The jerseys of the Giro d’Italia explained

Everything you need to know about the four jerseys, classifications and other prizes at the Italian Grand Tour

Clock14:05, Tuesday 30th April 2024
Primož Roglič wears the pink jersey and lifts the Giro d'Italia trophy in 2023

© Getty Images

Primož Roglič wears the pink jersey and lifts the Giro d'Italia trophy in 2023

The men’s Giro d’Italia gets underway this Saturday, 4 May and ushers in the first three-week Grand Tour of the season, culminating in Rome on Sunday, 26 May.

Three-week racing is a distinct format in the world of cycling, reserved for just three races: the Giro, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. These races are longer, harder and more prestigious than every other race on the men’s calendar, but there are also other special factors that set the Grand Tours apart.

Read more: Giro d’Italia 2024: Essential race preview

One of these elements is the special jerseys and classifications. These exist in every race, but they’re more important in the Grand Tours, and far more recognisable too. Each Grand Tour has its own iconic leader’s jersey – pink in the Giro, yellow in the Tour, red in the Vuelta – but the other jerseys are important too. Only one GC rider can be in the lead, but the sprinters can battle it out for the sprint jersey, whilst the climbers chase points to earn the title of King of the Mountains.

With each race having slightly different classifications, jersey colours and points systems, there’s a lot to remember, so ahead of the Giro d’Italia, here’s your guide to the various jerseys the peloton will be chasing for the next three weeks around Italy.

What do the Giro d’Italia jerseys mean?

In the Giro, and the two other men’s Grand Tours, the jerseys denote the leaders of four main classifications: the general classification, the climbing classification, the points classification, and the best young rider classification.

There used to be some variation between the races as to which four jerseys they had – UCI races may only have a maximum of four distinct jerseys – but these days, all three Grand Tours highlight the same four categories, but the systems and jersey colours vary.

At the end of each day, the rider in the lead of each classification is awarded the corresponding jersey, and he will wear this on the following stage. If a rider is leading more than one classification, a jersey may be worn by the rider second in the classification. Leading riders cannot choose to not wear the jersey, though riders in second may do so, for example if they want to wear their national or world champion jersey.

The jerseys can and will change hands throughout the race, as regularly as daily, and the overall winner is the rider who is leading the classification on the final day of the race.

Read more: A beginner’s guide to the Giro d’Italia

The pink leader’s jersey (maglia rosa)

In the Giro d’Italia, the general classification leader wears the pink jersey, known in Italian as the maglia rosa. The way the overall leader is worked out is simple: it’s the rider who has completed the stages so far in the least amount of time. On stage 1, the leader will be the rider who wins, but as the race goes on and it becomes about cumulative time, the race leader may be a rider who hasn’t won a stage at all.

The pink jersey has a long and prestigious history, having been the race’s leader’s jersey since its inception back in 1909. The pink colour mimics the pink pages of the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper, which created the race at the start of the 20th century. Eddy Merckx holds the record for most days in the pink jersey, having worn it for 78 stages between 1968 and 1974.

Winning pink and the race overall is the biggest goal in the race, but even one or two days in this distinctive jersey can be special for a rider. In the first part of the Giro, opportunists will be vying for a chance to temporarily take the maglia rosa before the main favourites take the lead.

The blue climber’s jersey (maglia azzura)

The blue jersey, or the maglia azzurra, is worn by the rider who leads the mountains classification, and this is decided by a points system rather than time. Essentially, the hardest climbs in the race are all classified according to difficulty, and there are points available for the first riders to crest the top of the climb. The amount of points, and the placings they go to, varies depending on the difficulty rating of the climb. Category 4 climbs offer 3, 2 and 1 points for the first three riders. Meanwhile, a first-category climb offers 40 points for the first rider over the line, with points given to the first eight riders.

As you’d expect, the blue jersey is often won by a pure climber, and sometimes by the pink jersey winner, as they are often also the best climber in the race. However, it can also go the way of a good breakaway rider, or another rider high up in the GC. In the first week, where the climbing is usually easier, the blue jersey is a carrot to chase for the breakaway riders, but it becomes more serious and important as the climbs ramp up into the second and third weeks.

The climbing classification first appeared in the race in 1933, and has had its own jersey since 1974. The jersey used to be green, but was changed to blue in 2012. In 2023, Thibaut Pinot won the mountains classification.

