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Stage races in cycling are interesting because they typically have multiple competitions inside one race. You have the general classification (usually seen as the most important one), and then there are numerous other classifications such as points classification, intermediate sprints classification, mountains classification, young riders classification, and the combination classification.

The combination classification is the one that confuses me, especially in the Vuelta a España, where it has consistently been one of the prizes for many years. This classification is almost always won by the same rider who wins the general classification. Because the combination classification is (literally) made up of a combination of the other classifications, there is no way for a rider to go for this prize; in order to improve your standings in the combination classification, a rider needs to improve his standings in all other classifications, which is something nobody is interested in doing. People who are possible contenders for this prize are usually also contenders for the general classification, which typically means that they only care about the general classification.

Interesting statistic: After 2003, only one rider has won the combination classification without also winning the general classification. This was Alejandro Valverde in 2012.

So, my question: why does the Vuelta keep employing the combination classification, and why don't they switch to a different prize that riders would actively try to achieve? Are there any historical reasons behind this, or sponsor contracts or so?

  • Pretty much related: Why does not Vuelta have young rider jersey? – fedorqui Sep 12 '16 at 20:27
  • Damn, @fedorqui, that answer is what I've been waiting for. I think you should post it (and give credit where credit is due) so that I can mark it as accepted. That source is as good as it gets. – Lee White Sep 13 '16 at 14:25
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Few weeks ago I did some research for the question Why does not Vuelta have young rider jersey?. For that, I found an interview with La Vuelta's general director Javier Guillén from back in 2014. It is a pity it is in Spanish, but to simplify things I translated into English the relevant parts of it.

In a specific moment he stated:

We do have the same amount of maillots as the other ones; this is, four. We do not have young classification, and I am not saying we should not have it, but nowadays we have the combination with a sponsor which is very much identified with this ranking since it has been sponsoring La Vuelta for 19 years. The combination is a distinguishing mark of La Vuelta, since it is the only race having it and we want to keep it like this. If we ever get the chance, we could include the young rider classification, but nowadays we think that the podium is full enough.

I also found you are absolutely right about this classification being quite secondary, since people winning it are normally those trying to win La Vuelta itself.

I could not find a full statistic on the winners of the combined classification compared to the overall winner. However, the Catalan article of Wikipedia on Combination classification in the Vuelta a España contains a very representative column. There, you can see which others jerseys the winner won: from 2004, just in one case (Joaquim Rodríguez in 2015) the winner just won this one. And in total just in 7 cases out of almost 30.

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I think that it has to do with a historic reasons. Spanish riders were always trying to be the most complete rider. Hense their disire to win stage races and excel in those. They were lousy one-day riders. (e.g. The first Spanish World Champion was Olano in 1995). So I think that the persuit of being the most complete rider back in the days is the reason why there is still such a jersey.

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