All this talk about the winning team this year only averaging 100 points per rider is all well and good, but my gut suggests otherwise. What fun is it to choose a rider if they don’t have a shot of wildly exceeding expectations? Nothing is more satisfying than receiving double, even triple the points return on your savvy scout. Chances are there will be plenty of riders to do so, and they can be broken down into three categories:
- Stars and superstars who have career years. Last year examples: Joaquim Rodriguez, Bradley Wiggins.
- Mid-priced riders who are undervalued because they underperformed for some reason the last year or two (whether because of team issues, injury, doping bans, marriages, or alien abductions). Last year examples: Michael Rogers, Niki Terpstra, Oscar Freire.
- Young 1-2 pointers who have a breakout season and will be mid-priced from now on. Last year examples: Sergio Henao, Moreno Moser.
I feel like lots of people have already written here about riders in the first category, and nobody wants to share their picks for third category riders (I sure don’t!). Well, since I have had nothing but FSA DS on my mind for the past week, I thought maybe I could share my thoughts on whom some of the second category guys might be. The theme for these riders is that they have performed considerably better in the past and therefore provide hope that they might trend upwards again after having their price drastically lowered. They are also the riders most likely to unceremoniously rip your heart out of your chest and stomp on it along with your chances this year. But as my good friend Charlie Kelly says about God, you gotta risk your feet to get some shoes.
Almost forgot, what would a fanpost be without a rating? Every rider will be rated from 1-8, with each number representing one of ursula’s tentacles that are wrapped around my brain.
Robert Gesink – Ah, how fitting that we start with a Dutchy. Usually riders this young (still only 26) that have been tipped as possible grand tour winners and continuously place in the top ten in GT’s will cost a premium. Somehow, though, Bobo feels like he’s been around forever. That and he just can’t seem to get over that Dutch tendency to eat tarmac. Many objective signs point to the fact that he is on the rise, not least the fact that he should just be entering his prime and that his TT has improved in recent years. This year’s Vuelta might be one of the best chances he has ever had at winning GT… if he rides it. My mind says that this is a criminally low cost for a rider that still has such potential ,but my every time I go through the math I get indigestion.
3 tentacles – He can’t score THAT low. Some muscle relaxants to go with those tums will take care of the pressure.
Tyler Farrar – Ah,Farrar. In 2010, he brought in 2000 points. 2011 saw him nab over 1000. Last year he couldn’t break 400. At 28, he should be soaring in the prime of his career, but instead he has been freefalling. Let’s be real; in European sprints, he has probably been outclasses by a strong crop of younger sprinters and former HTC-ers. He is still, however, probably the best sprinter on American soil. He also rides a long schedule and consistently chases high placings. So he will bring in points from sprints, although maybe not much more than last year. Why are we interested in him then? Oh right; from 2010-2011, he won Scheldeprijs and Vattenfall Classics, 2nd at Ouest-France, 3rd at Omloop, Gent-Wevelgem, and Dwars, 5th and 13th and De Ronde. He will tell anyone who is willing to listen that he is in love with the classics. However, when he changed his training to target the Classics last year he came up empty-handed. This year he says that he has been training for sprints again. If you have any idea what any of this means, please share. He could finish with anywhere from 300 to 1600 points in my mind.
7 Tentacles – There are so many more sure-thing sprinters in this price range without Tyler’s upside. Someone get me a morphine drip.
Heinrich Haussler – You have to go a bit further back to find why so many people think so highly of Haussler, to 2009. Like Farrar, though, he is (was?) a rider who found success in both sprints and cobbled races. Like Farrar, he should be in the prime of his career. When I daydream about Haussler I think of a combination of Juan Antonio Flecha’s cobbled badassery with the potential for Gerrans-esque wins. His talent level still shines through every year, just not as frequently as one would hope. All his recent down years were spent riding for the American team Garmin-Cervelo, where an optimist would say that he never got the attention from his team or chances to shine. Now he’s top-dog in a sexy new ProConti outfit with invitations to classics. Maybe the change will do him good. Maybe he just isn’t as good as we thought.
