The Tour de France honoured less cyclists with the yellow jersey this year than it could have had it used bonus seconds. Peter Sagan and sprinters Mark Cavendish and André Greipel may have had their chance to lead the race for the first time in their careers. Instead, Fabian Cancellara carried it from his prologue win until the first mountain stage, where Bradley Wiggins took over.
“For me, it’s good. I am a lucky man,” Cancellara said. “Those are the rules. Maybe I take a big profit from it, but this is the decision of the race organisers.”
Race director, Christian Prudhomme eliminated the seconds in 2009 in order to produce a true overall winner after three weeks. Prior to that, the Tour offered 6-, 4-, and 2-second bonuses at the intermediate sprints and 20-, 12-, and 8-second bonuses at the finish.
Sprinters Erik Zabel, Mario Cipollini and Stuart O’Grady used to eat up bonuses and enjoy time in the jersey. In 2008, seven different riders wore the yellow jersey. This year, it looks likely only two will wear the top.
“There is a place for them [bonus seconds], particularly in the first week in the flatter stages,” Sky’s sports director, Sean Yates told Cycling Weekly. “It just adds more excitement. Fabian won the prologue by 20 seconds and no one has a chance in hell to take it. It’d just add a few more variations.”
Yates wore the yellow jersey in 1994, but it was due to his escape gaining enough time over previous leader Flavio Vanzella.
He said he would be in favour of a system similar the Giro d’Italia implemented this year, where the organiser awarded bonus seconds on all stages but the five key mountain stages and the time trials.
Time bonuses helped decide the overall Vuelta a España last year. Juan José Cobo won the race by 13 seconds on Chris Froome. Had he not picked up 32 seconds in bonuses, Froome may have won the race by 19 seconds.
Given the choice, Yates said that having no bonuses is better than awarding them for every stage.
“Ultimately,” he added, “I want the best rider to win the race. Let’s just do it like the Giro.”
Liquigas-Cannondale looks set to enjoy one of its biggest Tour de France performances. It won three stages with Sagan. Vincenzo Nibali may also finish on the final podium in third and Sagan may take the final green jersey in Paris.
Roberto Amadio, Liquigas-Cannondale general manager, said that he didn’t want to get greedy and think what could’ve been with Sagan.
“For the final GC, I think it’s correct not to have them,” Amadio told Cycling Weekly. “For sure. To do it halfway, some stages no, some stages yes, for me, this isn’t good. You either have them or you don’t.”
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