Wout Van Aert collects his second combativity prize of the 2022 Tour de France. (Photo by Dario Belingheri/Getty Images)

Can anyone but Wout van Aert win the Tour de France combativity award?

€20,000 is on the line, and there are a few hot contenders in the mix.

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Each day, the Tour de France race jury awards one rider – sometimes the winner, usually not – the combativity prize. That earns the rider deemed the most combative in the day’s racing to have a bit of podium time, a bouquet of red flowers, the right to wear a special red number the next day, and €2,000 (US$2,000 / AU$2,980) in prize money. 

This year, the combativity award daily winners were as follows (* also stage winners):

  1. Time trial (no award)
    2. Sven Erik Bystrøm
    3. Magnus Cort
    4. Anthony Perez
    5. Magnus Cort
    6. Wout van Aert
    7. Simon Geschke
    8. Mattia Cattaneo
    9. Thibaut Pinot
    10. Alberto Bettiol
    11. Warren Barguil
    12. Thomas Pidcock*
    13. Mads Pedersen*
    14. Michael Matthews*
    15. Nils Politt
    16. Hugo Houle
    17. Brandon McNulty
    18. Wout van Aert
    19. Quinn Simmons
    20. Time trial (no award)

But it’s not just a daily competition. By the time we reach Paris, the overall victor of “one of the most prestigious and subjective awards” in the Tour de France will be anointed. 

A jury – comprising five members – decides, subjectively, who the most aggressive rider of the entire Tour de France was. That rider receives €20,000 (US$20,090 / AU$29,800) super combativity prize – a payout as financially lucrative as the winner of the best young rider classification. Recent winners include Marc Hirschi (2020) and Franck Bonnamour (2021). 

This year for the first time, an audience participation component has been added. Energy company Antargaz, the naming rights sponsor of the classification, has run weekly polls of its audience. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) won both weeks to date:

For 2022, members of the Tour de France Club – a free sign-up place for Tour enthusiasts to learn Tour things – can also vote for “the champion who has impressed you the most from a selection of riders picked by the Antargaz Prize jury”, which is a different jury to the official race jury and probably a bit more inclined to be swayed by the likes of Twitter polls with those pre-selections.

As for the official judgment, an ambiguously worded statement on the Tour official website reads as follows: 

CyclingTips is seeking clarification whether that means that the five members of the Antargaz Prize jury gets 50% of the vote, and the public vote gets 50%, or whether the public vote accounts for one-sixth of the total. [Update: the ASO has confirmed that the public vote comprises one-sixth of the total]

Based on what we already know, however, that leaves us with a handful of obvious contenders.

Who’s in the mix?

The standout favourite, from where we sit, is Wout van Aert. He has won the daily combativity prize on two occasions this Tour, and has been an unmistakable sight on the front of the race for basically all three weeks. His visibility has been made easier by the fact that for all but one stage he’s been wearing either the yellow or green jersey. He’s also been in a breakaway for 637 km this Tour.

As a proportion of total time spent in the breakaway, he’s got some tight competition from Quinn Simmons (612 km across five days, according to one results database, but that seems an undercount, because both Trek-Segafredo and I count seven stages). Trek-Segafredo is, CyclingTips understands, hopeful that the jury will spread some love around rather than just handing (almost) everything to Jumbo-Visma. 

Fred Wright is another standout, credited with breakaways on three stages to the tune of 404 km. That sells his aggression a bit short, though – he was a key animator in the closing moments of stage 19, trying again to make a stage win stick.  He knows what’s on the line, and has made a play for votes himself:

Magnus Cort would’ve been in the mix, after having spent basically the entirety of the Danish stint off the front and tallying up 620 km in the breakaway. Unfortunately, he contracted COVID on stage 15 and left the race.

Tadej Pogačar has seldom been in the breakaway, but has been arguably the most aggressive rider of the race, constantly attacking Jonas Vingegaard in an attempt to win the race. Could the jury decide that he deserves a consolation prize for livening up the race? He hasn’t won the most combative rider award on any individual day, but he’s made this Tour de France the spectacle that it is.

A final dark horse could be Thibaut Pinot, due to his incredible Frenchness.

To us it looks like it’ll come down to a two way tussle between Simmons and Van Aert – two riders who’ve been visible, aggressive, and persistent, although with quite different results.

The jury and the public will decide by tomorrow morning, leaving one rider a bit richer and another wondering what could have been. 

Update: Wout van Aert has been “unanimously” voted the winner of the super-combativity award, to add to his green jersey.

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