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How Sweet It Is: The 2021 FSA Directeur Sportif Competition STARTS NOW!

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Here’s to better times. And... better prices??

93rd UCI Road World Championships 2020 - Men Elite Road Race
AAAAHHHHHHHH!!!
Photo by Tim de Waele/Getty Images

It used to be that this post was a seminal moment in the cycling season. That you guys would all be waiting patiently for the FSA Directeur Sportif to start. Just minding your own business and not looking for trouble. Now, of course, many of you have been hitting refresh on the game website for days if not weeks, and have already deduced that the system is ready to accept your teams. But hey, I’ve been late to my own party before and I’m not ashamed. Anyway, for the rest of you, here goes:

THE FSA DIRECTEUR SPORTIF COMPETITION FOR 2021 IS OPEN!

Are you ready to get started? It’s simple and forever free of charge! There are two basic steps:

  1. Be a member of the Podium Cafe; and
  2. Head on over to the FSA Directeur Sportif game site and get started!

More signup details below, including some important FAQs, but for 95% of you it’s a snap!

Team SD Worx 2021 - Training Camp
Anna van der Breggen and her Team SD Worx friends get ready for 2021
Photo by Luc Claessen/Getty Images

This Year’s Game

We should have known something odd was brewing last year when we set our deadline (based on the road calendar) and landed on February 29. This proved to be not merely auspicious but GTFO-level auspicious, and of course 2020 proceeded to be the strangest year in my (now rather long) lifetime. Even focusing solely on the cycling world — stick to sports Chris! — it was a year in which races were staged virtually from the living rooms of professional cyclists well into early summer. And then cycling returned, jamming about three quarters of a season into half the usual time... occasionally teetering on disaster but never quite keeling over. COVID scrambled things, and no part of the year was quite the same, but in the end I had nothing but gratitude for the efforts of so many people — riders, team staff, organizers and governing bodies — who made it possible to have a season at all.

But never mind all that, what matters is how the strange times we live in impact the FSA DS. And in 2020 surely they impacted it quite a bit. We were promised a year in which the young kids kept storming the barricades set up by veteran riders around all of the sport’s most coveted prizes, and we most definitely got that. Which kids, exactly, got all the more unpredictable, and if you had João Almeida as the third-highest-scoring GC rider, ahead of Carapaz, Bernal, Froome, Nibali and the rest of the usual GC suspects, well, you probably had a pretty good season. Some of the time-honored scoring strategies got completely turned on their heads, however. The Giro d’Italia got so tightly sandwiched between the Tour de France and Vuelta a España that it couldn’t be effectively parlayed with one of the other grand tours into the traditional two-bites-at-the-apple approach. The classics also found themselves largely butting heads with one grand tour or another, further isolating the cobbles guys (especially) from other point-scoring chances. Maybe it wasn’t all that different, but it wasn’t the same either.

This year feels primed to be the season we thought we were getting last year, edited slightly to include a year of aging and adding several dozen more talented lads on the men’s side. Youth will continue to be the dominant theme, and hitting on young riders — who might not be listed as cheaply as you expected — will matter a whole lot. On the women’s side, the sport is still in the hands of Dutch superstars, but for how much longer? And for both genders, the Olympics are on course to happen this year, from July 24-28, which means everything else — including the Tour de France — is moved up to allow the top riders to go to Tokyo. Olympic races are treated like worlds races, Category 2 with 350 points to the winner, so they are not to be overlooked. As we were a year ago, it’s time to start checking in on who is rearranging their season to go for gold in Japan: on the road or (gasp!) in another inferior discipline.

Long story short, this is looking like an absolute blockbuster season in the works. Yes, COVID continues to cancel some races, but for now it looks like we will only lose a few winter events that either didn’t mean much to the FSA DS or didn’t make the calendar at all. No offense to the Vuelta al Comunitat Valenciana, which is lovely enough, but winter races aren’t terribly important. Fingers crossed for all the other races, but given the fact that so many of them happened in 2020, there is some reason to be confident we will see them in 2021.

