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FSA Directeur Sportif: Fancy an Hors-d'Oeuvre?

Fsa-ds_mediumFirst off, let me officially welcome you all to the playing phase of the FSA Directeur Sportif. After a full month of intrigue, obsessing, sandbagging, bargain-hunting, and decider-ing, you've completed the team-building phase. Well, possibly not all of you, but pretty close. In 2011, which was the second year of the automated playing system known as Superted's Love Child, we had approximately 650 players on the men's game and 130 partaking in the inaugural women's game run by Jens and his abacus. This year's totals? 816 players in the men's game and 242 on the women's side. Word has gotten out.

Anyway, now we turn to the second, much longer in-season phase (followed only by the third, short, and occasionally ugly post-season phase of exhaltation and anguish. Mostly anguish.). And while last weekend's kickoff probably won't leave a lasting impact on the race, the following week will. It's still winter for another three weeks, and the primi piatti of the cycling season are still back in the prep station. But in the meantime, the hors d'oeuvres are coming around, and it's a great time to start priming your palate. Don't miss out! To the flip...

The time from Omloop Weekend to Milano-Sanremo is a time of unpredictability in the peloton, compared to pretty much the rest of the season. Look at your team, chances are you picked guys who you can pretty much guarantee, barring some problem, that they'll score you points in grand tours, big classics, Spanish mini-tours, sprints, etc. If you know them, and you picked them, it's generally because they're guys who will perform at a certain level once they get going. At least among your 6+ pointers.

In late winter, however, few riders are at their peak, not if they want to have one later (see Sanchez, Luis Leon). Races are therefore often won by guys who don't necessarily expect a result. Certainly their FSA DS owners don't. Yet these are the points that start creating separation from the pack.

Take last year's winner, Cyclemania JH. The team had a lot going for it, for sure, including late season surprises from Marcel Kittel and steady performances from Joaquim Rodriguez. But it also included Cadel Evans (@ 350 points in March, mostly at Tirreno-Adriatico), Michele Scarponi (460 at T-A), Bobo Gesink (254 at T-A), Chris Sutton (150 at KBK), Oscar Gatto (100 at Strade Bianche), Angel Vicioso (120 at Strade Bianche), and so forth.

These are the gravy points that take you from meeting expectations to exceeding them. This is when you start raking in some house money. And there's a lot of it on the table starting tomorrow. Here's the rundown:

  • Driedaagse West Vlaanderen: starts Friday, three stages, usually features pro-conti guys. This year, however, there's a bit more Pro Tour mojo, including Tyler Farrar heading up what looks like a good chunk of the Garmin classics team, plus R-N-T, Sky, Saxo, Lotto-Belisol and the big French teams. As Jens suggested, teams are viewing the Strade Bianche as more of a climbers' affair, and there's a tendency these days for classics guys to prefer Tirreno to Paris-Nice, so they don't freeze and get sick. That opens up Driedaagse West Vlaanderen. It's only Cat-6, but Farrar owners would love some bonus points.
  • Monte Paschi Eroica: Saturday, cat 4 race, just like the Omloop, and the kickoff event for the few teams who didn't take part last weekend -- namely Fabian Cancellara. Jens has thoroughly previewed this already, so...
  • Vuelta a Murcia: Pared down to just two stages this year, from three last year. Which means there are fewer Cat-5 stage points, but a quicker path to the overall, where the real gains lie. Calling all Spaniards, or at least guys who like Spanish weather. Which is everyone who's desperately avoiding Paris-Nice. Speaking of...
  • Paris-Nice: Starts Sunday through next Sunday. Biggest points cache to date, a Cat-3 race, meaning 40 points for all eight stage winners, 250 for the overall win, and minor jersey points as well. And if more stars are headed to Tirreno, that just leaves this mother-lode of points more open to the guys who are coming. And since it's a World Tour event, everyone's going here if they're not at...
  • Tirreno Adriatico: Starts Wednesday, seven days. For riders chosen in the FSA-DS, if you aren't racing in either France or Italy by next Wednesday, you're either pro conti, development level, or injured. Like Paris-Nice, this is World Tour. Oodles of points coming.
If your team hasn't shown much progress by March 14, the last stage of T-A, don't despair. It's a long season. There are other places on the calendar to catch up... but it requires your guys to exceed expectations in competitions where most everyone is at their best. Guys gotta catch fire. Especially the lower-priced ones. You can definitely win without gaining much in the next 14 days. But if you can pad your stats now, all the better.