I haven't spoken up enough lately about the FSA DS, in part because you guys do such a thorough job of keeping the conversation alive. But with the Tour de France behind us, here are a few thoughts on how the season has gone.
Scoring is down?
Or maybe parity is up? The top teams are hovering around 9000 for the season-to-date, a drastic reduction from last year's totals when the top teams were near or above 17,000. What's up with that? Rider scoring isn't drastically off from 2014. (The cumulative total was 148,000; it's at 103,000 now.) Sure, there's nobody about to catch Alejandro Valverde, who rang up 3,956 points last year, but there are three riders over 2,000 with another 2-3 sure to join them. That's not radically different from the next few slots last year, where Contador got over 2600 and Kristoff over 2300. This time around Kristoff leads with 2245.
Another explanation would be too much fool's gold, in the form of riders everyone picked who haven't done much, but I'm not seeing the evidence there either. Top pick Bob Jungels is doing about what he was expected to do (by Ursula). Alberto Contador was probably not such a great investment, ending his season about 750 points short of last year, and Valverde is looking like he'll be well below his excellent tally last year, with only 2180 points to date. But among the top 25 (in price) the following riders are likely to improve on 2014: Sagan, Kristoff, Froome, Quintana, Van Avermaet (maybe), J-Rod, Terpstra, Aru and maybe Cav. Not bad, right?
Er, yeah, except that others in the top 25 have been tremendous disappointments. Marcel Kittel leads the way with a more than 90% drop in production. [Actually Simon Gerrans is down 95%, but Gerro is not as steady a producer as the world's top sprinter.] Among the riders losing more than 50 percent of their value are Michal Kwiatkowski, Philippe Gilbert (OK 49.9%), Vincenzo Nibali, Sep Vanmarcke, Tom Dumoulin, Arnaud Demare, Fabian Cancellara, Dan Martin, Tony Martin and Rafal Majka. Those are huge dropoffs, and my sense is that's where a lot of the deflation comes from.
So what exactly does this mean? Simply that the spoils have been spread around a bit more evenly than the rankings anticipated. Among those racking up points at an elite pace are Edward Theuns, Julian Alaphilippe, Mikel Landa, Kris Boeckmans, and Simon Spilak (!) -- something like the normal rate of surprise risers. Why so many top riders dropped off is probably something like the usual attrition with riders on down years or getting hurt. In other words, things are like they always are, and yet scores are down. So it's really just about you people sucking at your picks this year.
[Or Ursula cruelly inflating the price scale. Probably that. In fact, let's call it that.]
The FSA DS Is Not Won On the Alpe
Want to know how many teams in the top ten had at least one rider who finished on the podium of the Tour de France? One. And that was Nairo. The top-ranked team possessing one Christopher Froome is 13th-placed VR46. Only three of the top 40 picked him. Why is this so rare? Froome has already surpassed his 2014 totals and is contemplating a point-bonanza at the Vuelta. Ditto for Quintana, who cost two points less and is a shade behind Froome for the season. Only four teams ranked in the top 40 have Don Nairo on hand. Same for Valverde, who has shed some value but is still racking up points.
This suggests that teams aren't winning with expensive riders. Or not these ones anyway. Kristoff is on 15 of the top 40 teams, and Contador is on another 11. Peter Sagan is on another five teams. Kristoff, Contador and Sagan all scored lots of points and raced the Tour de France. They also represent, with Valverde, the top four scorers for the season. The only conclusion you can draw is an important one -- FSA DS teams are not taking contenders for the maillot jaune. Just as in real life, maillot jaune contenders tend to be a bit circumscribed in their approach to point-scoring, focusing mostly on the one big goal to the detriment of lots of others, while guys who do the Giro/Vuelta double or the Classics have the potential to score more often. Or that's the thinking at least.
The reality is that you can't really categorize people this way. Contador was terrific last year doing the Tour (and crashing out), then the Vuelta. Valverde padded his overall great numbers at the Vuelta too, following a Tour performance of some note. Overall winner Nibali was down for the year, but Nibali is a hard guy to gauge in many respects. Dominant Tour winners like Froome will rack up other wins along the way; and the Contador types will keep racing til their account is full. Quintana's second act remains to be seen.
Which brings up my question -- should the Tour still be scored equally with the other two grand tours? I'm sticking with yes for now, but it's an ongoing debate, and frankly we don't need to have one system for all time.
Lots of guys, so allow me to mention a few.
- Thibaut Pinot. Wait, what? Yep, bu virtue of his consistent high(ish) finishes in places like Tirreno-Adriatico, Criterium International, Romandie and the Tour de Suisse, Pinot has very quietly exceeded his point total from a year ago, when he gloriously climbed atop the podium at the Tour de France and got everyone feeling a little tingly once again. Nobody has felt all that tingly about Pinot this year, unless they were watching closely. The Tour was mostly a bummer unless you count "winning on Alpe d'Huez" as a big deal (hint: we do). The point? Padding your legacy and padding your FSA DS point total are apparently not the same thing. [See also Uran, Rigoberto.]
