Hey, you had fun, didn’t you? In the beginning at least?
Yes, the season is over and we are deep into the process of looking back and trying to understand what happened. We had some outstanding individual performances, capped by Remco Evenepoel (selected by voters) and Annemiek van Vleuten (vote unnecessary) as our top performing riders of the year. We could get into a debate about which teams were superior in 2022 (it was Jumbo men and Trek women).
Or we could begin three months of gnashing our teeth over our FSA Directeur Sportif teams.
Yes, let’s do that. But first... let’s congratulate the
godverdo... the noble winners of the 2022 FSA DS! As we sometimes discussed along the way, it was a fascinating competition, with the usual twists and turns among the top riders and our share of shocking improvements and disappointments. It’s a time to reflect not just on what the top teams did but on your own results and strategies. Let’s dive in!
Well before getting to the top teams, let’s just say that our year-long pricing conversation, which I defended until I couldn’t, has officially blown up in my face. The Men’s competition was more or less dominated by teams who selected Tadej Pogačar, thanks to his last-month blitz that separated him from the pack and made his 30-point price a bit too cheap. That won’t be happening again.
But if you look at the winners... well, let’s introduce them.
In first place is Effort Curseur 99, helmed by Elpedacyclo, who rose from the bottom to the top in just three years of playing the FSA DS. Elpeda won by some 900 points, a pretty solid win after two years of close competition. Effort Curseur 99 rose on the backs of not just Pogačar but fully 11 riders scoring in excess of 1000 points, seven of which were single-digit cost pickups. That’s a lot of value! Not sure if it’s entirely apples-to-apples but his final score of 27,700 is the greatest season in FSA DS history!
[Actually all of the top six teams beat the previous scoring record. Just one of those years.]
Second place went to Greylock and Team BoPenYang, also boasting 11 1000+ scorers, six of whom were single-digit priced. Greylock has been well above average for several seasons but this is their first rise to the uppermost echelon. Third went to JoshJackson20 and team Pole to win, with ten 1000+ scorers, seven of whom were nabbed on the cheap. JoshJackson20 has put up a couple strong seasons of late, including top 100 last year. With the former NBA lottery pick’s hoops career on hold, he had time to level up from there to the podium this year, an excellent use of the spare time!
Now the big reveal... The top 8 teams all had Pogs, Arnaud De Lie, and either Alexander Kristoff or Mads Pedersen, or both. That was the winning formula this year... along with any number of other bargains available. And this was a banner year for bargains, unlike any other than 2020, which wasn’t a normal year by any measure. Fully six of the top 20 and 10 of the top 30 riders were single-digit-priced, including one-pointers De Lie at sixth overall and Juan Ayuso at 18th. One-pointers rarely show up on page one of the final standings and the slew of low-priced riders shows that one or more of the following things happened:
- A lot of riders were unexpectedly excellent thanks to an accelerated development curve; or
- Ursula handed off the pricing decisions to a poorly-prepared noob who missed out on some otherwise obvious underpricings; or
- No, it probably just had to do with sudden development.
Anyway, let’s not quibble over who underpriced who. Let’s just enjoy the unpredictable nature of having me in charge of pricing.
The overall victory went to Citius, altius, fortius, pulcrius, helmed by Salaliittoteoria, a multi-year player who finally found the pathway to glory, thanks to a deep team that included ten riders scoring in excess of 700 points, a couple key bargains, and lots of riders exceeding their 2021 totals — the definition of good value.
Second place went to MacGuyver’s Angels, headed by Googol, who has been hanging around the top half of the competition for years and previously was as high as 38th overall. The Angels fell 447 points short of victory, a somewhat decisive spread compared to recent nailbiters. In third, another 142 points back, was Is this even worth the grief? by Mattattackx, last year’s overall winner who also has a fourth place to his (I think) name, thereby answering his question in the affirmative.
The most common threat was Lorena Wiebes, who led all of the top eight scoring teams, frequently in combination with Elisa Balsamo. Annemiek van Vleuten, the #1 scoring rider, wasn’t on any of the top seven squads, although she was on the 8th placed team, Monkey Saddle Sore Collective, along with both Wiebes and Balsamo, yet somehow seven other teams climbed over them.
Another key rider was Silvia Persico, who at two points cost was by far the year’s best value acquisition, scoring 2,340 points. She was on ten teams, including mine, and probably nine other people who watched the Cyclocross World Championships where she ground out a place on the podium and in (some of) our hearts. The lesson, as always: watch cyclocross. Anyway, from her gritty performance in Fayetteville, Persico made a meteoric leap to prominence on the road, where she had previously bided her time working for others (scoring 170 points last year). She won a Vuelta stage and the points comp, plus two smaller Italian one-day events, while also taking ten podium places, including third overall in the Elsy Jacobs race and road Worlds, plus fifth overall at the Tour de France Femmes and seventh at the Giro Donne. She is the first two-point rider to place in the top ten overall since Lisa Brennauer in 2013.
Chapeau to DS Manuel8, whose teams KabindaPower and Couldn’t Think of a Good Name finished third and ninth, respectively, to clinch first overall in the combined competition! Manuel8 rode Pogs, De Lie, Lotte Kopecky and Cecile Uttrup Ludwig to this one-off (non podiumed) category. Nice job, and a fine response to last year’s near miss in second place. Manuel8 defeated former winner Crooked Rain, among others (cough!).
I guess I am a glutton for punishment in reporting that Team Drewd took our PdC Old Folks draft league, thanks in large part to the Kristoffaissance that nobody saw coming (Drewd nabbed the Norwegian in round 3), along with shrewd selections like Dani Martinez in the 7th, Fabio Jakobsen in round 1, and Magnus Sheffield in the last round (#12 in our draft comp). He defeated former winner Majope by just north of 200 points, as well as Clydesdale (one of the conceptual founding fathers of the FSA DS), with your humble scribe locked in mediocrity (6th of 22).
Well, at the risk of repeating myself, I tried and almost got somewhere with a tactic that I’ve used a lot, not taking the top guy in the hopes that I can get two riders from the upper echelon and still have a few bucks left over for later to make up the difference, and more. I built a team around Vingegaard, Evenepoel and Vlasov, costing 18, 24 and 16 points, a sort of committee approach. And it almost worked... except it didn’t. I finished outside the top 100, even though Vingegaard and Evenepoel were two of the year’s biggest stars and all three blew past their 2021 points.
The problem was first that Pogačar was underpriced considering he won the scoring crown by 1000 points. But my other problem was that I didn’t have enough of the massive bargains. I did have Ayuso, but missing on De Lie was a game-ender, and hitting on Kristoff, Pello Bilbao or Sergio Higuita would have made up some ground too. So while the non-Pogs strategy was defensible given how well Evenepoel ended up doing, it still required one to nail lots of bargain picks to even sniff the top rung of this year’s competition.
Get Ready for 2023!
Ah well, hope springs eternal in about four months. Thanks to everyone who made this year’s competition possible, including our sponsors Full Speed Ahead a/k/a FSA, makers of so many fine components and wheels that you see on TV all season long. Click on the link to shop for holiday ideas for the serious cyclist in your holiday circle! Thanks greatly to SuperTed, without whom we literally could not do any of this. Thanks to Jens, UMWolverine, and Ursula for keying in results, giving advice on pricing, and helping prepare the inputs for SuperTed’s work. It’s a team effort behind the scenes, for sure! Oh and thanks to the folks who spent a bunch of time tinkering with race ratings. I think it made the competition a little more accurate, and though I lost steam with that effort late in summer (kid off to college, very little rest), I will look forward to more help next season.