In the Tour de France, as with most of major stage racers on the UCI calendar, the riders are competing for 4 jerseys. They compete in the General Classification or the overall winner, the Points competition which covers, for the most part, the sprinters competition, the King of the Mountains which is the climbers jersey and then the Young Riders competition which is won by the quickest time by a rider under the age of 26.
For the most part, the Points jersey is never tied to the leader of the race, and the King of the Mountains enjoys its own separation too as neither competitions are points based. The Young riders jersey however is time based which means it is completely attached to the overall race. In the past, a cyclists taking control of the General Classification would be in their ‘peak’, up in their late 20s and therefore they would have no baring on the Young riders, however with riders like Tadej Pogacar and Egan Bernal winning recent Tours we have seen the competition meant for the up and comers be overshadowed.
Now this does not only happen in cycling, over recent years we have seen many incredible players come through at impossibly young ages and watched people like Gareth Bale, Phil Foden and Cristiano Ronaldo win both the player and the young play of the year award. With professionals hitting their peak earlier and for much longer we need to fix how we give out these awards. This may be difficult in other sports, however I have the answer for cycling.
Neutralising the Young Riders Classification
The way to fix the Jersey’s meaning is by removing the leader of the General Classification from winning the jersey while they are in the lead. If the leader of the overall race is under 23, they cannot win the Young Riders jersey until they no longer hold the race lead. To use the example of this year’s Tour de France, Tadej Pogacar an incredible Young Rider has been in the White Jersey of the Young Riders competition since the first day he could win it. Up until the end of race day 7, Pogacar was the leader here and was in first place for White, however starting day 8 of the Tour he was now in the race lead. At this point, he should no longer be eligible for the White Jersey.
Now this may seem unfair on Pogacar, his excellence should not mean he loses out on a jersey that his dominance would mean he would easier win. The problem is, when he inevitably wins the Tour de France again, no will care what other Jersey’s he won. If he returns in 2022, we will talk about two-time Yellow Jersey winner Tadej Pogacar, but will not bother to mention he also won White. Remove him from the competition and your leader in the Young Riders is Jonas Vingegaard, a rider who by his own standards is having an excellent Tour.
Currently Vingegaard is leading his teams attempts at the Yellow Jersey, but he is receiving no protection in the peloton as he is seen as the rider in 4th place, as opposed to the leader of the Young Riders. Now it goes without saying, should Pogacar drop into 2nd place overall, he would immediately take back possession of the White Jersey as he would be then leading the competition again. If we respected the White Jersey as we did the Yellow then we would see more riders emerge from the shadows, ready to set the cycling world alight.
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