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Le maillot gris

24 Jul 10 | Re: Tour de France try-hards

Last year during the Tour de France I linked to this blog about the Lanterne Rouge. It’s still a good blog, albeit a little less active this year; I believe the tour fan behind it has turned some of her attention to Twitter.

Be that as it may, the point of that blog is to celebrate the Lanterne Rouge - the rider who is placed last in the Tour’s general classification. Traditionally, although it’s a dubious honour in some respects, being the Lanterne Rouge is still genuinely an honour because these low-placed riders are constantly working hard for their teams, with little thought of personal glory, and often have to put in almighty efforts to finish the tougher stages (which they aren’t really built for) within the time limit and so stay in the race. In short, the Lanterne Rouge is an opportunity for one of the Tour’s unsung heroes to get a bit of low-level recognition.

Now that’s all very well, but simply fixing on the man in last place seems to me to be an imperfect system. There must be a better way to single out a hard-working, consistent Tour rider. The solution that I’m going to discuss here is one that I think was suggested by a follower of the BBC’s live text commentary during last year’s Tour: award a special jersey to the rider who has the best lowest finish across all the stages to date. As an example, say there have been ten stages and there are only two riders who’ve managed to finished in the top 50 in all of them, one whose lowest placing was 47th on Stage 4 and one who placed 50th on Stage 8. In that instance, the rider who hadn’t placed lower than 47th would wear the jersey. Then if he finished 120th on Stage 11 and the other guy placed 36th, the jersey would go over to the second rider, who still wouldn’t have placed lower than 50th. Clear?

This award would have to be signified by a grey jersey, to acknowledge the unflashy consistency of the rider who wore it. Now, I know that in a lot of the flat stages the entire peloton finishes together, making it a bit of a lottery whether a rider comes 50th or 150th. I also know that encouraging everyone to try and get a high finish on these stages might get a bit dangerous, although this would become a non-issue as the Tour progressed and only a handful of riders were left in contention for the accolade. To elucidate things further, I’ve gone to the modest effort of working out who would have worn the jersey after each stage of this year’s Tour:

(The number in brackets is the rider’s lowest placing up to that point.)

You can see that in my parallel Tour, the grey jersey would obviously have to start off with the winner of the Prologue. After Stage 1 it would have moved over to time triallist and reasonable sprinter Linus Gerdemann, who would keep it for another stage before losing it to cycling’s Mr Steady, Cadel Evans. Cadel would then have gone on to wear the jersey for most of the Tour, gaining some consolation for not being able to keep up with the elite race leaders this year, before losing it to likely lad Roman Kreuziger on one of the fearsome mountain stages late on. Kreuziger in turn would have lost the jersey to Jurgen Van Den Broek in the final time trial before Paris.

In other words, despite the somewhat unpredictable placings on flat stages, this jersey does seem to have homed in on good, consistent riders who haven’t otherwise had a great deal of attention. It would be an interesting prize to bring in - in fact, the only point against it that I can think of is that there are clearly quite enough jerseys already. So for now, well done to Jurgen Van Den Broek and I’ll see you all next year, when we will see whether I can once again be bothered to work out the winner of the maillot gris.

Posted by LE FLEUR at 21:06

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