- Teams firmly in contention;
- Teams who have been firmly in contention but only because they loaded up on classics guys at the expense of any hope in the grand tours;
- Teams not quite in contention, but waiting for their grand tour guys to change things;
- Teams not quite in contention, but waiting for a miracle; and
- Teams who never were and never will be in contention.
As disheartening as a bad Classics season can be, the reality is that the majority of the available points haven't been doled out yet, and in fact some rather massive point totals, aimed at an entirely different group of riders than have done most of the winning so far, is right around the corner. If your strategy in compiling your team was focused on grand tour placings and you got any decent points so far, you're doing fine. Some additional perspective: the current leader, You'll See Sagan Make a Slaughter, is at 6045 points, with two teams (GiantDefy and Barbed Wire Hooligans) the only chasers over 5800. [It might also be mentioned that only GiantDefy of these three has any hope of a big grand tour success, and it's not a great one.] There are 152 teams over the 4000 point mark. Last year's winner had 19,743. Anyone bragging about their ability to get to 5,000 or so right now is setting themselves up for a fall.
OK, so you get my point. It's early. But it's not too early to discover who, among the classics guys at least, scored a big spring and has already paid off their owners in spades. Mind you, there are undoubtedly another list of climbers who will emerge as as big or bigger bargains before we're done. But we can already spot several good ones. Let's delve into some of the excellent early adventures. Here's an anonymous comparison of two riders. [I love doing the "Player A vs Player B" thing. It's so... titillating. Amiright? I mean, Player B could be almost anyone! You have no idea!]
Rider A cost you 32 bucks off the budget, and has scored 1810 points.
Rider B cost 31 chits and has nabbed you 3481 points. Obviously the better pick.
Rider A is, of course, Peter Sagan, while Rider B is Alrichmicaldijnian Kristportkowlekbergheveld. Do you have him on your team? Nope. Nobody does. He was completely overlooked. At best, a few teams took his right leg or one of his arms.
OK, OK, the names in there are Richie Porte, Alexander Kristoff, Michael Kwiatkowski, Stijn Vandenberghe, Gerald Ciolek and Sebastian Langeveld. Along with a few lower-scoring one-pointers, these are the biggest bargains of the spring in the FSA Directeur Sportif. These are the guys who make the difference between a Peter Sagan team mired in the pack and a Peter Sagan team that's got a chance of winning it all.
Sagan is the story, of course, and it's to the surprise of almost no one, least of all the 288 Directeurs who put him on their team. And there is much to be said for picking the correct expensive guy -- they do, after all, score the most points, and with 150 points to spend you can't win by picking the 25 best 1 and 2 pointers. But if you can get this part of the equation right, and figure out where the hidden bargains are, then you're in business. [And if you don't do either, then I have a seat for you at my table ... in Loserville. Don't worry, you get used to the bad music and stale cigarette odor after a while. Also, Jimbo says hello.]
Another indication of value is if a rider has already exceeded his previous year's point total. Since the prices were almost entirely based on past points, having already exceeded that mark so early on is a sign the guy was a solid, possibly game-changing, pick. Aside from the mega-bargains above, here are a few names for that list: Cancellara, Chavanel, Quintana, Betancur, Bozic, Spilak, Ladagnous, Eisel, Stannard, Urtasun... it goes on. Heinrich Haussler, it should be noted, has exactly equaled his 2012 performance, and Geraint Thomas has exceeded his, though with the massive caveat that he spent 2012 working on some nonsensical hobby. Anyway, for a short, early list of value picks, there you go. Got any to add?