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Checking In On The Expensive VDS Riders

Virtual-ds-2_medium Back when Contador announced his change of plans for the spring (riding Criterium, Castilla y Leon, La Fleche, and LBL instead of Catalunya and Pais Vasco) I wondered what that would do with his VDS chances. I own Bert so I had a vested interest in him making max VDS points since some bozo priced him so damn high. Time has passed, now I know what happened and so will you in a minute as below I will list the most expensive VDS riders this year and how they are doing at this point of the year as opposed to last year at this time. Plus I'll throw in a bit of commentary on who's in deep ca ca and who's looking to outperform last year.

One point about comparing the years, or actually two: 

1) Yeah we have more races this year but I think for the expensive riders, these extra races will only make a very minor difference in their point totals since they rarely ride them and they don't give many points.

2) Last year Catalunya happened later than now but I will still include it in my comparisons.

Okay on to the list!

The numbers in parentheses after the rider's name is his point total from last year. "Last year" means points he had earned up to this point last year and "this year" the points he's earned so far this year.

32 pointers

1. Alberto Contador (2222) last year: 861 points. This year: 828. Verdict: nothing to see here folks; move along....  Still on his way to 2000+ points and that doesn't include a possible Vuelta ride. He's doing fine and the just completed LBL showed just how much the rest of the field is scared of him.

2. Alejandro Valverde (2408) last year: 580. This year: 1184. Verdict: he's a weird one. Last year, Al had a deliberately slow start to his season as he thought he needed to save himself for the Tour. This year he's got that suspension thingy hovering over him so he isn't planning with the summer or fall in mind. This year its get as many points as possible ASAP-and that he is doing. 

28 pointers

3. Fabian Cancellara (1727)  last year: 0. This year: 980. Verdict: good chance in joining Contador in the 2000 point club. Last year he was hurt in the spring and didn't get on track till post-Giro. So with a 980 point lead, even without winning the Tour de Suisse, he should score near 2000 points and probably more.

4. Cadel Evans (1908) last year: 330. This year: 760. Verdict: so far so good. I still have a hard time predicting what races Cadel will score in and which will be like last year's Tour. But that said, there's a reason why he cost 28 points and that is because he scores a ton of points. The only reason he's not costing 30 points is that until now, he's not ben that popular. So ion a sense he's a bargain. He could well be another 2000+ rider this year.

5. Philippe Gilbert (1990) last year: 720. This year: 1280. Verdict: He has earned his way to elite status and seems on course for a 2000+ point season as well. In fact if Bert doesn't ride the Vuelta, Phil-Gil might be the year's highest scorer. Similar to Cadel he could have been priced at 30 points. He wasn't because folks weren't sure if he was really as good as his fall suggested. Sure looks like he is.

6. Mark Cavendish (1688) last year: 515. This year: 110. Verdict: Jury's still out.  It says right here that mark will meet last year's point total. I'm positive. In a way he's like Cancellara

24 pointers

7. Thor Hushovd (1560) last year: 1060 (includes 100 Catalunya points). This year: 550. Verdict: Solid but won't quite earn last year's final total. Last year after Catalunya almost all of his points came in one race: 490 points while winning the Green jersey. I don't expect him to defend that title this year and so he'll score less. However he might pick up points in the Worlds and maybe the Vuelta so all is not lost. In the end though he will probably come up short, the first one on this list who might do so.

8. Samuel Sanchez (1730) last year: 565. This year: 495.  Verdict: ???? My question marks are about where has he been the past couple of weeks. No Ardennes, no Romandie, nothing since Klasika Primevera. Other than that he's basically on course to repeat last year. If Contador, Sastre, and Valverde don't ride the Vuelta he'll be a possibly the main favorite too and so may exceed last year's points.

9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (1181) last year: 330. This year: 160. Verdict: All is not lost, owners of The Eddy. Yeah  he's been hurt, but if he comes back soon (read: NOW) he will still be roughly on course to match last year.  170 point deficit is nothing potentially for riders of this caliber. BUT, when he was priced, he had a young phenom surcharge added on (Mwahahahahahahaha!) because we do loves us young Nordic phenoms here at PdC. What that means is that for him to earn what other riders in his price range are expected to ear, he needs like 1750 points and not his 1181 from last year: he needs to improve, in other words. Not sure if he can do that with this injury.

10. Andy Schleck (1467) Last year: 650. This year: 280. Verdict: Concern is justified.  Not that he might be an outright bust but because with the lack of a team this year (relatively) his point total in the Ardennes plummeted. I'm thinking the next year or so will be very important for Andy and the rest of his career. He has elite talent but I wonder if he is disciplined enough to become a truly elite rider, up with the first five riders here and Boonen as well. I felt like his post-Tour schedule last year wasn't executed as well as it could have been and I am wondering if he is relying on Riis' tactics too much even when the team is changing under him. Basically I am saying that he needs to take control like Bert has and Lance used to do to be in the top, top level of riders and it remains to be seen if he has the drive (maturity?) to do that. Heh. Now the good news is that the last rider I called out like that was Cadel...

22 pointers

11. Tom Boonen (1525). Last year: 925. This year: 1065. Verdict: Looks on course to better last year. Chris has already discussed what Tom and Fabian might get here. I don't think he'll score 2000 (I give him a-ballpark-35% chance) but he'll likely (85% chance) exceed last year's totals, even if he doesn't win a damn race.  His mojo's back.

12. Denis Menchov (1610) Last year: 250. This year: 165. Verdict: Come back in late July.  Okay that's a tad flippant. I can easily imagine Menchov winning Romandie, doing, oh 6th at the Tour, and winning the Vuelta and that would land him around or above last year's total.  Basically the season's just begun for him. 

