climbs have 10 points for the first rider across the line, followed by 8, 6, 4, 2 and 1 point for the next riders to follow. Category 2 climbs start with 5 points down to 1 point for the first four riders; Category 3 climbs will earn riders 2 and then 1 point while Category 4 climbs will snag one rider 1 point.
Julian Alaphilippe (Fra) Deceuninck – QuickStep
2019 wins: 10
The WorldTour points leader is on fire again this season and seems primed to defend his polka dot jersey from 2018. That in itself will be a rarity in recent times, with Michael Rasmussen the last rider to go back-to-back in the climber’s classification in 2006.
Alaphilippe is fast becoming one of those riders you’d describe as exceptional; he could realistically have a crack at the green jersey if he wanted, but the polka dots will do for now. The Frenchman celebrated his contract renewal through to 2021 with a stage win and the King of the Mountains classification at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Warren Barguil (Fra) Arkéa Samsic
2019 wins: 1
Better than last year and yet probably not as good as he was when he won the polka dot jersey in 2017, this will be a fascinating Tour for Barguil. Was runner-up to Alaphilippe by some margin in the classification in 2018. The Frenchman has bounced back from a broken pelvis at the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya in March and will be encouraged by his top-five performance on the stage to Champéry at the recent Dauphiné. Coming off a win at the French nationals road race.
Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Bahrain-Merida
2019 wins: 0
The four-time Grand Tour winner has said that stage wins and the polka dot jersey are more realistic for him after his runner-up effort at the Giro d’Italia in May. This brings us to how this could play out, given the fact that Nibali would need to lose a lot of time for the peloton let him go up the road on a points raid. Essentially, Nibali needs to be around the mark for GC to have a real shot of the polka dot jersey, but he’s throwing shade on his abilities to follow the wheels of the protagonists when it really counts.
Ilnur Zakarin (Rus) Katusha Alpecin
2019 wins: 1
Added a second Giro d’Italia stage victory to his palmares in May on the Ceresole Reale which moved him to third overall before eventually fading to 10th on GC. Zakarin is capable of another top 10 at the Tour (as he did in 2016), but after the Giro, the mountains classification is probably a better fit. The team needs all the help it can get after a season marred by Marcel Kittel’s departure, and not many runs on the board – the polka dot jersey would do nicely.