- The Comeback Kids. Did you write off some talented but frustrating riders from years past? [And by frustrating, I mean how it's frustrating that bad shit keeps happening to them, possibly through no fault of their own.] Well, maybe it's time to get reacquainted with Robert Gesink, Simon Spilak, Roman Kreuziger, Ryder Hesjedal, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Yuri Trofimov, Ben Hermans, Pierrick Fedrigo, Daniel Oss, Linus Gerdemann and, yes, Rasmus Guldhammer. I suppose you could add Richie Porte to that list if you only look at older guys who scored a lot more this year, but he's really only changing fortunes, not performances. Anyway, all of these guys represented good-to-great points value this year, to the surprise of many.
- The Incredible Bargains. If you wanted to win this year, you needed to score big with lower-priced guys. So if in fact you are winning, chances are you have one or more of these guys on your roster. Special kudos to our one-point heroes, Tiesj Benoot (670 pts), Marko Haller (380), Edward Sepulveda (345), and Gerdemann (310). Benoot is our board-wide leader in efficiency.
- Speaking of efficiency, the projected efficiency leaders ended up as total duds, proving once more that past is less than prologue. It's more like the recon of the prologue course done in street clothes. [Projected efficiency took last year's score and divided it by this year's cost.] OK, projected efficiency leader Cyril Lemoine returned 100 points for the one spent, which is fine. But the rest of the list produced five donuts (zero points scored) and two more -- Mick Rogers and Paul Voss -- who might just as well have been donuts.
What's Up With FSA and Vision?
Oh, our game's sponsor has had a reasonably interesting month. Granted, a year ago their cockpit was getting champagne spilled on it by overall winner Vincenzo Nibali, but the Tour marked an outstanding collective performance by FSA/Vision-sponsored teams Tinkoff-Saxo, Astana, Etixx-Quick Step, Cannondale, Lampre, Cofidis, Bora-Argon and Lotto NL-Jumbo teams on products such as the K-Force Light BB386EVO crankset and cockpit and seatpost gear, as well as Vision bars and wheels. Here are the numbers:
- 6 stage wins: T-Mart, Cav, Stybar, Majka, Plaza and Nibali
- 15 podiums (2nd, 3rd), 9 stage finishes in the top 5
- Tony Martin (Etixx) held the Yellow (GC) jersey for 4 days
- Sagan held the young Riders Jersey for 7 days
- Sagan won the Points Jersey handily after holding it for 13 days
- Three riders in the final GC top ten (Nibali, Contador, Gesink, #s 4-6).
Probably the top day was Plaza's win ahead of a chiagrined Sagan, or maybe Martin taking a stage and yellow. The succession of Etixx wins and attention was good for business, if not collarbones. Oh, and they won the rest day with the appearance of a new FSA electronic groupset currently under development:
Not a bad month...
So Who Is Going to Win?
Someone new and probably unexpected! [I think.] The current leader is Crazy D's Flahutes, and they've had a fantastic season. But I wonder what they've got left up their sleeve. It's a classics-heavy squad with no real prospects of a Vuelta cash-cow. On the plus side, neither do any of the top six teams, at least as conventional favoritism goes (i.e. Aru, Froome, Quintana, Landa, and Valverde as picks to win). Only when you get to #7, Briones Bombers, do you find a team with one of those names... and actually two of them, Q and Landa. So they rate as probably the biggest threat to Crazy D's hopes and dreams, with much left to be decided.
In the Editors' League, our draft competition, you will all be very heartened to know that Ursula, a/k/a History's Greatest Monster, is in first place but hanging by a fraying thread. He's had a nice little run behind wonderboy Edward Theuns and Greg Van Avermaet, and I suppose he isn't totally dead if Mollema shows up and does something (which he's currently not slated to do) or Pozzovivo goes crazy in Spain. But he already faces intense pressure from Sui Juris, 120 points back and improbably sporting Kristoff and Froome on his roster (translation: most of the editors are idiots). Though I do recall Sui saying something about "quitting the FSA DS if any of my riders are caught doping," and he currently lists Tom Danielson as one of his charges. So there's that. Drewd and Elvisgoat aren't too far behind, and I can hope for the hail Mary from Majka, Aru, Gesink, Ulissi, and LuLu Sanchez completely swamping the Vuelta GC.
Oh, and one more note. I know I said I was only doing five things but I can't resist...
Just a few names on the non-scoring list for the year.
Jelle Vanendert, Theo Bos, Frank Schleck, Matteo Rabottini, Daniel Navarro, Kenny De Haes, Laurens ten Dam, Chris Horner (about to change?), Romain Sicard, Gert Steegmans, Mark Renshaw, Adam Blythe, Vincent Jerome, Christophe Riblon, Sylvester Szmyd, Fumiyuki Beppu, Jani Brajkovic, Jacopo Guarnieri, Reinhard Janse van Rensberg, Stefano Pirazzi, Chris Fontecchio, Bernie Eisel, Cam Meyer, Arnold Jeanneson, JJ Cobo, Yoann Offredo, Matt Goss, Yaroslav Popovych, Tom Veelers, Wout Van Aert*, William Bonnet, Jerome Pineau, Eros Capecchi, and Alessandro Ballan. Yes, I know about that last one, and there are probably a handful of names in here of guys suffering terrible injuries and not to be mocked. In fact, probably none of these guys deserve to be mocked. But that's what fantasy sports is all about: a sense of entitlement so out of whack that we can sit at our desks and mock people who have ridden 15,000 miles this year. Hard.