What’s the difference between yellow and green? How about white and polka dots? If you’re a veteran fan of the Tour de France, you’re well versed in the answers to these jersey questions. But for those new to cycling’s greatest race, here’s a primer on the four most important pieces of apparel, and how much of the €2.2 million ($3 million US) total prize purse winners will take home when racing wraps on July 27 in Paris.
The rider who completes the race’s 21 stages in the lowest cumulative time wins the yellow jersey, or maillot jaune, plus €450,000 ($616,000) of the €1 million allotted to this competition. The yellow jersey is sponsored by LCL, a French bank, and like all the race’s leaders jerseys, is supplied by kit maker Le Coq Sportif. Because teamwork plays such an integral role in the outcome of this competition, it’s customary for the overall winner to share his winnings with the rest of his squad. (Think quarterback buying watches for his offensive lineman.)
The outcome of this competition will be decided largely during the race’s six designated mountain stages (five with summit finishes) and one individual time trial, where riders race one at a time against the clock. Reigning champion Chris Froome of Team Sky is the favorite, with top challenges expected from Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador of Spain and Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Top American contenders include Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), and Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida).
RoadBikeReview Pick: Contador
Also known as the points or sprinter’s jersey, the maillot vert is awarded to the rider who accumulates the most Green Jersey points during the three-week race. These points are awarded both at the finish of each stage and at a single intermediate sprint point along the course. In both cases, points are awarded on a sliding scale down to 15th place. The idea is to honor the race’s most consistent finisher, but because there are more points on the line during flat stages (45 for first place), a sprinter inevitably wins this prize.
The jersey is sponsored by PMU (Pari Mutuel Urbain), France’s state controlled betting system. The jersey is green because the original sponsor of the competition was a garden supply company. The winner receives €25,000 of a €125,000 prize purse. Favorites include 2012 and 2013 Green Jersey winner Peter Sagan of Cannondale Pro Cycling, along with 2011 winner Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick-Step), and Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano).
RoadBikeReview Pick: Sagan
Last year’s jersey winners: Nairo Quintana (white and polka dot, but not racing this year), Chris Froome and Peter Sagan. Photo by Graham Watson
Polka Dot Jersey
Awarded to the leader of the King of the Mountains competition, this is a points based duel fought out on the race’s myriad climbs. Each climb in ranked easy to hard (4, 3, 2, 1, and hors categorie or beyond categorie). Harder ascents pay off more points, with summit finishes offering double points. The first 10 riders to reach the summit of each climb are awarded points on a sliding scale. The competition is sponsored by Carrefour, the French version of Costco.
The winner of the final Polka Dot Jersey earns €25,000 of a €107,000 prize purse. Because of the double points awarded on the summit finishes, it’s likely the yellow jersey contenders will also be in the mix for this prize. Favorites include Froome, Contador, Belgium’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Frenchmen Pierre Roland and Thomas Voeckler, and Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez.
RoadBikeReview Pick: Van Den Broeck
Also known as the best young rider competition, this jersey is limited to racers 25 years and younger. The competition is won by the rider who has the lowest cumulative time and is sponsored by Skoda, an auto maker based in the Czech Republic. Top prize is €20,000 of a €66,500 prize purse. Favorites include 2012 White Jersey winner Tejay van Garderen of BMC, Omega Pharma-Quick-Step’s Michal Kwiatkowski, Ag2r La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet, and fellow Frenchman Thibaut Pinot of FDJ.fr.
RoadBikeReview Pick: Van Garderen
Team Competition (Yellow Numbers)
There’s no special jersey awarded here. Instead the leading team will be sporting special yellow numbers. The winning squad is the team with the lowest cumulative time at the end of the race. Total time is determined by adding the times of each team’s first three finishers at the end of each stage. Top prize is €50,000 out of a €178,800 total purse. Favorites include BMC, Garmin-Sharp and Tinkoff-Saxo Bank.
RoadBikeReview Pick: Garmin-Sharp
Most Aggressive Rider (Red Number)
Awarded to the most “combative” rider at the end of each stage as decided by a panel of cycling experts. The dossard rouge usually goes to a rider who has featured in the day’s breakaway, whether it succeeded or not. At the end of the race a “super combative” award is given to the rider who stood out during the entire three weeks. Top prize is €20,000 of a €54,000 total purse. Picking a winner here is almost impossible, but we’ll give a sentimental nod to German Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) who turns 43 this fall and has never been afraid to take risks in the name of glory.
Now that you up to speed with all the jerseys, check out this video highlighting the 2014 Tour de France’s 21 stages.