When the 1996 Tour de France route was being designed, then race director Jean-Marie Leblanc mulled over the idea of re-introducing time bonuses atop mountain passes to encourage more aggressive racing. The plan was quietly discarded, however, amid concerns that it would be perceived as an express attempt to thwart Miguel Indurain’s bid for a record sixth Tour victory. And, as it turned out, mountaintop time bonuses were not required to unseat Indurain, whose run of dominance was ended by Bjarne Riis the following summer.
Twenty-three years on, the measure will finally be implemented, as race director Christian Prudhomme confirmed on Thursday that the 2019 Tour de France will feature eight bonus sprints placed atop climbs over the course of the three weeks. “These are,” he said, “invitations to attack.”
In 2018, bonus seconds were awarded to the first three riders at special sprints on the first eight road stages. In 2019, the same rewards – of 3 seconds, 2 seconds and 1 second – will be on offer, but the bonus points have been placed in more strategically important locations. As was the case this year, these special, time bonus sprints will not count towards the points classification.
“Last year, we had eight bonus points, but they were on flat stages. This time around, we’ll put them on the top of the hills and cols, and on stages where there will be a fight for the general classification,” said Tour de France technical director Thierry Gouvenou.
“There will be eight bonus points, often close to the finish, like on the Galibier or the Iseran. We have placed bonus seconds at points where the racing will be really intense, to reward attacking riders.”
The first bonus point of the 2019 Tour comes on stage 3 atop the Côte de Montigny, 15km from the finish in Épernay. On stage 6, the Tour’s first mountain leg to La Planche des Belles Filles, the bonus point comes atop the Col des Chevrères with 19km to go.
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