I smiled as I clicked the final submit button on my Velogames.com fantasy team, confident that my picks were solid and that I would continue my winning ways. After all, I had been in the top 20 of Giro fantasy and had dominated last’s year’s @Velobeats Tour de France league, placing second overall! I was also pleased to have the ‘unzipped’ jersey icon that I designed represent my band of select warriors (and thank you all who are using it as your icon on Velogames). This was my team dressed in custom pixels. Panache was in the winning break! Or so I thought.
But fantasy cycling, like actual cycling, is a seductive mistress that caresses you one moment and stabs you in the heart the next. It appears she has turned on me with blade in hand at this year’s Tour. A dark cave of suffering and misery has replaced my time in the Velogames limelight. I feel like certain big-budget super teams who look great on paper but have no results. Thus far I have had four riders abandon. With a week to go, I sit 116th out of 128 competitors. The lanterne rouge is within my grasp.
Here is my fantasy team, thoughts on each rider, and their current fantasy status. Warning: this is not pretty.
I watched Cadel at the Dauphine and thought that he was on a perfect trajectory to peak for the Tour. He would limit his losses in the TTs to Bradley Wiggins and he would attack in the mountains to gain time. Upgrades to the BMC roster would fortify the Australian champion in the mountains as well. Cadel, I thought, had learned the winning formula and showed that he could handle the pressure.
Meanwhile, Bradley would falter because he peaked too soon. The weight of the yellow jersey would be too much for him. Sky would be divided between Wiggo and Cav … blah, blah, blah…
Well, I was dead wrong. Brad is on fire and Sky have a focused TT/mountain machine that is grinding souls into oblivion and scoring massive points for others. Wiggins is handling the pressure like he’s on a group ride with a bunch of one-legged nuns. Cadel appears to be the second strongest rider … on his team (next to Tejay Van Garderen – blink and you’ll miss him as he rides past …). Riders like Vincenzo Nibali and Jurgen Van Den Broeck continue to finish in front of him. It also appears that luck has turned a blind eye on Cadel as illustrated by Puncture-gate!
Fantasy status: Only 778 points earned up to stage 14. He has earned me no stage win points. Cadel will be fighting just to make the podium, which may limit any possible bonus fantasy points.
If you didn’t pick the Velvet Samurai™ then you haven’t been watching cycling this season. Multiple wins in California and Switzerland … He’s The Hulk, The Running Man (or Forrest Gump), and a descending demon, all rolled into one. As expected, he is dominating on all types of terrain and is in the clear lead for the green jersey. He has a bright future that could include an Olympic gold medal in a few weeks and/or the rainbow jersey – if not this season, surely in the next few years. You all know why I picked him, because you picked him too. Peter might be the only factor preventing me from becoming the lanterne rouge in the Velobeats league.
Fantasy status: a whopping 1,143 points earned up to stage 14. He has raked in stage win points, green jersey points and will give me bonus points for winning the green jersey.
Last year Samu wore the polka dots on the final podium and this year he wanted to do even better. With Alberto Contador on the sidelines, I believed that Sanchez would be Spain’s shining carrot for the Tour. Surely he would take a stage win and be top ten on mountain-top finishes! He was to be the X factor of the GC contenders. I was torn between selecting Sanchez or Chris Froome. I chose the defending Olympic road race champion – who proceeded to crash during stage eight, fracturing his right hand and injuring his left shoulder, while FroomeDog has been in perfect form. In my head, I see a Holy Grail Knight shaking his head: “You have chosen poorly.”
Fantasy status: a measly 60 points earned until he was forced to abandon.
Other than some upstart named Rein Taaramae, David Moncoutie is the Cofidis team. Known for being aggressive in the mountains and always trying to get in the break, David seemed like a sure thing for a decent price. The 2012 Tour would also likely be his last, so naturally he would want to put on a show! This is France’s greatest sporting spectacle and Cofidis would need David to get camera time and go for stage wins to satisfy sponsors and justify their selection.
But none of this was to be. Alas, Moncoutie crashed on stage 12, suffering heavy contusions to his left side and forcing him, for the first time, to abandon a Grand Tour. Cofidis now find themselves with no star while they deal with the doping-related arrest of Remy Di Gregorio and a struggling Taaramae.
Fantasy status: a dismal 20 points earned until Moncoutie was forced to abandon.
I’ve had my eye on Kittel since last year’s blazing performance at the Tour of Poland. We all know that this kid is fast. I selected him because he was young, healthy and had a team dedicated to getting him to the line first on the flatter sprint stages. Winning the sprints was his sole purpose and if he didn’t win, he would at least be in the top five and earn me some points.
I thought Marcel would have the stomach for victory in his Tour debut but he did not, quite literally. A stomach bug prevented Kittel from eating properly and as the Tour rolled on, he could not stay nourished. He abandoned after stage five.
Fantasy status: one point earned … that’s right.. only one freakin’ point until he was forced to abandon. All I have to say about that is … poop.
I thought Tony Martin would be my ringer. He is the man who could have taken it to Fabian Cancellara in the prologue and put me in the lead on the first day of the Tour! But he could also be decent when the road goes up. Ha ha, I laughed, rubbing my hands together, take that other Velobeat players! Pride comes before a fall, however, and Lady Luck had different plans as she tightened her chastity belt and would not let Martin near her. Everything went wrong for Martin from the start. Before breaking his hand in the first stage, he punctured in the opening prologue, dashing his hope of claiming the yellow jersey [He was never going to beat Fabs, don’t kid yourself, Panache – Kitty.] One puncture is bad enough but then it happened again in the stage nine time trial! Discouraged and needing to mend to keep his Olympic TT hopes alive, Martin abandoned at the start of stage ten.
Fantasy status: a dismal 30 points earned until he was forced to abandon.
Before the beginning of the Tour, Johnny Hoogerland publicly stated that his goal was to get the win the King of the Mountains jersey. After witnessing his panache last year, I had to believe he was sincere. Surely the horrendous crash from last year would inspire him to greatness!
Has anyone seen Johnny Hoogerland? Anybody … (sound of crickets chirping, tumbleweed rolling down the street). Johnny, your lack of activity has thrown my fantasy team into a barbed wire fence! You know how bad that hurts! Help a brother out!
Fantasy status: zero points. Goose egg. Who would have guessed that Johnny Hoogerland would have no fantasy points? None??? The Mayans might have been correct … the world might end this year.
I didn’t expect much from Marcus because I know his role is to protect Cadel, carry bottles, and be a good domestique. He was my last pick because I had four extra Euros to spend and that is how much he costs. I am shocked he has earned me more points than Marcel Kittel and Johnny Hoogerland combined (I can’t believe that) … So, Marcus, chapeau!
Fantasy Status: 23 points.
Mr Roy came into the Tour in some of the best form of his life. This was evident in the French national TT and road races where he nearly won both. Last year he was awarded the most combative rider in the entire Tour! He was in every break trying to make something happen! This year, he helped set up Thibaut Pinot’s victory in stage eight by getting in the break and turning the screws. That is all we have seen of him. Who would have thought that Roy would be playing third wheel to Pinot and Federigo?
Jeremy, where are you? Are you hiding out with Hoogerland?
Fantasy Status: 25 points.
One thing I have learned from this fantasy-turned-nightmare team is, if I can’t pick a winning team from all the cyclists in the peloton, what hell must a team’s management go through trying to build a winning team for the Tour? Unless, of course, you’re David Brailsford…