After the departure of Monsieur Virenque, the Tour's Mountain King at the end of 2004, there'll definitely be a new king of the mountains crowned in 2005. Jeff Jones looks at the riders who could take home the maillot à pois.
The polka-dotted mountains jersey (maillot à pois) has a long history in the Tour, with the competition being initiated in 1933, making it 20 years older than the points jersey. It has always carried a good deal of prestige with it, although in recent years, most of the really good climbers have chosen to ignore it and focus on the yellow. With one or two exceptions.
Past winners of the spotty jersey include Fausto Coppi, Federico Bahamontes (six times), Charly Gaul, Eddy Merckx, Lucien Van Impe (six times), Bernard Hinault, Luis Herrera, Claudio Chiappucci, Laurent Jalabert, and Richard Virenque. The latter has claimed the jersey a record seven times, but has now retired and the competition is wide open this year. Like the green jersey, the mountains jersey also requires consistency, but not in the same way. Most of the time, a rider wanting the dots will get in a breakaway on one of the first big mountain stages and win most of the points. The defense of it usually requires another long breakaway, but polka dot contenders don't have to concentrate on every single bonus like the sprinters do, because the big climbs are worth so much more than the small ones.