Sometimes, the members of the jury for the fighting spirit award agree fairly quickly to designate the winner of the day. Take Wout van Aert during the 6th stage of this Tour de France 2022. The Belgian spent his Thursday on the floor on the road to Longwy (Meurthe-et-Moselle). “I thought about taking advantage of my last day in yellow and giving something to the public”, justified the one who finished 103rd in the stage, seven minutes after the winner, the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar.

Thanks for the panache, Wout, but at the tactical level, we have known a more enlightened strategy. King of escape in the 1990s, Jacky Durand, now a consultant on Eurosport, put forward the desire of the Jumbo-Visma rider “to grab the price of combativeness” as the only Cartesian reasoning. Laughter (wanted) in the room. In reality, Wout van Aert frequents the podiums of the Tour enough as a green jersey to also aim for what looks like a consolation prize.

On the other hand, for runners less accustomed to ceremonial honors, the “combative” is like the pompom that one tries to win after a long unsuccessful breakaway. On the Tour, any publicity is good to take, as well as the 2,000 euros in prize money. So sometimes the atmosphere can turn to the playground between the suitors, one accusing the other of having stolen his bag of marbles.

“Existing on the Tour is never easy”

In Toulouse, in 2019, Stéphane Rossetto had tackled, during his post-race interview, Aimé De Gendt, one of his runaway companions on the 11th stage. “We said O.K., we drive hard from such a kilometer, he was driving like before and he shoots us at the end to go and do the red bib, the Frenchman had warmed up. Me, it breaks my c… guys like that. ” Response of the Belgian accused: “In the end, I think I’m the best, if he’s not happy that’s his problem. »

Anthony Perez was the third man to run away that day. Three years later, the Cofidis rider tried his luck again on the 4th stage in the company of the Danish “serial runaway”, Magnus Cort Nielsen. At the start from Dunkirk, Anthony Perez made no secret of his desire to slip into the breakaway of the day. With a desire for “combative” in mind perhaps? “No, I’m not thinking about it at all, the goal is to win a stage for the team this year,” cut the Haut-Garonnais very quickly.

On arrival in Calais, however, he had accepted the prize with a broad smile on the podium and his red bib had brought happiness to his northern training that day. “Existing on the Tour is never easy,” says Laurent Jalabert, historic member of the combative jury. When you don’t have the lethal weapon as a sprinter, climber or roller, it’s a prize that gives you the opportunity to shine. »

No jersey, but the podium in Paris

The former runner, now a consultant for France Télévisions and RTL, knows as much the value of it as the instructions for use, having been the super-fighter of the Tour in 2000 and 2001, the most enterprising runner during the three weeks of the test.

At the time, the Mazamétain had lost the burst of speed of his youth and put aside his dreams of a yellow jersey. “I was rather on the end, I knew that I didn’t have the legs to win in the mountains, but going in the breakaways allowed me to score points for the classification of the best climber and the fighting spirit came with it”, details he.

Elected super-combative in 2021, Franck Bonnamour tells the same story. After a week of breaking in for his first Grande Boucle, the Breton showed the green jersey B

In Paris, Franck Bonnamour is the only French rider to get on the podium. He still shivers. “I didn’t wear a shirt, but that moment was exceptional for me and for the team too”, confides the one who had beaten … Wout van Aert thanks to the public vote on Twitter. “Wout had already won his stage, so the public must have thought ‘we’re going to reward a Frenchman who didn’t win’. »

The French advantaged?

Good prince, the champion of Belgium had accepted his defeat. In 2017, his compatriot Thomas De Gendt had certainly congratulated the winner, Warren Barguil, but he had nevertheless questioned the impartiality of the voters, all French. “It would take an international jury to decide the winner of this award. I am disappointed, very disappointed, ”attacked the Lotto-Soudal adventurer.

Laurent Jalabert accepts criticism: “It’s like figure skating, there is necessarily subjectivity in our choices”, says the one who no longer counts the text messages received before or after his vote. “Last year, Julien Bernard’s mother called me to yell at me because he hadn’t been named combatant of the day. The worst part is that I voted for him,” laughs the former Toshiba teammate of… Jean-François Bernard, Julien’s father.

Do Magnus Cort Nielsen’s Parents Have Jaja’s Number? For the moment, their son has made an impression with a first week spent giving way to the peloton. But, as Tadej Pogacar often repeats, “the Tour is still very long”. And that goes for combative aspirants too.