Was the Tour de France right to get rid of stage time bonuses?

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.”

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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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Tour de France 2012 provisional start list

Tour de France 2012 team list

Tour de France 2012: Stage reports

Stage 15: Fedrigo wins, day off for peloton

Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank’s Tour

Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage

Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last

Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back

Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour

Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT

Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks

Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage

Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage

Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades

Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes

Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne

Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory

Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt

Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second

Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs

Analysis: What we learned at La Planche des Belles Filles

Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour’s time trials

CW’s Tour de France podcasts

Blog: Tour presentation – chasing dreams and autographs

Comment: Cavendish the climber

Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries

Stage 15 by Graham Watson

Stage 14 by Graham Watson

Stage 13 by Graham Watson

Stage 12 by Graham Watson

Stage 11 by Graham Watson

Stage 10 by Graham Watson

Stage nine by Graham Watson

Stage eight by Graham Watson

Stage seven by Graham Watson

Stage six by Graham Watson

Stage five by Graham Watson

Stage four by Graham Watson

Stage three by Graham Watson

Stage two by Andy Jones

Stage two by Graham Watson

Stage one by Graham Watson

Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones

Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler

Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson

Tour de France 2012: Team presentation

Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce

Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage

Stage 10 live coverage

Stage nine live coverage

Stage six live coverage

Stage five live coverage

Stage four live coverage

Stage three live coverage

Cycling Weekly’s live text coverage schedule

Tour de France 2012: TV schedule
ITV4 live schedule
British Eurosport live schedule

Tour de France 2012: Related links

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Brief history of the Tour de France

Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index

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