Merde! As I look at the country flags from proposed FSA DS teams, one country seems to be largely ignored: France.
Yes France. The country that held the first bike race. The country that invented gothic art, the guillotine, codeine, the rabies vaccine, the oboe, the bikini, and, without a doubt, the country that perfected polka dots (yes ant1, you should click this link).
Here are 5 French cyclists (and a couple of bonus picks) that should make every FSA DS team better - or at least far more fun to support.
[All this week we will be featuring different angles on playing our year-long fantasy game, the FSA Directeur Sportif. Remember, deadlines for submitting your teams are Feb 22 for the women and Feb 24 for the men. Don't miss out!]
Photo*: Thomas Voeckler being awesome, 2011 Paris-Nice.
1. Thomas Voeckler: Europcar
Who doesn't love Thomas? Let me know and we will together shun them.
Le chouchou (darling) de l'Alsace had a terrific 2011 VDS season. He was the best mid-priced rider in the entire competition. Costing only 8 points, Thomas finished 14th overall with 1280 points and was better value (points/price) than all the 13 riders above him. If he doesn't decide to run for President in the April French elections, I expect him to have another huge year.
Finishing 4th in the 2011 Tour de France, Voeckler wore the yellow jersey for 10 days. All France swooned, and swooned, and swooned some more. Defying all pundits, he defended Yellow through the Pyrénées and much of the Alps, before finally dropping to 4th overall on Alpe d'Huez, the last mountain stage. This brilliant run in yellow even surpassed in élan his previous extraordinary 10-stage reign in yellow during the 2004 Tour.
Voeckler will cost 14 points in 2012. But admit it, you will hate yourself when he bravely clings to yellow this July and you forgot to draft him.
2. Pierre Rolland: Europcar
He was one of the better 2 point picks last season, finishing with 310 points. He costs 6 points this season.
Yes, yes, you know him. Lance Armstrong tweeted that Pierre was a rockstar when Rolland won stage 19 of the 2011 Tour de France at Alpe d'Huez - voted the Queen stage by the Cafe gang (you!). This monumental stage victory seemed just reward after Rolland had selflessly shepherded Europcar team-mate Voeckler in yellow for half the Tour. Rolland would go on to win the white jersey (best young rider) while finishing an impressive 10th overall in the Tour. Wow.
Rolland has already podiumed in 2012, winning stage 3 of l'Etoile de Béssèges. 2012 could be a break-out season. Most importantly, Albertina "likes" his Facebook page. You can too.
3. Jérôme Coppel: Saur - Sojasun
My favourite cyclist! A local boy, born in Annemasse, France minutes from Geneva. This talented young rider is pure class, twice winning the U-23 French TT championship. He has very (OK: very, very) occasionally been included in discussions of the next great French hope. 2012 will prove his legion of fans wise beyond all wisdom.
While 2011 was admittedly slightly disappointing - I picked him to win the 2011 Tour - he did still manage
14th 13th overall in the TdF GC . He was also good FSA DS value, earning 400 points, at a cost of only 4. He is a bargain at a cost of only 6 points this season.
2012 is off to a flying start: Coppel won the 2012 Étoile de Bessèges at the start of February. Frankly, it's a little scandalous that I don't get VDS points for this great stage race victory. Super Ted, get your #@&à§ç act together earlier next season!**
Coppel has publicly said that he will target a strong GC placing in the 2012 Tour de France (assuming the ASO bastards give Saur - Sojasun an invite). We'll get a good chance to further assess his early form during Paris-Nice in a few weeks.
If you want to join the cool kids and be a Coppel fan, go to his official web site and join me as a member of his fan club. See your humble author dressed in his Jérôme Coppel fan club gear. Membership includes invitations to join the "Kop Coppel" at races (and a signed autograph photo - swoon).
Photo: Jérôme Coppel Fan Club at Tour de Romandie
4. Sylvain Chavanel: Omega Pharma Quick Step
Chavanel will start the 2012 season wearing the French national jersey.
2011 was a good FSA DS year for the stage hunter, earning 645 points at a cost of only 4 (value!). In addition to his French road race championship, Sylvain finished 2nd in the Tour of Flanders, and held the red jersey in the Vuelta for 4 stages.
Chavanel costs an increased 10 points in 2012. Whether he has success or not this season, you know he will attack and try to win stages - promising excitement for any aspiring fantasy league DS. What more can you ask?
Chavanel trivia: His family is from Spain, his grand-father was born in Barcelona but moved to France during the Spanish Civil War. However, Chavanel is French though-and-through: "I hardly know a word of Spanish – just swear words."
Photo: Chavanel winning stage 7 of the 2010 Tour de France.
5. Samuel Dumoulin - Cofidis
Don't mistake him with his Dutch cycling namesake Tom Dumoulin - Tom is much taller. At 5' 2" Samuel is easy to find in the official Cofidis team photo. A long time professional, Dumoulin can climb a little and sprint a little making him a threat in any mid-mountain stage.
Samuel is a hugely popular rider in France. I remember a Tour stage where he was all alone and behind even the first grupetto, before he came in to view we could hear his name being yelled repeatedly lower down, and everyone instantly joined in as he approached.
At a cost of 4 points you can expect some vaue in some of the smaller French races - he has already won the 2012 Grand Prix d'Ouverture La Marseillaise (more VDS points I should already have Super Ted**). At a minimum, you will always know he is coming by the cheering fans.
Very Short Video: Samuel Dumoulin @ 2010 Tour de France
Quick Bonus Picks:
OK, ok, I admit I know nothing about cyclists. So let's go to a real expert. Vlaanderen90 in his excellent Five Newbies to Watch for in 2012 article suggests that the young French rider Roman Bardet of Ag2r La Mondiale is good FSA DS value:
Bardet was one of the stars last year on the U23 circuit with lots of high finishes in hilly races. 2nd in U23 LBL, 2 stage wins in Tour des Pays de Savoie, mountain stage in the Tour de l'Avenir and some high finishes at the hilly Tour de l'Ain. He showed some early strength with making the break at GP Marseillaise and should make his presence felt in the hills over the course of this year, stage races and one-day races alike.
My double-secret FSA DS tip: Know your brothers. Sylvain Chavanel is gold, Sebastian Chavanel not so much. Romain Feillu is fast, Brice Feillu is a 2010 & 2011 goose egg who will finally be dropped from my team.
"Feillu me once, shame on you. Feillu me twice shame on me."
2011 - Team Sexy Marmottes DS Willj
Cedric Pineau might be related to occasionally polka-dotted Jérôme Pineau (I have no idea), but neither is related to Thibault Pinot. And sadly, Sebastien Hinault is not the alcohol-soaked love child of Bridgette Bardot and Bernard Hinault.
Finally, Alexandra opines that John Gadret may win the Giro and I just dare you to disagree with her - I double dare you.
Vive le FSA DS et Bonne Chance !
* All photos and video by Will and used with my permission
** This is attempted humour. I love Super Ted.