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FSA DS: At Last, It's a Terpstra Miracle!


Some quick diagnostics about how you win the FSA DS by winning the classics...

Step 1: Be right about the top-line story. This year that was Tom Boonen. Thanks to his reduced price, a mere 380 of you figured out that one.

Fsa-ds_mediumStep 2, or, how to break the 380-way tie for first: Be right about the low-priced point earners. 101 teams rejoiced immediately after the FSA DS kicked off, when four-pointer Sep Vanmarcke won the Omloop. Those people were still delighting a month later when he looked like a threat to do something else on that scale. But he never did. Having Sep and his 490 points is still a big deal, but it's not the biggest. Here are some of the biggest difference-makers in the competition as it turns from the stones to the hills...

Niki Terpstra, OPQS

  • salary: 4
  • points: 730
  • teams: 37
  • Top Ten teams: 1 -- Echelon, the current overall leader

I have previously joked often enough about a possible Terpstra Miracle in an upcoming race to have patented the phrase, even though its shelf life expired shortly after his signing with Quick Step. The guy is for real, albeit at the Nuyens Ceiling level (pat. pending). Anywho, 730 points doubles his output from last year, with another 50 points left over. Yes, you expect four-pointers to contribute, but that's a huge haul. He's almost certainly at the ten-point level already, even before he drops ten minutes in the Tour and starts hunting for stages. [Conjecture, I know. But OPQS's Tour team is pretty injured ATM.]

More essential ingredients, op de flip!

Oscar Freire, Katusha

  • salary: 6
  • points: 840
  • teams: 87
  • Top Ten teams: 2

Reports of his demise, etc. etc. This is one of those moments where you might wonder whether Ursula knows what he is doing. Yes, I have final say over the pricing of riders prior to the launch of each year's game, but Ursula sets them first, and this winter he threatened to stick a very long needle in a doll that looked an awful lot like me (I think it was from the Hosni Mubarak Action Set circa 1986) if I gave Freire a more respectful number. So yes, he does know what he's doing. He just doesn't want you to know about it.

Apparently Freire also knows what he is doing. 200 points in the E3 is manna from heaven to those DSs wise enough not to pull a Rabobank -- which could mean a lot of things, but in this case refers to csually letting go of a guy who they need. Regrets... they've had a few. As for Freire, the knock on him is that he doesn't sprint enough to win the bunch gallops, not that he's suddenly stopped doing pretty much everything else well.

Alessandro Ballan, BMC

  • salary: 10
  • points: 940
  • teams: 12
  • Top Ten teams: 1

These entries aren't in any particular order, so before you go pointing out to me that 940 points from a ten point guy isn't that shocking, I agree... in principle. But Ballan was one of those guys who pretty much everyone ran screaming from for two reasons: Gilbert, and the fact that Ballan was such a bargain last year, and good things don't happen twice in the FSA DS, do they? When we do pricing we limit the speculative side and don't discount the Ballans of the world too heavily just because they've taken on new, power-sucking teammates. But the fact is, 900+ teams (like mine) assumed that Ballan would be a virtual domestique in Flanders, not the second-best and second-highest-scoring rider on the planet. Sure, he's likely done scoring much for the season, but for those ten teams brave enough to navigate the conventional wisdom, Ballan turned out to be a nifty little value at ten points after all.

Sebastian Turgot, Europcar

  • salary: 1
  • points: 470
  • teams: 8
  • Top Ten teams: 0

Look out for teams Huffy and Les Particules Elementaire: they and six slower-starting teams are alone among the entire FSA DS in securing the single most essential ingredient in a well-baked season -- high-scoring one-pointers. None of the top ten teams is currently dining out on this bargain, a bolt of lightning in the truest sense given that Turgot scored 70 points last year, a total he passed in De Panne in 2012. This suggests one thing we all are thinking about as we examine the top teams post-cobbles: it's gonna take a lot more than a good April to win this thing.

