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Essentials of picking your Women's FSA DS team

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Whereas many cycling fans will be comfortable enough with their vast knowledge of cycling to simply dive in and pick a team of 25 for our men's version of the FSA DS competition some might feel that they don't know enough to pick a women's team. This should in no way hinder you, here are some helpful hints and pointers to get you on your way. You can trust my advice, I've played for years and never even came close to winning!

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

What are the basics?

As you may or may not know the game is played on our FSA DS site where you can sign up if you haven't already and start picking your team. The rules are laid out in detail there as are all the race categories and the calendar of races. Basically you need to pick a team of 15 riders using a 150 point budget. Marianne Vos will cost you more points than Kaat van der Meulen because Vos wins everything and van der Meulen does not. So far it's all logical. There is also a limit on how much you can spend on the most expensive riders just to force you to get more creative and look beyond the biggest stars, but the FSA DS site will keep you honest there and tell you all about it. You don't need to spend all your 150 points but you do need 15 riders so don't try and just pick 5 Swedes thinking that's all anyone will ever need to conquer the world, you need some fillers too.

Your team needs to be completed and submitted by midnight CET the day before Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (23:59 CET Feb 26)

What do I need to know about the calendar of races?

Our race calendar covers most of the races on the UCI calendar and you can see the full list here. This year the core of the calendar it the new Women's World Tour. These are some of the most prestigious races and these are also in the higher categories and have the most points on offer. Here you find some of the biggest classics (that used to comprise the old women's World Cup) and also the major stage races like the Giro and the Aviva Women's Tour.

Outside the World Tour the biggest points on offer are at the World Championships and of course the Rio Olympics. It's hard to overstate the importance of Olympics to women's cycling, everything has traditionally circled around the four year Olympic cycle and it is the target for many riders. In other words it is something you need to take into account, especially since quite a few riders have targets on the track and in MTB which means they may spend less time and focus on scoring you points in roadraces during the year. There are some high cost riders who could really underperform (FSA DS wise) due to this if you're unlucky.

Just generally when it comes to the high point stageraces these aren't as much for specialists as the men's stageraces are. Many of them are more comparable to the Eneco Tour or Tour of Poland than the GTs or say Criterium du Dauphine in that allrounders and even more sprinty types have decent chances to score points. There is much less climbing overall for better and worse. It means a whole lot more riders are competitive in the year but it also means the "real" specialist GC riders have fewer scoring opportunities. In men's racing terms, you might be way better off with Greg van Avermaet than Chris Froome in many of the stageraces too. Well, not quite but almost.

Beyond the stageraces you'll find quite a lot of Belgian/Dutch oneday races on the calendar. Not all cobbles stuff but lots of flat, windy hard racing where the rouleurs and sprinters can do their stuff. Climbers have less points to find, thanks to the Qatar Worlds Giro d'Emilia is getting a spot on the calendar and there are races like Fleche Wallonne and GP Plouay  but in general life as a climber is tougher in the women's FSA DS. More Lady Sep, less Lady J-Rod is what I'm saying. If only the men's calendar would be more like that.

So who do I pick?

Well I'm not going to go through the whole list of riders for you, that's your research to make and more essentially your horrendous mistakes to make. I have my own problems. But I will say this, if you are aiming to win it pays to think a little extra about those top priced riders and get the right one(s). To Vos or not to Vos used to be the big question but it isn't necessarily so. Armitstead and van der Breggen could be every bit as effective as Vos in a year like this (climby Olympics!) and no one knows which Vos to expect back from a year of injury. Being a sneaky fox she hasn't done any early racing before Omloop either to give us some indication. Emma Johansson on the other hand is probably the most dependable scoring machine in FSA DS next to Marianne and she is even a bit discounted this year as she is on a crowded team and in her final racing season.  The Qatar Worlds is also an interesting twist. This may be a better year than ever to go for some good sprinters. There is Wild the pure power sprinter, Queen of Qatar to boot and then there is last yeas biggest improver Jolien D'Hoore who is tempting but expensive and risky as she has a lot of track commitments this year. Maybe it's better to wait to have her next year? Or she is even better this year than she was 2015? There are a bunch of potentially huge midprice sprinter too in Olds, Hosking, Lepistö, Bronzini, Guarischi and ever improving young Coryn Rivera. Any of those could be pure gold.

Odds are that there is some rider in the 2-6 point range that is going to make a massive jump and will be on 8 out 10 of the top teams. My suggestion is to pick that girl, I'm pretty sure I already have. And I'm pretty sure I'm not telling who it is.

For those who want to do a bit of research and find some favorites to pick the best places to start for pure data are CQRanking and ProCyclingstats. CQ have been paying more serious attention to the women for longer and have the more complete data I think but PCS is slowly catching up and do have a fancier presentation. Newswise the best places to start are probably Ella/Cyclingtips and our own Sarah's site prowomenscycling.com. Most likely you will find a lot of friendly suggestions in the comment section below here too if you just ask. And unlike the advice you get for the men's FSA DS which is almost 100% trickery and sandbagging this will be almost entirely trustworthy.

Have fun playing and happy hunting!