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Rafal Majka's polka dot Specialized Tarmac - and the history of the polka dot jersey

A red spotty bike for the King of the Mountains at the Tour de France

This spotty bike was ridden by the King of the Mountains winner in the Tour de France, Poland’s Rafal Majka, teammate to Peter Sagan, who also rode a custom painted bike supplied by sponsor Specialized. 

The polka dot jersey is awarded to the best climber and is perhaps the most recognisable of the classification jerseys. It certainly stands out well. The jersey is worn by the rider that gathers up the most points on the significant climbs throughout the race, including summit finishes, and is the “King of the Mountains” of the race. The harder the climb, the more points on offer.

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You might think the polka dot jersey is as old as the yellow jersey, but it has actually only been around since 1975. Before its introduction, there was no special jersey for the mountains competition, a classification added to the race in 1933, though French sports newspaper L’Auto-Vélo had been awarding the best climber since 1905.

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But why the polka dot design? One theory is that the first sponsor of the jersey was Chocolat Poulain, one of the oldest chocolate brands in France, and apparently, it sold chocolate bars with polka dot wrappers, and this lead to the inspiration for the design of the jersey. Another version of the origin of the polka dot jersey is that it was designed by Felix Levitan in memory of track racer Henri Lemoine who wore a pea jersey, orange on a white background. 

Belgian rider Lucien Van Impe was the first rider to win the polka dot jersey.

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This year Poland’s Rafal Majka won the polka dot jersey for a second time, following his first victory in 2014. And it seems almost traditional that a white and red polka dot custom frame must be created to match the jersey, and that’s precisely what Specialized decided to do. It's an acquired taste.

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His Tarmac frameset is complemented, if that’s the right word, by a similarly painted FSA K-Force seatpost, stem and handlebar, with red Supacaz bar tape, a and Prologo colour-matched saddle. Even SRM, makers of the most popular power meter in the peloton, has got in on the fun with a polka dot PC8 computer head unit.

David worked on the tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes

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DaveE128 | 7 years ago

I reckon that's pretty neat, but I'm not so keen on the bars, stem and seatpost. The smaller dots don't match, I'd have gone for bigger ones or left them white. Also neat that it matches his national colours.

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