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King of the Mountains Preview: Quest for the Spotty Jersey

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What a long strange competition this is.

I won't get into the history of the maillot à pois rouges; instead I'll ask you this: last year after Bernard Kohl was disqualified, you probably knew that Christian Vandevelde moved up to 4th place in the General Classification. But who became the new KOM? Some of you know, but honestly I completely forgot. I'm sure I read about it but it was just a bit more trivia in my mind easily forgotten. And to me that says it all about this odd classification because with Kohl's downfall Carlos Sastre donned the spots and there hasn't been a winner of both the yellow and the spotty jersey since Eddy Merckx in 1970.  Chapeau Carlos!

Just for the record, it's also hard to win the KOM and Overall in the same year for the Giro and Vuelta too. Denis Menchov did it in  the 2007 Vuelta. Before Menchov you go back to Rominger in 93. Giro? Pantani in 98 and Hampstein in 88.

For the Tour, the winners of the KOM often win it several times in a row as you see here. So is Sastre the heavy favorite? I can see the logic in that. Said logic goes like this: The first two decisive stages in this year's Tour are the opening ITT and stage four's TTT. Both happen before any real mountains and in neither will Sastre shine. So heading into the Pyrenees, Carlos could be a couple of minutes behind a whole herd of GC guys who can TT so he's got to hit the mountains hard and often. Depending on how far he's back in the GC he might be allowed to win some stages like stage 7's mountaintop finish, thus giving him oodles of KOM points. When the race hits the Alps the same scenario might play out again if he's far enough out of the GC race. And even if he's still in competition for the GC he'll almost have to win Mt. Ventoux and all those KOM points to have a chance.

Of course if Carlos is too close to the overall lead he might not get the chance to win stages and so we'd have to look at other KOM contenders... on the flip

Before I list some other contenders, I have to acknowledge how different this competition is again. In the GC ad Points competition you see a) a bunch of riders who say they want to win it, and b) you see those guys at various stages racing side-by-side. That doesn't happen with the KOM. Only a couple riders speak about winning the jersey pre-race and you rarely see those guys dukking it out on some hill. 

Plus the competition is usually not close. Last year's Tour saw Kohl winning the jersey 128 to 80 points before he was dethroned. The year before, Soler won it over Contador 206-128. 2006 saw Chicken over Landis 166-131. Notice that the last three years saw 2nd place in the KOM being held down by the GC winner-who was obviously more interested in that than the KOM and the point spread was in reality even bigger. (Realize I am talking here about how the competition unfolded to the competitors. The disqualifications happened later.) 2005: Rasmussen 185-135 for Pereiro. 

1. David Moncoutie is one possibi lity. He's the defending KOM champ at the Vuelta and we saw him rounding into form by winning that difficult stage 7 of the Dauphine Libere.

2. Pierrick Fedrigo is another, the guy who actually beat out Moncoutie for the KOM jersey at the Dauphine. How he beat him is useful to know in understanding this competition. On that stage 7 I mentioned under Moncoutie, Fedrigo struck early, placing ahead of Moncoutie on the HC Galibier and winning the Croix de fer thereby matching his rival's KOM points for the day (Moncoutie won the last climb, the cat 1 Col de la Madeleine) and keeping his KOM lead that he had earned on the stage before where he won the race up the Col d'Izoard and the finishing small cat 3 climb.  Expect to see the KOM winner reveal himself in the Pyrenees, maybe not on stage 7 but on stage 8 or 9.

3. Pursuing other KOM winners of late, one notices that Egoi Martinez won the Vuelta KOM in 2006. Might he have a go here? Possible. You have to think he'll try for at least one mountain stage win and no one will think he's going for the overall. But it might depend on if his teammate Mikel Astarloza, Mr. Pointy Hair, is wanting help for his GC placing.

4. Then there's perennial favorite Thomas Voeckler, who won it 4 3 2 1 0 times before. Maybe he'll make a show of competing. Show: yes, win: no.

5. How about Tony Martin, the winner of the KOM at Suisse? He also did the trick at Paris-Nice too so it seems like he's focusing on the KOM.  In fact place him on the podium somewhere for the KOM.

6. After Martin you have to stretch to see who's interested. I like Chris' suggestion about Sandy Casar. He should try for it but it's doubtful that he will.  Or maybe all that harmony on Rabobank isn't actually there and Bobo Gesink takes a flyer. Caisse d'Epargne is a lineup fully of climby guys who won't be in the running for the GC. Perhaps one of those? Work with me here folks! Who do you think might win? Or have you read about any other rider talk up the Spots?