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Thursday Thoughts: Q&A with Ursula

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Chatting with the man who is ruining your February

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Around this time last year, I sat down with Skip, AKA Ursula, AKA the bad man who sets prices for the men’s FSA-DS competition to talk about his process, and what he had in store for us. With the window for submitting your 2019 teams now half-completed (sign up and play now!) I put on my asbestos suit and entered his fiery realm to ask questions. Between swigs of virgin’s blood, here’s what he had to say for himself.

Who has a trophy, a smile and Ursula’s approval? Enric!
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Andrew: I heard something I never thought I’d hear last week. You described Chris and Jens’ reaction to an early draft of your price list as “kind”. I don’t believe you’re mellowing and assume there’s a dastardly plan afoot. When we chatted last year you talked about making the cheap riders cheaper and trying to push people out of their comfort zone. What’s the plan for 2019? Kindness? Surely not!

Ursula: When I read Chris and Jens describing the this years price structure as kind I got violently sick. ;) Seriously though I hadn’t expected that but after a bit of thought I could see why they at least initially thought that. The restricted riders are cheaper than last year and the cheap riders are Filene’s Basement sale where people are stripping down in the aisles to try on lingerie cheap. But I hope that the more they spent time with the price structure they realized that its…not so nice.

What I said last year about taking people out of their comfort zone…I really leaned into that this year. Yes, the cheap riders, 6 points and lower, are as cheap as I have ever priced them. Then it slowly gets more and more expensive through the medium priced riders and into the expensive restricted riders. Those really expensive riders are also cheaper this year-somewhat. Definitely they are cheaper than last year but last year’s restricted rider prices were over the top expensive.

My guess is that very few restricted riders will get picked this year, even fewer than last year in spite of being less expensive because its pretty clear that the value is with the cheap riders: riders that do not have a great track record at scoring big points. And because people are picking more cheap riders than before they have to go beyond the couple of riders who they feel most sure about and gamble on young riders they aren’t so sure about or former expensive guys down on their luck.

I like people going out on a limb. It warms my cold cold soul.

Andrew: There might be an echo chamber effect among the regular posters, but I’m hearing lots of common choices among the readers looking for guys in the lowest price ranges. Given how many great candidates there are, that surprised me slightly. Without ruining the game too much, what are you seeing so far in the bargain bucket picks, and is it what you’d expect?

Ursula: It’s to be expected that when going into the bargain basement people will gravitate towards the name brands, the riders on the World Tour teams. There’s not much I can do about that. Also it makes sense that the talk is about the cheap riders since posters are looking at them closer than they did before. But remember last year when there was a lot of talk about Clement Venturini? How did he turn out? What posters and all players are looking for is young riders on the verge of a breakout season (and there’s only a couple of those every year) or older riders who had a bad season last year and will bounce back magically. Looking at you Marcel Kittel. How’s your leadout train this year?

Kittel’s winning already, Ursula.
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What I liked about last year was the best teams had a larger spread of riders than in year’s past. There was no one rider that the top teams had to have. Remember years when everyone who was a contender had to have Peter Sagan? That’s not gonna happen this year, guaranteed. That’s not to say that Sagan won’t be on the winning team but I’ll bet that few players will pick him this year.

Andrew: I’m going to borrow a question from last year and ask you what Ursula the VDS-player thinks about Ursula the price setter. Last year you scored a little under 14k and finished mid-pack, in 349th. Enric Mas came through for you, Esteban Chaves not so much. What are you thinking about for 2019? How easy are you finding it to come up with a team?

Ursula: OH GOD I HATE URSULA THE PRICE SETTER! Bloody %$*^$%^$%^%$ HELL!!!

Okay that’s out of my system (until I get back to working on my team). But last year I gambled a bit more and got nailed for it. You know I am in the tank for Mas. But who the hell gets toxoplasmosis?

This year? I’m trying to find enough cheap riders who will return 300PPP like every other shmoe out there. It’s freaking difficult. Oh damn…getting pissed off again….ask me about something else! Brexit or anything that will calm me down!

Andrew: Yeah, I’m not going to talk about Brexit, but let’s move on. I have hinted at this in the general chat previously, and will write more about it when I go through my team after the deadline, but I found this year harder than ever to make a case for any of the most expensive guys. I know that will delight you. Do you think this will be an easier or harder year for most players?

Ursula: Yeah talking an expensive rider is harder than every to justify. Overall this year is harder in the sense that players will have to examine some chaos riders that they never really looked at before. But hopefully that’s a fun exercise- at least until the first weekend is over and you’ve scored zero points.

The most expensive man in the competition - but is he value?
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Andrew: Final question - last year we kicked around the 20k point score, and we thought it’d be broken. The winner came in at 20,497, sneaking over the line. With most riders even cheaper, this year, I’m setting the over-under at 21.5k. Which side of the bet do you want?

Ursula: Ov…no under. I think. You’re a good bookie Andrew! My first thought was, yeah: over cause the cheap riders are so cheap. But regardless of how cheap they are there are only a few that are gonna score big meaning that a bunch of riders will score like 100-150PPP and more than a few will be duds. Like always. So EVERYTHING will have to break right to break 21.5K.

Andrew: Some of you might have read this and thought “he’s not so bad, this Ursula. Sure, the prices he sets make spring a psychological nightmare, and I know I’ll be cursing him, and myself, for months, but he’s basically a pretty righteous dude.” Don’t think like that. This is all a ruse and you mustn’t buy it for a second. Ursula is pure evil.