8 Tentacles – Uggggggggh. I heard LSD helps with migraines?
Matti Breschel – Yikes, 90 points only two years ago? I’m going to chalk that one up to a bad team situation. Still managed to produce 390 last year, despite palpable displeasure. Agewise, it’s time for him to produce. Good team support and a Danish DS should make his life easier. I can’t see him going too far over 800 but would be surprised if he didn’t match last year, at least.
2 Tentacles – I feel a little tension, but nothing a nice Asian massage won’t fix.
Igor Anton – Like Breschel, scored 400 last year. Previous two years were 575 and 1025. Igor would be decent value if he repeated 2011, and if not for a catastrophic trip off the beaten path his 2010 would be closer to 2000. He’ll be 30 in a few weeks so it’s his time to shine. If he’s in shape, the Vuelta this year should be an ideal parcours for him, with virtually no TT-ing and even more mountains than last year. Plus there will be no Contador or, presumably, Froome. On the other hand, he has never quite been the same since that crash. Samu might also be riding the Vuelta, which could either be a great thing (if Samu super-D’s) or disastrous (if Anton becomes his caddy). Plus I’ve had terrible experiences with GT guys at this price.
6 Tentacles – Ouch, why does that hurt so much? I’m going to need something strong. Two advil, a bottle of gin, and a long nap might help. Might as well call out of work tomorrow.
Alexander Kolobnev – 1045 and 815 in the past four years make this look like mighty good value. 350 and 380 the last two years make this look kinda stinky. He’s an experienced classics rider who is crafty enough to pull out a surprise win this year or next in a big race. His floor isn’t too low. Buuuuuut, he’s a doper and a cheat. This is a rider I could see possibly being great value, but am willing to pass on.
1 Tentacle – Did someone say dope? Some grass will do the trick.
Denis Menchov – A rider that burned me last year. Before last year’s 300, he scored 760 and 810 points.
The year before that he scored over 1600. Denis is possibly the hardest man to read in the peloton. He’s old now, but he also has the ability to pop up out of nowhere and podium at GTs. He does precious little racing outside of the GTs that he targets. I have no idea how to predict what he is going to do. One bumpy day at the Vuelta he leaves his GT-leading teammate out to dry, the next he is winning the queen stage. The sad thing is, I have the feeling that he thrives on the confusion.
5 tentacles – My head feels like a mashed potato. Might as well put some Russian vodka in it.
Jose Joaquin Rojas – 175, 495, 985, 122. In my mind, Rojas is perhaps the most perplexing rider in the game. He races all year and will fight for top ten places in both stages and classics. He has the backing of a solid team and a seemingly free leash to do whatever he wants whenever he races. He also crashed out of last year’s Tour on stage 3 with a broken collarbone and missed some of the fall races he seems most perfectly suited for. Perfect timing for a bounceback year, right? Unfortunately his run at the green jersey in 2011 seems to have clouded his mind as to his true calling. There is a little boy from Fastvakia who does what Rojas did that tour now, except much, much better. Interviews give the impression that his mind is still set on France, to the detriment of the rest of his season. On the other hand, if he rides the Vuelta like last season he misses out on the Canadian races, Vattenfall, and GP Ouest-France. I could honestly see him with a doughnut. I could also see him taking a stage at the Tour, winning San Sebastian, and scoring in all the fall classics.
7 Tentacles – At least he isn’t THAT big of a gamble at 4 points? I’m going to need two percosets, a bottle of bourbon, and a fat J to get over this.
Bernhard Eisel – His biggest point haul over the past four years has been 470, so Bernie isn’t really a candidate for a bounceback year. He has spent the last six(!) years of his life shepherding his buddy Cav to the line, though. Eisel has undeniable talent far beyond your typical four pointer. Unlike past Cav-train defectors like Greipel and Goss, Eisel probably won’t mix it up too much in the sprints. He should, however, be the captain of Sky’s classics squad. If everything falls into place he seems the most likely candidate for a Terptra-esque points explosion. Except he is most likely now past his peak at 32 years old. His potential off the leash depends on whether Sky forces him to run lead-outs for hapless sprinter Ben Swift. Also, from my armchair, I can’t help but wonder how much of a competitive spirit the dude has if he has been content to be Cav’s lap dog for so long.
4 Tentacles – Some valium and a chocolate muffin, please.