107th Tour de France 2020 - Stage 20
Rigo Uran rocking Vision Metrons and FSA bars
Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images

Meet Our Sponsors: FSA and VISION

This marks season number eleven where I am proud to open this competition in conjunction with our most excellent sponsor, FSA. Known formally as Full Speed Ahead, and in tandem with its partner brand VISION, FSA is one of the few real leaders in cycling componentry. To wit:

  • FSA is the main line of world class Road and MTB components. They proudly welcomed the K-Force WE full electronic drivetrain to the lineup in 2018 and moved steadily up the ranks in 2019 with WE’s first World Tour victory on stage 5 of the Vuelta a Espana, courtesy of BH Burgos rider Angel Madrazo. Burgos-BH continue to ride WE as do other athletes in the top ranks. And FSA is gaining a big a presence in the top levels of mountain biking, where they will be all over the World Cup and Olympics this year.
  • Vision focuses mainly on road and triathlon with components engineered for aerodynamics and speed. My bike is covered in Vision parts, particularly the Metron wheels that have made more than a few Tour de France appearances and have been used in the professional ranks since 2013. You can see Rigoberto Uran rocking the same Metrons that my friends here in Seattle have been putting out for several years. Trust me, they are very fast, even when I’m the person they are conveying.

These guys know cycling from all angles. Based in Italy, Taiwan and Mukilteo, Washington, their reach stretches across the globe. How far? Enough so that some or all of their cockpit parts, cranks, wheels and/or drive train will be powering the bikes of EF Education-Nippo, Bahrain-Victory, Jumbo-Visma, Team BikeExchange, Burgos-BH, Cofidis and many more. They’ve won all over the world, on the road and in the dirt. This year’s FSA Directeur Sportif winners will receive a prize from the company, typically one or more of their top-line products or clothing.

The Early Deadline!

Can we just note up front that the deadline is February 20 at 11:59pm, CET? This is a week earlier than most years, and it has to do with including the UAE Tour. We did this two years ago. But then last year I talked Ursula out of including the UAE Tour, because some part of my brain was anticipating a global pandemic that would... naw, it was dumb luck, based more on the fact that the race doesn’t always sport the best lineup. But now it’s the opening round of the World Tour, not the TDU, and if for once we can fit in the entire slate of WT events into our calendar, I guess we should do so. Please plan ahead and talk to me if you have any problems.

UAE Tour 2019 - Stage Six Photo by Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The Rules!

OK, enough preamble. Here is what you need to know, in case you didn’t read the last ten versions of this post. The full set of rules are here, but I’ll highlight the biggies.