Giro d’Italia mountains points:

  • Category 4 climbs - 3, 2, 1 points
  • Category 3 climbs - 9, 4, 2, 1 points
  • Category 2 climbs - 18, 8, 6, 4, 2, 1 points
  • Category 1 climbs - 40, 18, 12, 9, 6, 4, 2, 1 points
  • Cima Coppi (the highest point in the race) - 50, 30, 20, 14, 10, 6, 4, 2, 1 points

The purple points jersey (maglia ciclamino)

The points jersey, known as the maglia ciclamino (‘cyclamen’ in English, a deep shade of purple) is essentially the sprinter’s jersey, like the green jersey at the Tour, with points available on flat finishes and at intermediate points during stages. It’s mainly for the sprinters, but rewards consistency more than just winning – being up there on multiple stages throughout the race is what will earn you the lead in this classification, not just grabbing a few wins.

At the finish line, points are distributed in different ways according to the type of stage. For a flat stage, the winner will win 50 points, going down to one point for the 20th rider. There are then two other types of stages, with ‘easier’ stages offering 25 points for the winner and points for the first 15 riders, whilst harder stages have only 15 points available at the finish, down to one point for the 10th rider. The system for the intermediate points is similar, and stages are defined according to this scale ahead of the race. It’s been this way since 2014, when the system was slightly tweaked to give more chances to the sprinters.

The points classification was used once in 1958, then reintroduced in 1966. The distinctive jersey was brought in in 1969. In 2023, the points jersey was won by Italian sprinter Jonathan Milan, who returns to the race this year for Lidl-Trek.

The white young rider’s jersey (maglia bianca)

The white jersey – maglia bianca – is designed to highlight the best young riders in the race, and is worn by the rider aged 25 or younger who is highest in the general classification. The way this is worked out is simple, and just based on time, like the overall – this is essentially a subset of the general classification, just battled amongst the young riders.

These days, Grand Tour winners are getting younger and younger, with riders capable of winning both the white jersey and overall, but this wasn’t always the case, and this jersey was a way of rewarding the young, up-and-coming riders who may not necessarily be in the battle for pink.

In the Giro, the young rider’s jersey was first brought in in 1976 with slightly different eligibility requirements. It disappeared from the race from 1996 to 2006, but was brought back in 2007 in the form we currently know it. In 2023, João Almeida won the young rider classification.

Other competitions

As well as the main four classifications and jerseys, there are several other subclassifications and prizes up for grabs during the Giro.

Most combative rider

At the end of each stage, the rider deemed to be most combative or most aggressive by a social media poll earns himself this special prize. This will often go to a rider in the breakaway, or a rider who was particularly attacking, and is often used to reward a rider other than the winner, though the stage winner can also take the title.

Teams classification

The teams classification identifies which team is performing best overall, with the first three finishers per team on each stage counting towards this classification, which is based on cumulative time. Though it’s a minor competition, the teams do take this quite seriously, as the title of being the best team in the race is quite appealing, and there’s a chance to visit the podium in Rome.

Intergiro

The ‘intergiro’ used to be a classification that awarded the rider with the best combined standing in the points and mountains classification, but was made defunct in 2005. However, it’s being brought back in a form in 2024, with a ‘general points classification’ applying to each stage apart from the time trials. There will be 12 points available for the winner of each stage, down to 1 point for the eighth finisher, and there will be a cash prize and trophy for the overall winner of the classification.

Fuga prize

This is a breakaway competition, where the organisers keep track of which riders have spent the most kilometres in breakways (of fewer than 10 riders, lasting for more than 5km) throughout the race. There’s no jersey, but there are prizes available, and this is a fun hunting ground for the Italians and smaller teams in the race.

Fair play standings

A quirk of the Giro, the Italian Grand Tour also keeps tally of the ‘fair play standings’, calculated according to the fines and penalties handed out throughout the race. The team with the fewest penalties earns the prize at the end of the race.

What happens if riders are tied at the top of a classification?

In each of the classifications, it is possible for more than one rider to be level on either time or points. In this situation, the leader will usually be decided on countback on stage wins and placings, but climb and sprint placings or GC standing can also come into the calculation if riders remain tied.

To help get you ready for this year's Giro d'Italia check out our latest Italian Collection over in the GCN shop or click on the rail below. With everything from t-shirts to water bottles join us in celebrating the Giro in style!

For everything you need to know about the 2024 Giro d'Italia, from the history of the race to this year's route and start list, be sure to check out our dedicated race hub.

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