As we are coming up on the one-week anniversary of this year's FSA Directeur Sportif Competition getting underway, it's time to ask that question we all face at this juncture: do you hate your team yet?
This is why everybody hates math -- small, misleading, but very exciting sample sizes. [That and the lack of pictures. Math is far more interesting when you are called on to, say, calculate the number of cobblestones on the Koppenberg.] So far we have our first data, and what data it is. Two -- nay, three -- cobblestone classics! Races in Italy and France which, maybe you can't see them but the mystery makes the FSA DS points you score there all the more delicious. And if you don't? The system sucks. Or you do. There are only two possible answers.
Me, I am a tad anxious about my team, and maybe I speak for a category of players who all feel the same way. Why? Because we decided there was better value or more fun or both in stacking our roster with climbers, none of whom have had a meaningful opportunity to score points and whose primary objectives are later, possibly much later, in the year. Do I have any guys active now? Sure: Alexander Kristoff and Niccolo Bonifazio, to name two, one of which is the captain of my team. Kristoff is on 75 teams, so he's not the bargain or mystery he was a year ago, when he led me to my first top-50% finish in a few years. But despite being pipped Sunday, he's scoring points early and often, so all systems are a go. Bonifazio is a four-pointer but also no secret -- he's on 76 teams. I guess I can change my team's name to Captains of Obvious or something.
Kristoff represents one category of riders to be watched carefully right now: expensive guys who need spring points to justify their cost. A couple more from that category include the Etixx boys -- practically all of them, in fact. That Tom Boonen and Niki Terpstra notched some scoring placements is fine. That Fabian Cancellara has not is also fine, and likely to be rectified very soon. Ditto for Peter Sagan. In fact, others you shouldn't worry about anytime soon include Sep Vanmarcke, Zdenek Stybar, Philippe Gilbert, and practically all of the cobbles masters. It is simply too soon to fret. [Greg Van Avermaet is the rider most at risk, but not for performance reasons.] Only Boonen would get shit for underperforming on the first weekend, and all things considered he was good enough.
Still, while you may not be able to go negative on the big boys so early, there are a few riders who have shown a high likelihood of paying their bills. Ian Stannard's value was tied to the high-wire act of opening weekend success... and he did it. Stijn Vandenbergh, at 10 points, was equally tied to picking up points in smaller classics where he can ride in support and not get swamped before the finish. He's up to 200 so far, nearly a third of his 2014 total. Not bad at all, unless you think his opportunities are about to dry up. Which they may.
Bonifazio is one sprinter who, as a cheapie, looks great in all those points, but he's only about the fifth-best bargain so far. Fabio Felline (2 pts) leads the way for the bargain bin guys, racking up 225 points and more than tripling his 2014 total. Bonifazio has 150 points for his trouble, but so do Samuel Dumoulin (4 pts), Kris Boeckmans (2) and Eduardo Sepulveda (1). Francesco Gavazzi (2 pts) is up to 125, and one-pointers Julien Loubet, Christophe LaPorte, Luke Rowe, Kevin Reza, Tiesj Benoot and Rasmus Guldhammer have all scored 80 or more points, essentially paying their season-long freight in one fell swoop.
That, my friends, is the list of riders who you may be hating yourself for ignoring. Some of you have excuses -- you're new to cycling, you're not Vlaanderen90 (our in-house expert on every rider under 22), or you panicked on someone else. Some of you may even have thematic teams that steered you away from considering these guys. My brother, for example, went back to his old all-Flemish team design, and says that if anyone on his squad scores a point after Paris-Roubaix, he will be very disappointed. That isn't a problem right now... the Lions of Flanders lie 8th overall. He also probably won't be disappointed after Paris-Roubaix. I guess there's a lot to be said for living your life like Peter Van Petegem, if you can pull it off.
OK, we are heading into a VERY busy FSA DS season. By next Wednesday we will have no less than three stage races in progress, two of which (Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico) are worth a lot of points. Two weeks from now you'll look back at your disappointment from the opening weekend with a laugh, either because it's been washed away by waves of new scoring, or because you've sunk to a level of despair that makes your current troubles pale in comparison. Either way... that's your FSA DS experience in a
Who ya got coming up in PN and TA?