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Tour de France Stage 18: Yellow jersey beyond reach, riders battle for lesser awards

The Tour de France, which ends Sunday, offers $2.6 million in prizes. Beyond battling for the yellow jersey, racers can collect points (think: Super Mario) for smaller awards.

By Jon BrandCorrespondant / July 23, 2010

Stage winner Andy Schleck of Luxembourg, right, and Alberto Contador of Spain, wearing the overall winner's yellow jersey, left, climb Tourmalet pass in dense fog during the 17th stage of the Tour de France cycling race over 108.1 miles with start in Pau and finish on Tourmalet pass, Pyrenees region, France, Thursday, July 22.

Lionel Bonaventure/AP


Bordeaux, France

For all the scintillating action between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck in the Tour de France, there have been moments during this year’s race when watching paint dry would have been more interesting.

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Organizers are well aware of this; throughout the Tour’s 107-year history, they’ve tried to combat spectator and rider boredom with a system of incentives to keep racers working hard long after the yellow jersey, given to the overall winner, is out of reach.

Some of the more ingenuitive include the combativity prize – a daily award of about $2,500 to the stage’s most aggressive rider – and a finishing bonus to teams arriving in Paris with seven or more of their original nine cyclists.

IN PICTURES: Scenes from the 2010 Tour de France

In total, a prize purse of $2.6 million will be shared this year among recipients of the daily and Tour-long competitions.

Most famous is the yellow jersey, which brings along with it a nearly $575,000 paycheck. It's being duked out between Schleck and Contador, who heads into today's Stage 18 with an 8-second lead. Today's 198-km route is a sprint stage that favors the legs of Contador – he cemented his 2009 Tour de France title by winning the time trial on Stage 18 in Annecy. Schleck, though significantly weaker in time trials, is not giving up.

Polka-dotted Super Mario

But there are three other jerseys – the green (for sprinters), polka dot (climbers), and white (best under-26 rider) – that, while less lucrative, are just as fiercely contested during the three-week race.

As Contador and Schleck battled for yellow on the Col du Tourmalet yesterday, Frenchmen Anthony Charteau and Christophe Moreau challenged for the polka dot jersey, also known as King of the Mountains.

This competition, like the sprinter’s jersey, is based on the number of points riders collect throughout the race on designated climbs.

These marked difficultés, as they are called in French, are worth from €200 to €800. But it’s the points that really matter; the rider with the most at the end of the race takes home the big prize.

Charteau had a 15-point lead heading up the Tourmalet – the Tour’s final climb – and when Moreau dropped out of the peloton, he took a victory lap.

“I did the last kilometer all alone,” Charteau said after the stage. “It was really great; people were shouting my name up to the finish.”

With the white jersey squarely on the shoulders of 25-year old Andy Scheck, green is the last prize standing heading into today’s Stage 18.

And now a word from the race sponsors

As Cervélo TestTeam’s Thor Hushovd and Lampre-Farnese Vini’s Alessandor Petacchi vie for the sprint title, it will be important exposure for PMU, a French betting company that sponsors the jersey.

Since spectators don’t pay admission to watch the Tour, organizers rely heavily on sponsor revenue to drive the event.

“But not everyone can be [French bank] LCL and sponsor the yellow jersey,” says Garmin-Slipstream team manager Jonathan Vaughters.

These other competitions are a way to include more companies who want to advertise.