• Tim Wellens had a long stint in the king of the mountains jersey during the 2019 Tour de France (Getty)Source: Getty
The Tour de France mountains classification comes with one of the prettiest prizes in sport, the red polka-dot jersey of the king of the mountains.
SBS Cycling Central

27 Aug 2020 - 2:14 PM 

The mountains jersey occupies an interesting position within the Tour de France. At the start of the race, it's a jersey for whoever is the strongest in the breakaway. Mid-way through, normally it's pretty clear who is going to target the jersey and by the finish it can be a titanic struggle or a foregone conclusion. 

The jersey is won by having the most points accumulated through the three weeks of racing, with points won by being in the top positions heading over pre-determined climb summits throughout stages.

Each climb during the race has a category assigned to it. Hors categorie (outside classification) climbs are the toughest ascents and have 20 points for the winner, with the first eight riders receiving progressively less points for finishing in the minor places.

Category 1 is next hardest with 10 points for the winner and the first six riders getting points. Category 2 is 5 points for first, with points for the first four riders. Category 3 has 2 points and 1 point for the first and second riders respectively, while the miserly Category 4 climbs have just a single point for the first rider to crest the peak. 

Complicating matters is the fact that riders targeting the yellow jersey can often win the polka dots by placing well on finishing climbs. Summits which double as stage finishes carry double points and can play a big part in the jersey calculations. 

The hunt for the dots is normally contested by breakaway specialists and pre-race favourites for the yellow jersey that have lost too much time to get back in the fight for the top spots on the general classification.

What the experts say

Who’s going to win?

Bridie O'Donnell, SBS Cycling Analyst, commentator – Julian Alaphilippe

David McKenzie, SBS Cycling Analyst– Julian Alaphilippe

Robbie McEwen, SBS Cycling expert commentator – Julian Alaphilippe

Mike Tomalaris, SBS Tour de France Host – Julian Alaphilippe

Matt Keenan, SBS Cycling commentator – Warren Barguil


Bridie O'Donnell, SBS Cycling Analyst, commentator – Tom Dumoulin

David McKenzie, SBS Cycling Analyst– Romain Bardet

Robbie McEwen, SBS Cycling expert commentator – Thomas de Gendt

Matt Keenan, SBS Cycling commentator – Alejandro Valverde


Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep) probably should be the favourite for the classification after ruling out a repeat of his yellow jersey heroics from last year. It's likely that the flamboyant Frenchman will be on the hunt for stages in the mountains as well as intermediate parcours, and there's plenty of opportunities for him that also include some juicy mountains point on offer as well.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) is another top-tier rider who has ruled out a general classification push, with the line from the team being that they are looking for stage glory rather than an also-ran position in the overall standings. He's one of the best climbers around when on song and his performances at the Dauphiné indicate that his form is improving after a long bout of sickness leading into the season restart.

Warren Barguil (Arkea-Samsic) is the 2017 winner of the polka dot jersey, a great Tour for the young star that saw him take out two stages in addition to the mountains classification. He may be on support duty for Nairo Quintana's push for the yellow jersey, but there are a lot of question marks around Quintana's current form and health that could mean that Barguil is allowed a bit more freedom. Explosive and attacking at his best, Barguil would be thrilling to watch in a fight for the mountains jersey.

The yellow jersey winner is rarely far off in any mountains jersey classification, and can often be the one that wears the polka dots in Paris. That looks a little less likely this year, with plenty of opportunities for attackers to scoop up points that the general classification candidates can't target mid-stage. That will change if there's not a decisive leader heading into the third week of competition, with stages 15 and 17 finishing atop the HC climbs of Grand Colombier and the Col de la Loze.

A whopping 40 points per stage finish will be on offer for those, and if a GC candidate is looking in ominous form they could well go a long way to securing the red dots with wins in those stages. Insert your favourite pick for the top step in Paris here.

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The Tour de France begins on August 29, with every stage broadcast on SBS HD and the ŠKODA Tour Tracker.