The mountains classification is always a great attraction of the Tour de France, especially when the fight for the general classification is not entertaining or exciting deep into the race. In this article, we will take a closer look at 2022 edition’s scoring system, the tactics for winning it and who are the favourites.
This year’s route is quite mountainous, with mythical passes such as Galibier, Alpe d’Huez or Hautacam. In this article, we analysed all these climbs featuring in the 2022 Tour de France, including projected climbing times and watts. In total, there will be:
- 61 categorised climbs;
- 7 Hors Catégorie climbs;
- 10 category 1 climbs;
- 6 category 2 climbs;
- 16 category 3 climbs; and
- 22 category 4 climbs,
for 985 available points.
Logically, the Hors Catégorie climbs are the most important, with a big difference over the rest. Not only does the first rider score twice as much as a first category climb, but there are points up to the eighth position, as you can see in the following graph.
Moreover, according to the rules, “in the event of two riders being equal on points in the best climber classification, the rider with the most first places at the summit of Hors Catégorie passes or climbs or summit finishes will be declared the winner”.
If a rider’s goal is the final mountain classification, there is little point in expending valuable energy racing for the points available on Category 3 or 4 climbs, and instead they should focus on the Hors Catégorie and Category 1 climbs. In any case, modest teams will compete for the points on these small hills in the first week to wear the jersey until the arrival of the high mountains and thus maximise their visibility and publicity impact on the race, as was the case last year when Perez and Schelling battled throughout the Grand Depart on the short hills in Brittany last year.
In addition, although they have almost no impact on the classification, topping a fourth category climb is rewarded with 200 euros, which is welcome among the cyclists with lower salaries.
As we can see in the graph, the Hors Catégorie and Category 1 climbs share 86% of the total points for the mountain classification. Five of the seven Hors Catégorie are in the two big Alpine stages, with finishes at Col du Granon and Alpe d’Huez. Those two stages will be key, as if a rider passes all the climbs first he can score 55 and 60 points respectively. However even in the event of the GC group eventually catching the breakaway on the four major climbing stages (11, 12, 17 and 18), four of the seven Hors Catégorie climbs are during the middle of the stage where it is much more likely that a breakaway will still be up the road to take maximum points.
Below you can see the exact distribution of points on each stage, with the heavy weighting in the Alps and Pyrenees.
As the key stages come in the first block of mountain stages, it is possible that many good climbers will not have given up on the general classification and will find it difficult to get into the breakaway. Therefore, contenders for the mountain classification who are not thinking about the general classification will have a competitive advantage, and may even score some points on stage 9, with two first category mountain passes, where a breakaway is expected to win. In these Alpine stages, the mountains jersey could also be a good target for riders who drop out of the general classification in the traps of the first week, such as the windy stages, the pavé or the finish at La Planche des Belles Filles.
It is clear that riders with ambitions for the KOM should not leave their homework for the Pyrenees, because the classification is likely to be very clear after Alpe d’Huez on stage 12 and with the GC group likely to be motivated on stage 18 to pace on Spandelles and Hautacam, reducing the likelihood of a breakaway winnig.
An anti-Pogacar system
Unlike in recent editions, this year there will be no climbs with double points, which will favour the KOM to be won by a climber who enters the breakaways in the high mountain stages. The sponsor of the mountains classification is probably interested in having its jersey worn by one of the best riders in the world, but last year’s scoring system was very distorting. In the last two editions of the Tour de France, Tadej Pogacar has won the KOM classification without it being a main objective for him, as he was busy fighting for the yellow jersey.
For example, last year there were double points for the second pass of Mont Ventoux and the finishes of Col du Portet and Luz Ardiden. These passes were already categorised as Hors Catégorie, but the organisers decided that they would distribute twice as many points as the other Hors Catégorie climbs (40 points for the first rider instead of 20). Poels, Woods and Quintana were fighting for several stages in this classification, but finally Pogacar won it “unintentionally” by winning in the Pyrenees on Col du Portet and Luz Ardiden, scoring 40 points on each climb. With the current scoring system, Wout Poels would have won the mountains classification in 2021 and Richard Carapaz in 2020, so it will be very difficult for Pogacar to repeat in 2022, particularly if he faces stiffer competition from his GC competitors on the mountain top finishes compared to last year.
Pogacar (or whoever is the best climber in the race) will concentrate most of his points on the top finishes: La Planche des Belles Filles, Col du Granon, Alpe d’Huez, Peyragudes and Hautacam. In the best case scenario, assuming he wins those 5 stages, he would score 80 points, which might not even be enough to win the mountains classification given the amount of Hors Catégorie and Category 1 passes in the middle of the stages. Therefore, the chances of Pogacar winning the mountains classification for the third year in a row are very low.
The two riders who can set their sights on the mountains classification right from the start are local stars Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet (KOM at the 2019 Tour). Neither of them have the general classification as a target and they do have enough level to get over the big Alpine passes at the head of the race as shown by Pinot in his recent Tour de Suisse stage win and Bardet on Blockhaus in the Giro d’Italia.
Other French climbers like Warren Barguil (KOM at the 2017 Tour), Guillaume Martin (KOM at the 2020 Vuelta) or Pierre Rolland always go on the attack, but perhaps they lack the climbing level to win the Tour’s mountains classification if riders like Pinot and Bardet focus on the classification. After his display on Mont Ventoux and the Dauphiné, we also cannot forget Ruben Guerreiro (KOM at the Giro 2020), who in principle comes to the Tour with the objective of winning stages but may inadvertently pick up points by being in breakaways and fall into the KOM fight.
The final tier of favourites is made up of the general classification contenders who will change their objective after the complicated first week. Nairo Quintana and Michael Woods already tried in 2021 and could rethink this objective, but my outsider is Adam Yates. The Englishman comes to the Tour after passing Covid and it would be logical for him to suffer in the chaotic first week filled with wind and cobbles. With Thomas and Martínez for the general classification, Ineos could think about Adam Yates for the mountains classification and breakaway stages in the mountains, racing the Tour in a more offensive way without an outright GC favourite.
We hope you enjoyed this breakdown of the King of the Mountains classification at the Tour de France 2022. If you want to follow Raúl’s thoughts during the Tour, follow him on twitter @raulbanqueri.