Why is the King of the Mountains jersey in the Tour de France white with red polka dots?

The symbol of the Tour de France is, of course, the iconic yellow jersey or, in French, maillot jaune, which is worn by the leader of the General Classification or, in other words, the overall leader on time, rather than points. The Tour de France was established in 1903 by French journalist Henri Desgrange to boost flagging sales of his newspaper, ‘L’Auto’, which sponsored the race. Officially, the distinctive jersey, first worn by Frenchman Eugène Christophe in 1919, was yellow to reflect the colour of the paper on which ‘L’Auto’ was printed. However, Chris Sidwells, author of ‘A Race For Madmen: The Extraordinary History of the Tour de France’, suggests that yellow was the only colour in which Desgrange could obtain a sufficient quantity of jerseys, in different sizes, from his supplier.

Anyway, I digress. The Mountains Classification, a.k.a. ‘King of the Mountains’, in which points are awarded to the first riders over the summit of designated climbs, ranked by difficulty, on each individual stage, was first introduced in 1933. The winner that year was Spaniard Vincent Trueba, nicknamed ‘The Flea of Torrevega’, who also finished sixth in the General Classification.

However, the now-familiar white jersey with red polka dots, or maillot à pois rouges, did not make its Tour de France debut until 1975. The first rider to wear it was Dutchman Hendrik ‘Joop’ Zoetemelk, who won the eleventh stage, between Pau and Pla d’Adet in the French Pyrenees, although it was taken to Paris by Belgian Lucien Van Impe. Van Impe finished third in the General Classification, one place ahead of Zoetemelk. The design of the jersey was down to its original sponsor, Chocolat Poulain, one of the oldest chocolate brands in France, which, at the time, had a red and white logo.

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