If Franco Pellizotti's mad dash for minor points in Thursday's six lower category climbs seemed somewhat excessive, it all paid off when he moved into the lead of mountains classification at the Tour de France in Colmar on Friday.
The Liquigas rider clawed out a mere seven points on the stage 12 run to Vittel to begin Friday's stage 17 points adrift of Egoi Martínez in that competition. But with higher mountains and more points on offer in stage 13, the 200km trip to Colmar was a much more important contest for the climbers.
"We fought for all the mountain points. Egoi Martínez marked my wheel at all times," said Pellizotti, who lost one point to his foe on the day's second climb. But he would soon get the better of the Spaniard on a cold and rainy climb up the Col du Platzerwasel. The Euskaltel-Euskadi rider was distanced on the category 1 ascent and Pellizotti was able to move closer to the lead with nine valuable points for fourth place at the top.
The 12 points Pellizotti took on the day's final climb, the Col du Firstplan, was enough to catapult him into the lead with 98 points to the Euskaltel-Euskadi rider's 95, and he ended his afternoon atop the podium draped in the white and red polka dot jersey. Now Pellizotti plans to carry that jersey to the race's end, July 26 in Paris.
"It was a difficult day due to the weather, but I took the jersey. I have seen many famous riders wear it in the past, so to put it on now brings many emotions," said Pellizotti.
Tomorrow's stage contains two lower-ranked mountains with fewer points, but Sunday's stage is a high-mountain stage with an 8.8-kilometre mountaintop finish, but the Italian is looking further down the road to the most important days for the mountains classification.
"It will be a day for the favourites on Sunday, but Tuesday and Wednesday will be decisive."
Both Tuesday and Wednesday's stages (Bourg-St-Maurice and Le Grand-Bornand) feature high mountains and greater points, but neither has a mountaintop finish, leaving the race more open.