Was the Tour de France right to get rid of stage time bonuses?
Peter Sagan wins, Tour de France 2012, stage six
The Tour de France honoured less cyclists with the yellow jersey this year than it could have had it used bonus seconds. Peter Sagan and sprinters Mark Cavendish and André Greipel may have had their chance to lead the race for the first time in their careers. Instead, Fabian Cancellara carried it from his prologue win until the first mountain stage, where Bradley Wiggins took over.
"For me, it's good. I am a lucky man," Cancellara said. "Those are the rules. Maybe I take a big profit from it, but this is the decision of the race organisers."
Race director, Christian Prudhomme eliminated the seconds in 2009 in order to produce a true overall winner after three weeks. Prior to that, the Tour offered 6-, 4-, and 2-second bonuses at the intermediate sprints and 20-, 12-, and 8-second bonuses at the finish.
Sprinters Erik Zabel, Mario Cipollini and Stuart O'Grady used to eat up bonuses and enjoy time in the jersey. In 2008, seven different riders wore the yellow jersey. This year, it looks likely only two will wear the top.
"There is a place for them [bonus seconds], particularly in the first week in the flatter stages," Sky's sports director, Sean Yates told Cycling Weekly. "It just adds more excitement. Fabian won the prologue by 20 seconds and no one has a chance in hell to take it. It'd just add a few more variations."
Yates wore the yellow jersey in 1994, but it was due to his escape gaining enough time over previous leader Flavio Vanzella.
He said he would be in favour of a system similar the Giro d'Italia implemented this year, where the organiser awarded bonus seconds on all stages but the five key mountain stages and the time trials.
Time bonuses helped decide the overall Vuelta a España last year. Juan José Cobo won the race by 13 seconds on Chris Froome. Had he not picked up 32 seconds in bonuses, Froome may have won the race by 19 seconds.
Given the choice, Yates said that having no bonuses is better than awarding them for every stage.
"Ultimately," he added, "I want the best rider to win the race. Let's just do it like the Giro."
Liquigas-Cannondale looks set to enjoy one of its biggest Tour de France performances. It won three stages with Sagan. Vincenzo Nibali may also finish on the final podium in third and Sagan may take the final green jersey in Paris.
Roberto Amadio, Liquigas-Cannondale general manager, said that he didn't want to get greedy and think what could've been with Sagan.
"For the final GC, I think it's correct not to have them," Amadio told Cycling Weekly. "For sure. To do it halfway, some stages no, some stages yes, for me, this isn't good. You either have them or you don't."
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Tour de France 2012: Stage reports
Stage 15: Fedrigo wins, day off for peloton
Stage 14: Sanchez solos to Foix victory to save Rabobank's Tour
Stage 13: Greipel survives climb and crosswinds to win third Tour stage
Stage 12: Millar wins Tour stage nine years from his last
Stage 11: Wiggins strengthens Tour lead as Evans slips back
Stage 10: Voeckler wins and saves his Tour
Stage nine: Wiggins destroys opposition in Besancon TT
Stage eight: Pinot solos to Tour win as Wiggins fights off attacks
Stage seven: Wiggins takes yellow as Froome wins stage
Stage six: Sagan wins third Tour stage
Stage five: Greipel wins again as Cavendish fades
Stage four: Greipel wins stage after Cavendish crashes
Stage three: Sagan runs away with it in Boulogne
Stage two: Cavendish takes 21st Tour stage victory
Stage one: Sagan wins at first attempt
Prologue: Cancellara wins, Wiggins second
Tour de France 2012: Comment, analysis, blogs
Analysis: What we learned at La Planche des Belles Filles
Analysis: How much time could Wiggins gain in Tour's time trials
CW's Tour de France podcasts
Blog: Tour presentation - chasing dreams and autographs
Comment: Cavendish the climber
Tour de France 2012: Photo galleries
Stage 15 by Graham Watson
Stage 14 by Graham Watson
Stage 13 by Graham Watson
Stage 12 by Graham Watson
Stage 11 by Graham Watson
Stage 10 by Graham Watson
Stage nine by Graham Watson
Stage eight by Graham Watson
Stage seven by Graham Watson
Stage six by Graham Watson
Stage five by Graham Watson
Stage four by Graham Watson
Stage three by Graham Watson
Stage two by Andy Jones
Stage two by Graham Watson
Stage one by Graham Watson
Prologue photo gallery by Andy Jones
Prologue photo gallery by Roo Rowler
Prologue photo gallery by Graham Watson
Tour de France 2012: Team presentation
Sky and Rabobank Tour de France recce
Tour de France 2012: Live text coverage
Stage 10 live coverage
Stage nine live coverage
Stage six live coverage
Stage five live coverage
Stage four live coverage
Stage three live coverage
Cycling Weekly's live text coverage schedule
Tour de France 2012: Related links
Brits in the Tours: From Robinson to Cavendish
Brief history of the Tour de France
Tour de France 2011: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
1989: The Greatest Tour de France ever