Tour de France jersey colours and prize money explained

Plus 2013 favourites for the yellow, green, polka dot and white competitions

On Saturday, the 2013 Tour de France will begin and a battle for the yellow jersey will start. While competition for the fabled maillot jaune towers over the three-week race, other contests add to the rich tapestry of the 101st edition. Here, BikeRadar runs through the meanings behind the yellow, green, polka dot and white jersey colours, and who the favourites are to win them.

Yellow jersey

Awarded to the rider with the lowest aggregated time after each stage. For 2013, the route contains numerous opportunities for contenders to attack. There are six designated mountain stages, of which five are summit finishes. This year there's just one time trial - a 54km race on stage 20 that could be decisive in annointing the winner.

Along the way, yellow jersey favourites will have to avoid crashes and beware of traps set by rival teams in crosswinds or over tricky terrain. Unlike the Giro d’Italia, there are no time bonuses awarded for winning stages.The final overall winner of the yellow jersey will take home €450,000, which will typically be split among his teammates.

Favourites: Chris Froome (Team Sky), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Tejay van Garderen (BMC), 

Tour de France maillot jaune

Green jersey

The green jersey points competition was established more than 60 years ago for the most consistent finisher. Competition rules mean it’s weighted towards sprinters – more points are on offer on flat stages than medium mountain, high mountain and individual TT stages. 

On a sprint stage, the winner collects 45 points; on a medium mountain stage, 30 points; in the high mountains and individual time trial stages, just 20 points. Points are awarded on a sliding scale down to 15th place. Additionally, green jersey points are awarded at intermediate sprints, down to 15 riders – 20 points for first place down to one for the 15th rider.

The competition structure means strategy is just as key as pure speed – contenders can gamble all and target the finales of the nine flat sprint stages, or try to escape the peloton and hoover up points on intermediate sprints. It’s an intriguing battle that begins on the very first day and can last right up to the final sprint on the Champs-Élysées. The winner will collect €25,000.

Favourites: Peter Sagan (Cannondale), Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Marcel Kittel

The maillot vert is for the most consistent finisher

Polka dot jersey

Red polka dots denote the best climber, defined by the rider who accumulates the most points cresting hills and mountains at the front of the race. Summits are classified according to difficulty – fourth category climbs are mild, HC climbs are leg breakers. As with the green jersey, points are awarded on sliding scales for lesser-placed finishers.

In a further twist, polka dot points are doubled on the five summit finish days (La Planche des Belle Filles, Chamrousse, Risoul, Pla d'Adet and Hautacam). The battle for the jersey will likely burst into life on stage 9 when the peloton tackle six categorised climbs during the 170km stage.

The probable route to the €25,000 prize lies in targeting category one (10 points for the winner) and HC climbs (25 points) and being very close to the front on days when points are doubled. The structure means someone well-placed on the general classification stands a good chance of collecting this jersey.

Favourites: Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), Vincenzo Nibali, Thibaut Pinot

Specialist climbers will be after the polka dot jersey

White jersey

Awarded to the best young rider in the general classification. To be eligible for the €20,000 prize, riders must be aged 25 or under - that's born after 1, January 1988. 

Favourites: Tejay van Garderen BMC; Rohan Dennis (Garmin-Sharp)

The simple white jersey

Team competition

The battle for best team is an underrated one that usually simmers for three weeks. The competition is based on adding the times of each team’s first three finishers at every stage finale. The winning squad will have with the lowest accumulated time, and take home €50,000.

Favourites: BMC Racing, Tinkoff-Saxo Bank, AG2R-La Mondiale

Most aggressive rider

Watch out for a rider wearing a red race number (dossard rouge) – it denotes that they were the most aggressive rider the previous day, based largely on the amount of time they spent the breakaway. However, it also has a subjective element, and an eight-person jury of cycling experts conclude on winners. 

At the end of the 21 stages, the jury awards €20,000 to the ‘super-combative’ rider.  

Favourites: Christophe Riblon (AG2R-La Mondiale), Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr)

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