The polka dot jersey is perhaps the most coveted jersey in the Tour de France after the yellow jersey and is only intended for the best climber. The system works with points, but a few including Thomas De Gendt think it should be handled differently and I can only agree with this, especially since in recent years a lot of lesser climbers have been riding in the peloton with the polka dot jersey for days.


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It was no different in the Tour of 2022, just think of Simon Geschke who drove around for days with the polka dot jersey but luckily was passed by Jonas Vingegaard, final winner of the Tour de France 2022.

De Gendt thinks it is better to record the times of the riders on every climb and no longer award points to whoever comes first on a col. With current technology, this is perfectly possible and the best climber really gets the polka dot jersey in the rankings.

Now it happens far too often that lesser climbers slip along in a break from the start of each race and in this way take as many points as possible on the 4th to 2nd category climbs. Collecting points on the climbs of 1st and outside category is out of the question for these lesser climbers, precisely because they are not real climbers.

A ranking in which the polka dot jersey is awarded to whoever rides up all the mountains the fastest seems fairest to me!

The introduction of the polka dot jersey

But when was the polka dot jersey first introduced in the Tour de France? The mountains classification has been around for a while, namely from 1933. The first to win it was Spaniard Vicente Trueba. The public had to distinguish the 1st in the standings from the other riders by a piece of tissue and later a sticker on the cycling jersey. Imagine how difficult this was when the peloton rode past at a speed of 50km/h.

To make the leader of the mountain prize more visible in the peloton, the polka dot jersey was introduced from 1975. The first to wear it was the Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk. The 1st winner of the polka dot jersey was the race climber Lucien van Impe, who was even nicknamed Petit Pois because of his stature.


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Apparently there are 2 versions about the polka dot jersey itself. The first is that the then tour boss Félix Lévitan would have introduced them to pay tribute to Henri Lemoin, a French pistier who drove around with such a jersey in the 1920s.

According to the Belgian climber Lucien van Impe, it was Chocolat poulain, the sponsor of the mountain jersey, who launched a new chocolate bar in 1975 and wanted to advertise it. The new bar, which was especially popular with children, had a white packaging with red dots on it and what would be the best means to promote this bar: a white jersey with red dots.

As a prize for the first polka dot jersey, Lucien van Impe received 60 kg of chocolate. Initially, the riders only felt envy with this new jersey. Lucien van Impe even thought he looked like a clown, but gradually this sweater also became a habit in the peloton and the climbers were proud with the jersey around their shoulders.

Who won the most polka dot jerseys?

The Frenchman Richard Virenque has won the polka dot jersey 7 times and in theory would therefore be the best climber ever, but many disagree, including myself. I think this honor goes to a number of riders: Lucien van Impe, Federico Bahamontes and Marco Pantani.

When you see how these riders attacked on the mountains and wrecked the others, Virenque doesn't come close to them. With the system of time measurement, Virenque would not have been allowed to put on the polka dot jersey 7 times in Paris.

An overview of the final winners of the polka dot jersey can be found on the following link