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Tour de France: Inside the Prix Combativite!

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Talabardon_medium

Today's award of the prix combativite, the combativity prize, generated a few sniggers from Eurosport as Frenchman Mickel Delage won for the second time in the Tour. Delage was part of the day's breakaway which hung on from KM 15 to the final moments of the race. But five other guys were there too, including Lars Boom, who alone extended his effort with 2km of insane hammering in a final, vain attempt to win alone. So why Delage? Is the combativity prize really just the "friskiest Frenchman" award?

Results are a bit murky... on the flip!

Some background... the prize winner is chosen by an eight-person (OK, man) jury of hack... uh, specialists in the area of cycling knowledge, and each non-TT day they award the attackingest rider a 2k EUR prize and the red number for the next day. Final overall combativist gets 20kEUR, not a bad Tour's work. So it's totally subjective, and when you have multiple attackers, as is typical, then the shenanigans begin. Here's a list of winners so far this year and what they did:

  1. Quemeneur (FRA) -- Ignited a three-man break with Jeremy Roy (wait for it...) and a Dutchman (feh!) that lasted til the 18km mark.
  2. n/a -- TTT day.
  3. Delage (FRA) -- Broke away in the first km with four others... but he also sprinted for KOM and green points and launched a late, desperate (hopeless) attack for the win, so yeah.
  4. Jeremy Roy (FRA) -- One of five, again, and seems to have won on the basis of having almost won the first day, a sort of Bob Dole of cycling. Because Hoogerland and Izagirre spent more time on the gallop.
  5. J-I Gutierrez (ESP) -- Further confirmation of the Bob Dole system, as Gutierrez wins the prize after breaking away for the second time in three days with three Frenchmen! So near-incumbency > nationality?
  6. Malori (ITA) -- Maybe not... because today's break consisted of single riders from France, Netherlands, Belgium, Italy and Colombia, which sounds like one of those Incredible Journey Disney pics... but the Dutchie was Hoogerland, again. The jury seemed satisfied that Hoogie was in spots, and anyway Malori clinched the prize with an awesome breakaway in the final kms.
  7. Talabardon (FRA) -- Another Frenchman joins Delage and two foreigners for the day's march. Delage already got paid, and the foreigners didn't force the jury's hand, so Talabardon gets it by default.
  8. Tejay! (USA) -- Hm, two Frenchmen on the march, but Tejay outlasts them and hangs on til the final climb. Rui Costa got the stage, so no prix for him.
  9. Hoogie/Flecha (NED/ESP) -- It takes a lot for the jury to overlook Thomas Voeckler on a winning attack. Like French TV running over two foreigners. The jury's got its limits.
  10. Marcato (ITA) -- Surrounded by locals, Marcato heroically takes all the KOM points to defend his stricken teammate's KOM lead. The Hoogie story has two days' worth of legs.
  11. Delage (FRA) -- His third escape in two weeks is enough to overcome Lars Boom's late attack. Even the desire to share the spoils is tamped down by the jury to recognize this brave son of Gaul.

So there you have it. Joining the breakaway is a prerequisite, but from there it's a mix of criteria, including:

  • Being French
  • not winning the stage
  • not winning a jersey
  • getting mistreated by French people
  • having broken away another day
  • not previously winning a prix combativite
  • and if all else fails, attacking like a madman.

Photo by Bryn Lennon, Getty Images Sport. Damn but he takes nice pictures.