Carrying on (slowly) with the season-ending festivities, now we move to the sweetest (and also most bitter) moment of the Podium Cafe year: recognizing the winners of the FSA Directeur Sportif! And to assess some of the interesting elements of this year’s competition as well. I have asked the podium finishers to stop by in comments and share their secrets with us. It’s their moment to bask in your glow.
It feels like I often start this discussion with a look at how close the competition was, and could we really have it get any closer? Well, I guess until we get a one-point victory the answer will continue to be yes. This year, draisienne1000selle, helmed by Chabinho, defeated Zaidex by José Madureira Pinto by a mere 152 points, with Champagne Masi’s Blues in the Bottle a further 303 points back. [The all time record is a Fignonian 9-point spread from the 2012 women’s comp, if you’re curious.]
Not only are the numbers close between the top two, the teams themselves have a great deal of overlapping rider choices, with the biggest difference being draisienne’s choice of both Yates Bros over Arnaud De Lie and Carlos Rodriguez. The fateful day that arguably decided the entire season was October 7, when the Yates Boys finished fifth and sixth for Chabinho, ahead of Zaidex’s Rodriguez in seventh, a 250-point net gain that accounts for the final spread. Blues closed hard with Marc Hirschi and Remco Evenepoel having strong finishes, and earned a very respectable third place with a hard-charging peloton of other FSA DS teams nipping at their heels. Your Men’s Competition Final Top Ten:
- Chabinho, Draisienne100selle, 25,082 points
- zaidex, zaidex by josé madureira pinto, 24,930
- champagne masi, Blues in the Bottle, 24,623
- bouhanniRacing, Quelqu’un a les trimestres de Thibaut Pinot?, 24,344
- JM21, Sport Club Sem Rodinhas, 24,261
- Stefan King, Van Daert Evenepoel, 24,065
- AnthoADR, Daghe Cycling Club, 23,905
- Celestn, ”””24 and under - Celestin”””, 23,699
- Jule, Mamie Nova, 23,663
- PvdV, Pietje Pelle op zijn Gazelle, 23,555
None of this year’s podium showed up near the top in 2022, so congrats on leveling up! And a shout out to Jule, whose Mamie Nova is making a second straight top-ten, and PvdV, who has Pietje Pelle in the top ten for the second time in three years.
Big congrats to Rob Nicolai and Flyindustman for the most dominant victory in FSA DS history! Their 19,100 points fell just short of the all time points record, set in 2012, but the 1,759- point difference between the top two is far beyond the usual results here, which always come down to mere hundreds of points, if that.
Ultimately, it came down to getting huge returns on all of their expensive hires — Kopecky, Labous, Persico, Lippert and even van Anrooij, with all but Persico improving on the performances that got them priced so high to begin with. mpw5’s Rainy Day Women (great name) rode Kopecky, Niewiadoma and Labous to a strong second, just ahead of Sastre08’s Imanoleta squad, and a charging pack all bound together. Check out the top ten after flyindustman:
- Rob Nicolai, flyindustman, 19,100 points
- mpw5, Rainy Day Women, 17,341
- sastre08, Imanoleta, 17,292
- andytheciderman, Roast Dinner Appreciation Society, 17,174
- johnnysteeler, I haven’t got a clue, 16,902
- ovesty, Lotta and the rest, 16,641
- Moncassin31, Pédale!, 16,635
- dave.49, Dave’s Team, 16,203
- iiturriotz, Iiturriotz taldea, 16,137
- stubob, Kool n the Gang, 16,103
This is Rob Nicolai’s second top ten in three years, and same for ovesty and iituriotz, who were there or thereabouts in 2021.
More good news for mpw5, who finished a highly respectable 16th in the men’s comp to win the Combined title! Nothing too historic about their finish, but a total of 18 points (adding the placement in both comps) is right in there with a typical winning total.
- mpw5, ♀2. Rainy Day Women, 17,341; ♂16.Waiting for Gaudu, 21,841
- PvdV, ♀30. Pietje Pelle op zijn Gazelle, 14,826; ♂3.Pietje Pelle op zijn Gazelle, 23,555
- andytheciderman, ♀4. Roast Dinner Appreciation Society, 17,174; ♂36.Roast Dinner Appreciation Society, 20,759
Bargain Riders of the Year
Wondering what drove these teams to victory? Finding value that... well, sometimes lots of people saw, in which case you had to have these riders just to keep up. But real greatness is in discovering hidden gems. Here are a few cases for this year’s top values.
On the men’s side, Ben Healy gets my vote for best bargain, a two-pointer coming in who generated 1671 points, topped only on a per-point-spent rate by Felix Gall, the #1 one-pointer who bagged 1131 points. At the top end of the scale, 18-point bargain Primož Roglič rode his steady stream of marginal gains to a 3685-point season, less than 800 off full-priced Tadej Pogačar and barely 200 short of second-placed Remco Evenepoel, who at 42 and 34 points paid off reasonably enough, but not like the ski jumper.
On the women’s side, nobody can top 1-pointer Cédrine Kerbaol’s per-point-spent haul of 1005, but there were other terrific bargains higher up the chain, such as Christina Schweinberger’s 2004-point haul as a six-pointer, and Gaia Realini’s four-point cost for delivering 1697 points paid out. And of course there is little debate at the top end, where 52-point Demi Vollering cleared the impossibly high bar set for her with a 5282 point total... but that was a mere 900 better than her teammate Lotte Kopecky’s brilliant season, where you could have spent thirty points to haul in her 4386-point total.
In our Men’s World Rankings, UAE Emirates surprised Jumbo Visma, nothwithstanding the latter’s grand tour treble, by taking the team competition by 1250 points. Belgium and France finished off the front of the country comp, in that order.
In our Women’s World Rankings, SDWorx was every bit as dominant as you remember, nearly doubling up second place Canyon SRAM. The Netherlands took the country title, though not without a challenge from Italy.
OK, your turn! How did your team work out? What strategic flourishes or failures would you like to share? What other trends struck you as interesting this year?
And how soon will you be ready to make your 2024 team? [Correct answer is “right now” even though functionally it will be more like February 1.]
Thank you all for playing again this year! And thanks as always to our excellent sponsor, Full Speed Ahead (FSA), makers of so many of the key components to the year’s great victories. Remember how much faster Jonas Vingegaard’s bike was at the Tour de France time trial? Yeah, they built that cockpit (below). Their wheels remain everywhere, under the FSA and Vision brands. And I’m just talking road; their Gravel and MTB offerings are just as noteworthy at the highest levels of the sport.