  • You cannot play without first registering at the Podium Cafe! That’s our one requirement. This helps assure that there is one team per person in each of the men’s and women’s competitions— nobody can have multiple teams in one competition. This also helps to assure that you’re part of the community for whom we do all this stuff, free of charge. Are you lurking here? That’s cool, but you need to click on the Sign Up button in the upper right corner of this page, and create an actual Cafe login, first. Once you have set up your login, which is very fast and also completely free, you can then start at the Game Site.
  • As you can see, the game site is a separate entity. Go there to make your team, come back here to chat about it.
  • Basic structure for the Men’s game: you have up to 150 points to spend and you must compile a roster of 25 riders. You can only have one rider who costs 24 points or more, and only a total of three at or over 18 points (including the guy who costs 24+). Until your team meets all of these requirements, any attempt to submit it will be rejected.
  • Basic structure for the Women’s game, which is quite different than the men’s game: 150 point budget to spend on 15 riders, and you can spend up to 100 points on riders valued at 20 points or higher. And yes, these are known as the Vos Rules.
  • Our comprehensive list of available riders in both the men’s and women’s games are all of the riders we think will be of interest. But that means we subtract some riders who haven’t scored in a while. And while we do our best to add up-and-comers, there are too many for us to nail 100%. So if you want someone who you don’t see listed, contact us ASAP and we will add them as one-point options. [Please limit this to riders who you are at least possibly interested in picking. No obligation to buy! But we aren’t striving to list everyone with a license.]
  • Having both a men’s team and a women’s team will also make you eligible for the Combined Rankings, another possible feather in your cap! Winner of the combined ranking is eligible for prizes!
  • Team-building: you have nearly three weeks to mess around, swap riders in and out of your lineup, and so forth. Until you hit “submit” — and you will know when you have done so because a prompt will ask you if you’re sure — then your team is still open to changing. Some people go with their gut and submit today (like, before I can even finish this post). Others tinker right up to the deadline. Both are valid ways to make a team that loses to mine. But at some point you have to hit submit. Remember... if the team fits, you must hit submit.
  • Or just make a random team! That was a thing we created a couple years back. OK, Superted, our Game Designer and Chief Executioner, came up with it. When you go to the page where you can start hiring riders, with “My Team 2019” at the top of the page, you will see a line under “Roster” which has a link to create a random team. You can play around with that all you want, and it won’t actually become your team unless and until you submit it. But try that before you start carefully building your team, if you don’t want your half-baked roster to disappear.
  • Once the UAE Tour begins, there are no in-season adjustments, no game-day decisions. Just submit your roster and follow them. This is pretty much how cycling works: everyone is riding a race somewhere for most of the season. There are no injury lists and no trades; you just ask the fittest person on your roster to try and win.
  • The DEADLINE is Saturday, February 20 at 11:59pm, Central European Time (CET). That’s 11pm Saturday the UK. In the US, that’s also known as 6pm Eastern time, and 3pm Pacific. Teams submitted after that point will not be accepted. [We switched to 11:59pm from the usual midnight and its inherent date confusion.]

If you have some sort of problem, please try the comments for a quick response or email me (fsadirecteursportif[at]gmail[dawt]com) and I’ll help you out as soon as I can. We also posted a Troubleshooters’ Guide a few years ago which may be of some use. The game site works pretty simply so the solution probably lies therein. We have the capability to “unsubmit” teams but consider that a late, if not last, resort. This is a very busy time of year. But rest assured, we want to help everyone play if possible.

And by everyone, I mean once. The one-per-customer is the key to the game’s integrity. We ask that you all respect the letter and the spirit of this rule. We have some policing capability, and may be emailing you if there’s a possible issue, but that’s pretty rare. On the spirit side, I get that families play — my kids have had teams of their own. Just as I don’t do their homework, I don’t fill out their rosters. In that spirit, we are happy to have your whole family play!

And most of all, take advantage of the features that make it extra fun! Once you have submitted, you can create your own small group where your team page will track a list of other submitted teams you want to pit yourself again. I know at the FSA offices up in Mukilteo, they use this feature to track how all the people in the company playing the game are doing. As you can imagine, that makes for some very fun chatter. Be it family, company, friends or whatever, make your group! It can even be people who don’t know you or agree to it — only you can see your group. But ideally it’s something where you and others are all grouping together and each making that group. You can play around with this feature all season long.

Also, there are Draft Teams. For more than a decade the Editors have been running an Editors’ League, although at this point I don’t have the strength to talk about it anymore. But there are lots of others doing a draft league and I know they’re having a blast. Basically, a draft league tosses out the rider point-costs and team budgets, and lets you select riders for your team, like various sports drafts, whereby that rider is only on your team and unavailable to your competition. The Game Site does NOT have this capability per se. You can use our rider list and our points scoring system in your game, but you have to figure out a way to actually set up the teams — Google Spreadsheets has some functionality there. Others of you may have ideas. And if you are anxious to do this but are stuck on how, contact us and we can help. But here too you aren’t under any deadline pressure unless you establish one.

Whew... that’s all I have. Let’s get started!