Sep Vanmarcke, Garmin-Barracuda

  • salary: 4
  • points: 490
  • teams: 101
  • Top Ten teams: 4

Vanmarcke's value wasn't exactly a given, but he came into the season as one of the worst-kept four-point secrets in the game's history. I've been blogging about the guy since his one-point days, and his flashes of potential in 2011 went unnoticed by exactly zero regular Podium Cafe readers. That he landed on only 101 teams says more about the backlash setting in among people sick of me talking about Sep than anything else. Still, he's likely to scoop up a few smaller bunches along the way, so 500+ points for a four-pointer makes Sep a hard guy to win without.

Filippo Pozzato, Farnese Vini

  • salary: 8
  • points: 700
  • teams: 24
  • Top Ten teams: 3

On par with Ballan for value, and for the shocking nature of that statement. Like Ballan, the surprise here is that he didn't turn out to be wildly overpriced at 8 after a pitiful 200 point campaign in 2011. Granted, when Ursula did his pricing he undoubtedly looked back past the one or two bad campaigns and thought "surely we haven't seen the last of Pippo." Or, "surely Chris and a few Italophiles can be suckered into squandering eight points on Pippo." A fool and his FSA DS budget are soon parted, and for more on that story you can take a look at my roster. But Pippo isn't on it, because of course not. Only 24 souls were brave enough to see that he wasn't seriously injured (remember he cracked his collarbone during the roster-building period) and that he would build a decent foundation in the spring. Unlike Ballan, Pippo has some further potential, as the big dog on his team and with a gazillion Italian races which he still probably can't win but will be hunting for secondary placings. He'd dearly love a Giro stage...

Alexandre Pichot, Europcar

  • salary: 1
  • points: 310
  • teams: 2
  • Top Ten teams: 0

Like his teammate Turgot, Pichot is one of those one-point cornerstones on which championship teams are constructed. Sadly, only two teams pulled this lapin out of the chapeau, including one -- Huck to Flat -- who assembled an entire team of riders with "Alex" somewhere in their name. The lesson, of course, is that when it comes to the FSA DS, instinct, intelligence and knowledge have nothing on unbridled silliness.

Arnaud Demare, FDJ

  • salary: 2
  • points: 305
  • teams: 103
  • Top Ten teams: 3

King of the two-pointers, so far. Demare got on as many teams as Sep did, including mine (in both cases), which tells you something about how obvious a potential value he was at that price. One pointers, you swing for the fences; two-pointers, you can't afford any donuts, so you should probably only swing for the fences with guys whose potential looks pretty solid for 100 points worth of production regardless. Demare, the U23 World Champion with a big, strong sprint on him and a team that needed to use him right away, was an easy choice. Coming from the U23 ranks, there was no justification for pricing him at 4. Look for Demare to score small sprint wins and Coupe de France points into the fall.

Greg Van Avermaet, BMC

  • salary: 14
  • points: 670
  • teams: 34
  • Top Ten teams: 1

Does he belong on this list? Maybe not, but like Ballan he was a strong candidate to be overshadowed in spring, and instead of being an obvious overprice at 14, he is looking like a very solid value, with big targets waiting for him in late summer and fall. Too bad he's Belgian, or he could be thinking of Olympic or World points. Wait... is he the perfect guy-up-the-road-late-in-the-race? Hm... Anyway, Echelon has him, and you can see how that's worked out to date.

Elia Favilli, Farnese Vini

  • salary: 1
  • points: 240
  • teams: 0
  • Top Ten teams: still 0

What the hell is wrong with you people? None of you saw this guy coming? The calendar is choc-a-bloc with Italian SSSRs, ripe for the plucking by one of the younger fast finishers that grow on trees around la bella campania. Favilli is on a team that can use him in these roles right away. Of course, they have Gatto too, which pretty much exonerates us all from this oversight. The good news is, next year he will be overpriced, a few dozen teams will make him their "secret FSA DS weapon, only for him to regress to the point where Jacopo Guarnieri is referring to him as his leadout man. [Hint: they don't ride for the same team.]

Photo by Patrick Verhoest for the Podium Cafe