It’s the Tour’s third morning. JumboVisma team manager Richard Plugge has come to the mixed zone area at the start in Lorient to discuss safety issues. That done, half in jest I ask him whether his riders are going to defend their lead in the team classification. “We’re leading it? I had no idea,” Plugge says with a wink.
The team competition at the Tour de France is something of an anomaly. For a start, it’s a classification that no one tends to be interested in until the Tour’s final week. It’s also difficult for fans to follow because its ranking is based on the finishing position of the first three riders on each team, and as a result it’s close to impossible each day to make a rapid judgement on how teams have fared in the melee at the line. What’s more, rather than distinguishing jerseys, the squad that’s leading the standings can only be picked out thanks to their distinctive yellow helmets and, when seen from behind or above, yellow race numbers.
Yet, according to the riders, directeur sportifs and team managers canvassed during the Tour’s first week, the team classification is without question a very significant honour. A glance at the race’s prize list backs this up. The team that tops the standings in Paris rides away with a cool €50,000, twice as much as the winner of the points or the King of the Mountains competitions.
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