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FSA DS: Fantastic Finish On Tap!

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Doug Pensinger

Checked the standings lately?

1. tenbosse Tenbosse 16953
2. tour defiance OPQ 16908
3. johnnysteeler My name is Inigo Montoya! 16555
4. bvl Team Wafelijzer 16550
5. Ertzi TiHe 16530
6. ther00kie16 w0nd3r5三 16347
7. rattmuff It's not about the bike 16319
8. Seabasstien Turbot The Mighty Jungels 16063

Are you kidding me? 45 points separate the top two teams as we head down the home stretch, and a mere 890 separate the top eight. And even that is an arbitrary cutoff point, based on the convenience of round numbers (16000), with three more teams just behind. This is, without doubt, the best competition we've ever had, even before taking into account the possibility that a team with 三 in its name winning.

FSA DS smallCan we talk for a second... what is 三? I think it might be a Kanji/Chinese character "mi" or "mitsu" or "san," meaning three. But ther00kie16 uses it cleverly to show motion, which leads to the question, are we headed into a new era where people's names include characters for visual effect? We are blowing straight past emoticons here. Big stuff.

Back to present times, let's start breaking this down. Here are the remaining events before the end of the FSA DS season, which of course marks the closing of the road season as a whole. Because once fantasy cycling is over, why bother?

  • Tuesday: Binche-Tournai-Binche has never had such significance before. It's probably happening as you read this, and should feature the sprinters and cobbles guys (some stones on the finishing circuit). Website is here. It's also called Binche-Chimay-Binche, and the Memorial Franck Vandenbroucke, because every race needs three official names. John Degenkolb and Greg Van Avermaet are among the big names in attendance.
  • Thursday: A doubleheader, as both the French and Italian fall classics calendar toss in a warmup for the big weekend. In France, it's Paris-Bourges, a fairly tame 190km ride south to the city which was not the inspiration for the term "bourgeoisie," or at least not the sole inspiration. Degs will be there too, but should draw some challengers for a sprint, and it isn't guaranteed to end in one anyway. In Italy it's the Coppa Sabatini, a/k/a Gran Premio Citta di Peccioli, a race ending in an uphill fight and thus drawing the short-range climbers. Startlist is pretty shoddy but don't overlook Sonny Colbrelli, at least among the known starters.
  • Friday: The Tour of Beijing begins its death rattle, a mondialisation experiment that didn't work out. Because races in October that happen while all of Europe is asleep don't get big audiences I guess. Anyway, it's still World Tour, though that only gets it to Cat-5 for our purposes. Anyway, the penultimate Mentougou Miaofeng Mountain stage will almost certainly decide the overall (and traverse the Great Wall and look really cool). Dan Martin, Tejay van Garderen, and numerous other stars will be there, but I'm going to just chalk this one up for Carlos Betancur. He's due.
  • Saturday: The most beautiful and endangered race on Earth, the Giro dell'Emilia, closes out the Italian season in style. Very little info on who's there at the moment. Climbers. Oh, and there's a women's edition happening, something to note for FSA DS '15.
  • Sunday: Paris-Tours. I guess most people would consider this the biggest prize remaining, since it's a cat-4, the highest rating of anything left. It's also a fantastic, historic event that favors strong men who can sprint. Updates as the startlist grows. The GP Beghelli is the official end of the Italian season, and though it's inferior to Emilia -- it actually rewards sprinters who can't climb -- it's worth a few ducats regardless.
  • Next Tuesday: What? We're not done? Ah, no, it's the Nationale Sluitingprijs, a Dutch classic with a lot of young talent in attendance. Not likely to change the standings much, but if it comes down to one of your kids picking up a small parcel of points, well... points are points.
  • Theoretically there's an hour record attempt on the calendar but it's not happening this month so you can skip that. Way to make sure the year goes out with a bang, calendar designers!
In trying to determine which riders will decide the championship, it's important to start by crossing off the guys on most or all of the teams. Contador and Kwiatkowski are common threads, as is Ben Swift. It's hard to pick out one rider or three and declare them the most important, because of the variety of races remaining, but an obvious place to start is with Alejandro Valverde, who is riding for second-place OPQ and #5 TiHe, but no others. Iñigo Montoya has Alexander Kristoff, but I don't see his name on any startlists at the moment. Fabio Aru's Astana team pulled itself out of Beijing in temporary disgrace (these things never last). That leaves a lot of guys like Bjorn Leukemans, Tom Van Asbroeck, Simon Gerrans, Romain Bardet, Gilbert, Van Avermaet and even Yahueni Hutarovich in charge of scoring points and settling this score. Too many permutations right now to forecast a winner, but I can say this -- it is a LONG way from over!