First off, a process note: This is the individual post. Next up is the teams review (overnight) and then a wrap. It was a fine season but why, well, I haven't figured it all out yet. OK, let's dive in.
This column lists a few notable Cobbled Classics performances in the context of our beloved FSA Directeur Sportif, the world's awesomest year-long fantasy game. Criteria are who made a difference in the competition. [And note, it is limited to the classics, not other stuff happening this spring. Sorry Ben Swift.] Which means, who did more or less than what was expected of them when you ponied up your precious points in assembling your team. A guy who had a good classics campaign, in line with past campaigns, probably doesn't warrant a mention here, because scoring par with your picks will neither win you nor cost you a shot at the Ultimate Prize. This is all about expectations, and what Ursula made you pay for them.
Riders Who Made You Winners
Niki Terpstra. The wins speak for themselves, but so too do 1220 points for a guy who cost 14, and who needed to score in the spring to justify the expense. Fifty-five of you did, including Tenbosse, who sits atop the standings right now. Remember, when Servais Knaven stole away for his epic Paris-Roubaix success in
2002 2001, the last Dutchman to do so, it vaulted Mr Van P past Ursula for the Wang Computers Directeur Sportif title. The parallels are spooky.
Jempy Drucker. One of the one-point wonders, Drucker has tripled his output from last year already, and though 300 points isn't going to win any championships, he's primed for more. Drucker earns points in BeNeLux, and better still, being a Luxembourger means he's got a real shot at a national title before it's over, assuming he holds his form. Wanty should be players all season long in the Lowlands and other northern locales, like Norway.
One more for the list is Arnaud Demare, the top performing French rider in the cobbles. Demare amassed 370 points on the cobbles, which isn't a ton, particularly for a guy you paid 16 smackers for. But that's 300 more than last year, which means that you've got some house money to play with as he turns toward the other things he does well. It's also a hopeful sign that he could be more of a player in future years. He's a medium-sized guy, so not an obvious cobbles hope, but he hails from Flemish France or close to, and Oscar Freire wasn't exactly a draught horse himself.
Riders Who Made You Big Winners
I'll start with one of my guys, Sep Vanmarcke. Obviously his whole season is in the spring, and anyone spending ten points on him was gambling on results like we just saw. A points haul of 1175 so far is already enough.
Next up, Jon Degenkolb. At 771 he's well behind Sep, and he cost 18, but 615 points from the classics is all gravy, given what's left on his plate for the season (a lot). Degenkolb's exuberance is a breath of fresh air, since I don't have to race against him. As for those who do, the prospect of yet another even faster sprinter making it over terrible terrain with the lead pack is unspeakably horrible. Can we start calling Giant-Shimano the official Team of the Netherlands?
Then the list of one-point wonders: Tom Van Asbroeck (495) and Guillaume Van Kiersbulck (415). Both riders have chances to extend their surprise awesomeness racing at home, or even abroad in Van Kiersbulck's case. The World Tour calendar is long, and OPQS have a lot of races to throw warm bodies at, now that their season is functionally over. Mini-Boo might even sneak in a few TT points, particularly if he can get a start in a grand tour with a prologue.
Riders Who Made You Losers
I'll go with Fabian Cancellara here. He's having a lovely season, but not much better than Sep's, and at more than three times the cost. Where does he make up the difference? Hm, well, anywhere he chooses, I suppose. Except I didn't see a dominant Cancellara toying with opponents like a cat. I see a guy who races with great intelligence, but has zero effective support, and isn't going to beat Tony Martin much. The Swiss Bear needed to match his Classics performance of last year to justify his cost... and do some other stuff too. He's awesome, but I can all but guarantee right now that you paid too much for him.
Next up: Tom Boonen. Everyone thought he was the bargain of the century when he started out hot and threatened to out-perform his 18-point cost by a factor of... more than one. But his season is practically over now, with maybe a few hundred points left to harvest in the summer classics. Boonen is well past the phase of his career where he can spend the year chasing after other goals, regardless of cost. He's a national treasure, to be sparingly deployed from the end of Paris-Roubaix to the start of the Tour of Qatar. His only goals are to win more monuments, and race enough otherwise to support his next stab at a monument. Oh, and maybe win Nats. That's it.
Taylor Phinney: It's official -- you overpaid for the guy. Now, don't hear what I didn't say. He was excellent yesterday, and one flat from scoring some real points (not to mention making American fans very happy). Remember, this is a column about our fantasy game, not reality. But at 14 points you were buying high, thinking that he would do something here, maybe even something big. Last year's lack of cobbles points may give you an argument as to why it was still an OK pick. But you're lying.
Lars Boom: Not much to add, injuries happen. But Boom's owners can console themselves knowing that he may yet score par. He didn't do much in the spring last year, and he's always a candidate for Nats titles. Plus a stonking ENECO Tour. He'll come alive for one minor stage race, he always does.
Riders Who Made You Big Losers
Peter Sagan: The problem isn't merely that he didn't win in the classics; it's that he staked a lot of his season on upping his performance here. Now a presumably tired Sagan has to regroup and make a big push in the grand tour sprints. Which he will, but 40 points worth? Not a chance. My prediction for Sagan is that he has a down year -- everyone has one. And that it ends in a World Championship, because that's usually how that goes too. Oh, and I bet he puts together at least one more season where he is worth 40 points. But that's an extra gear, or extra good fortune, or a combination of both. That sort of thing is hard if not impossible to predict. Maybe you can develop a sixth sense about such things, like after a year of especially bad luck. If so, I could use some investment advice.
Zdenek Stybar: Seemed to be lacking that little something extra, and now he's got ENECO and a bunch of teamwork left on his programme. No way does he justify the 16 points, no matter how good he makes you feel about yourself for associating with him. [Though, it has to be said, he does make you look pretty cool.]
Sylvain Chavanel: Like several others on this list, he's hardly done scoring for the year. But that was an unmitigated disaster. Not what you needed if you ponied up 20 clams for the guy.
Heinrich Haussler: It's not like you weren't warned. Haussler didn't get hot again, as with most seasons aside from 2009 and to a lesser degree the last two years. Seriously, what were you thinking?
Other To Note
Tyler Farrar: Last year he had only scored points at the Scheldeprijs by now. With most of his point-scoring season left to go, and Farrar looking stronger than he has before, he will continue paying unexpected dividends (knock on wood).
Greg Van Avermaet: Obviously Flanders was a great performance by him, and if he wins Brabantse Pijl this week, his owners will be pleased. But at 22 points he couldn't afford to at least match his 2013 output, and in fact he fell 150 points shy of his massive spring of last year. All hope is not lost, however -- he did bubkis in Lombardia last year, a performance he can easily improve, and the Ponferrada worlds course might be another opportunity he doesn't miss. The guy races and scores points all season long.
Andre Greipel: On the plus side, you weren't counting on much from him in the spring. Not sure when he comes back though.
Bradley Wiggins: Holy Crap! [Only 125 points but still...]