20 pointers

13. Tyler Farrar (1090) Last year: 65. This year: 675. Verdict: Ding ding ding! A couple things about the WW. First, this rider and not EBH was the guy who last year made the biggest jump price-wise to get into 20 pointer or above category. Second, like Cancellara last year, Farrar's spring in 09 was hurt by him getting hurt so comparatively most of his points this year are gravy. Definitely he'll exceed last year's total and it's not at all unreasonable to expect, what, 1500+ points, with 1750 not out of the question. Hell, I'll give him a small chance of him clearing 2000 (5%).

14. Damiano Cunego (1205) Last year: 625. This year: 260. Verdict: looking shaky.  The Ardennes is when The Little Prince basically opens his account on the year and he normally does it with a bang: usually not a win but high placings in all three events. This year? Two decent placings, though not really threatening in either race, and shutout in LBL. Not good. Lots of clouds around the guy: there's the Lampre investigation, plus there's the annual Grand Tour rider or (just) Classics specialist-with the added twist that he didn't do too good in the Classics either.  Hopefully all of this is a learning experience for him and he bounces back next year, but as for this year I kinda doubt that he's up for 1000 points unless he feels so good if/when he's vindicated that he rips the Vuelta.

15. Robert Gesink (1235) Last year: 260. This year: 245. Verdict: Its cool. Sort of like Menchov, he's brought along slowly by Rabobank. Unlike Menchov, Rabo wants Gesink to become an Ardennes stud. Not happening, at least yet. Did get a 4th last year at AGR, hurting himself in the process. This year three good but not great showings with only two for chump change. Still he's on pace with last year. I presume he'll race California which has been kind to him in the past before Suisse/Dauphine and the Tour and probably Vuelta. No reason why he won't match last year's totals and he might improve. My big question that I'd like to put tot the Rabobank Brain Trust is this: After Bobo's great Paris-Nice ride in 08, he's raced Tirreno-Adriatico twice and was an also-ran in both. Why did you yank him from P-N?

18 pointers

16. Pippo Pozatto (1215) Last year: 815. This year: 520. Verdict: Lady Luck looking elsewhere. Actually Pippo has more races that he's scored in this year. It's just that he's not quite been in the right breaks, not quite had the strength, not quite been lucky like last year and its cost him 300 points.  Bey, hey, maybe his luck will turn around though it would help if he didn't ride two Grand Tours. He would clean up if he concentrated more on the fall Italian races.

17. Alexandr Kolobnev (1045) Last year: 370. This year: 380. Verdict: The Maytag repairman of the peloton. One thing that you pay for when you buy an expensive rider is dependability. These guys rarely implode and have an awful year unless they are injured for the season. Such is what you get with Kolo here. Good dependable Classics scoring.

18. Heinrich Haussler (1065) Last year: 985. This year: 200. Verdict: Ouch. You just read that stuff about Dependability with Kolobnev. Haussler I think represents the main type of exception: a rider who makes a huge jump in results often falls back the next year. This is a truism in all sports. In think in baseball Bill James even measures this regression towards the mean. Yeah, Barbie's been hurt; that's just the thing. So is EBH. So is Cav. If it's not being hurt it's just bad luck or the race is more complicated like it is with Schlecket. I'm not saying he's pants; it's just hard to hold the new level and it happens to a lot of teams and riders. That makes Farrar's season that much more remarkable: he did the jump and has held it. Barbie can still salvage his season but, nope, he ain't scoring 1000 points in 2010. What should he be priced at next year?

19. Roman Kreuziger (1090) Last year: 10. This year: 355. Verdict: Year-to-year steady improvement. In 08 he scored 716 points. Roman's improvement has not ben meteoric, just constant. There's no reason that I can see that tells me that he won't break his point total from last year by a decent amount. 1500? Given the way he's increased his point totals I would say that's his outer limit of reasonable expectations. The real question is what year does he level out?

20. Andre Greipel (1055) Last year: 0. This year: 125. Verdict: Mentally strong. Here's another guy who was hurt last spring and so his points so far this year have been bonus. Of course he's had to deal with Cavendish both schedule-wise (so he hasn't raced the higher profile races) and mentally. To me he's come through pretty well. His big chance is the upcoming Giro, where he'll face all sorts of A-class sprinters. I'm looking at the proposed Columbia lineup now...his Renshaw...he's got Goss, Albasini, Rabon, Sieberg, Lewis, Hansen, Siutsou, and Pinotti. They should form a decent train. I'll be rooting for him in the race, and rooting for him to switch teams next year. Next year: that will be the question for us VDS playas: buy him on a new team?

21. Franco Pellizotti (1044) Last year: 0. This year: 0. Verdict: Holy Lance! Is this guy Grand Tour focused or what?  Seriously, last year Jennifer Grey scored in exactly TWO races, the Giro and the Tour. That's it. Which is what Lance did too though in Lance's favor I felt he was trying to score when he got hurt.  At any rate, it's no surprise that Jen hasn't scored yet. 

16 pointers: do I really want to keep going? No, I got other things to do folks. Like listen to that dreamboat Chris on the radio. Like start to make the final Ardennes poll for tomorrow and a full season poll in a couple of days. But to sum up:

These riders are on their way to be great buys in that they are exceeding their expectations: 

Cancellara, Evans, Gilbert, Boonen, Farrar, Kreuziger, and maybe Greipel?

These riders look like solid dependable buys and could reach the top group:

Contador, Sanchez, Gesink, and Kolobnev

I'm not sure of:

Menchov and Pellizotti but they should be okay.

These guys are costing their owners:

Hushovd, EBH, Schlecket, Cunego, Pozatto, and Haussler with Cunego my early pick for biggest disappointment. 

And then there's:

Valverde. The longer he riders the more of a chance for him paying off.