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Love and Hate: The Maillot Pois

Everybody knows that Michael Rasmussen has the polka-dot (a/k/a King of the Mountains, or KOM) jersey sized up for his unusual body type, for the third year running. Growing up, the polka dot jersey not only looked good, but seemed to my simple mind to symbolize something special in a rider. Serious people like Robert Millar, Bernard Hinault, Luis Herrera and Stephen Rooks sported the spots back in the mid-80s, all while contending for yellow as best they could.

Somewhere along the line, the contest morphed into a determination of what completely irrelevant rider could get away for a solo breakway over a mountain stage. Richard Virenque patented the formula to seven successful captures of the spots, and it's hard to picture him wearing anything else. And yet, somehow, I'm still expected by ASO to respect the jersey, and even pay $90 for a Nike replica. Screw that; I don't care how cool it looks.

So throughout the Tour, you will hear me decry the KOM competition. Five things to distinctly hate about it:

  • You can't win if you don't suck. Last year Rasmussen, a/k/a the Chicken, a/k/a ~:>, made sure to dump 6 minutes in a time trial and another 7 in the Pyrenees. By the time he finished his "glorious" ascent to La Toussuire, he'd recouped enough time to be within less than 21 minutes of Oscar Pereiro. Had he been even a remotely threatening rider, he wouldn't be allowed to wander off. Only by first demonstrating his total irrelevance can he get loose of the pack. That was Virenque's ploy too.
  • Random points. KOM points are handed out like lollipops. Remember last year's epic ascent of the roads around Strasbourg? Well, KOM points were given out that day. Or try this stage, the next day, where KOM points were given in five different places. Note to ASO: if Robbie McEwen is your stage winner, you didn't go over any mountains.
  • ~:> himself. Dude is from Denmark. Denmark doesn't have mountains, unless you use the Tour system of ranking climbs. No disrespect, Denmark seems like a cool place, but WTF?
  • Not only is the competition silly, it's also pretty nonexistent. Either disdain or other priorities have deprived the KOM of almost all competition. I've read three splashy mags and only one -- Cycling Weekly -- bothers to name any other potential polka dot winners (Contador, Sanchez, Schleck, Moreau). And Moreau is the only one I've heard say he might actually make a play for it. Virenque was rarely challenged. Whatever.
  • So there's this useless competition for climbers... don't worry about battling it out among the big boys or anything. Fact is, Rasmussen would be of some use to the race if he could ignore the cheap thrill of the KOM. He can climb, and his captain Denis Menchov could use his help. Moreau is a past Tour contender, probably overripe, but as a Frenchman it would be nice to see him join the fray.

OK, to be fair, here are two things to love about the KOM:

  • The KOM honor roll is an exclusive list indeed, or at least it was. In concept, giving a kickback to the best climber is entirely appropriate. Maybe they need to say only the top 10 or 15 riders on GC can qualify.
  • It's a very nice looking jersey. If I wore pro replica jerseys more often, it'd be in my closet behind my Giro jersey.