Most aggressive rider prize

2009-07-25Comments

After riding more than 3000km, the standings in the general classification are:

  1. CONTADOR A. 77:06:18
  2. SCHLECK A. +04:11
  3. ARMSTRONG L. +05:21
  4. WIGGINS B. +05:36
  5. KLÖDEN A. +05:38
  6. SCHLECK F. +05:59

Contador’s lead looks unassailable but less than 2 minutes separate the next 5 riders, and 2 minutes isn’t much when facing a headwind on the top of Mont Ventoux.

It promises to be a royal fight.

Aggressive rider jersey

One prize in the Tour doesn’t come down to minutes and seconds or the crafty accumulation of points. Le prix de la combativité is awarded after each stage to the rider who shows the most fighting spirit. Usually it’s some valiant fool who breaks away early on only to be reeled back in then swept aside by the peleton in the last few kilometres. A jury of eight specialists decide who gets the award; and the next day the heroic rider gets to wear a white number on a red background instead of the usual black on white. There’s also a “super-combativity” award given at the end of the race.

The whole thing seems very French, to the extent it can’t be translated exactly into English: neither “combativity award” nor the more common “aggressive rider award” sound quite right.

There is plenty of real aggression in the Tour, though. We’ve seen riders shoving each other and hurling bidons at wheels in bunch sprints. Brad Wiggins expressed delight with his form in the Pyrenees this year by hitting the team van at the end of the stage. Bernard Hinault, le blaireau, three time winner of le prix de la combativité, knew how to use his fists as a rider, and this photo of him dealing with a protester on the podium last year shows he’s not lost his touch.

Aggressive Hinault

Let’s not forget the time Bjarne Riis suffered equipment problems during a time trial, and decided to take it out on his bike.

Some years ago Richard and I played fanstasy Tour de France, selecting our own team from the pool of riders and following their progress. We awarded discretionary plaudits for valour and aggression: riding through injury, for example, with a broken collarbone maybe; wearing lycra shredded and bloodied from a fall; there were points for striking out at the idiot spectators who try and run alongside on the climbs; double points for punching a journalist. We packed it in when we realised this behaviour might just be down to drug abuse.

Go Wiggo! Fight them to the line!