The battle for the yellow jersey may be fast becoming a one-horse race, but the battle for the prestigious RCUK Fantasy Tour de France is heating up.
With six stages remaining, several budding directeurs sportif will be urging their riders on as they traverse the Pyrenees and head for Paris and the grandstand finish on the Champs-Elysees, where prizes from Chapeau!, Suplest and Juice Lubes are up for grabs.
“58 tooth Tony” lead the way, having amassed 3173 points so far, but with six stages to go there is still plenty to play for if you are not in the running.
Leading the way points wise, unsurprisingly, is yellow jersey Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), whose three stage wins and huge GC lead have seen him amass 638 points, with the two Alpine stages bringing 200 of those.
Green jersey Peter Sagan (Cannondale), a perennial contender on so many stages this year despite not yet recording a stage win, and double stage winner Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), have also been bringing in the points for their bosses too.
Sir Dave Brailsford has reportedly set his targets on nurturing a French Tour de France winner, and those who trusted the home riders have also been suitably rewarded.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr), Romain Bardet and Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r-La Mondiale) have all impressed with strong overall showings, netting more than 200 points each, while Tony Gallopin’s day in yellow and subsequent stage win netted him 185.
It is not just the big-name riders who have shone either – with Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) crashing out, team-mate and Tour debutant Rafal Majka, who costs just €3.5m bagged a stage win and 165 points in total for any shrewd bosses out there.
Greg van Avermaet (BMC Racing, 192 points) and Bryan Coquard (Team Europcar, 188 points) have provided similar value for money too.
Crashes, injuries, illness – the best laid plans and all that. With the two pre-race favourites, Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, Criterium du Dauphine winner Andrew Talansky and sprinting ace Mark Cavendish all among the riders to have crashed out, our budding team bosses have certainly learned about the perils of the sport.
Contador tops the list as most-removed rider in week two, just edging out Richie Porte (Team Sky), whose overall challenge fizzled out in the mountains when, suffering from illness, he tumbled down the GC.
Sprinters, too, have not had it all their own way – Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) failing to add to his three stage wins, achieved in the first four days.
Meanwhile, of the riders still in the race, both Thomas Voeckler (Team Europcar) and David Lopez (Team Sky) cost €7.5m each and have failed to score a single point so far.
Simon Spilak (Katusha), meanwhile, a stage winner at the Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine, has provided little return for his €8.5m price tag – just 11 points to his name so far.
Who to look out for
With the Pyrenees to come, the climbers and GC men still have plenty to play for with podium places and the King of the Mountains classification still very much undecided.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana, €10.0m) is in scintillating form and is likely to feature at the sharp end on the big summit finishes, while Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha, €9.5m) will be fighting to hold the polka dot jersey.
When the crosswinds hit on stage 15, Rodriguez was caught out at the back of the bunch – perhaps happy to ease into the rest day before an assault on the hors categorie Port de Bales ascent.
Other riders to look out for in the Pyrenees include Team Sky duo Mikel Nieve (€3.5m) and Geraint Thomas (€6.5m) who, with the team’s GC ambitions over, will be targeting stage wins.
Meanwhile, with the stage 20 time trial in the offing, world champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quickstep, €6.0m) will be favourite to continue his stunning Tour de France.
With one stage win and some hugely impressive rides on the front already, it will take some doing to stop Martin bagging the fourth Tour stage win of his career.
Finally, a showdown on the Champs-Elysees between the fast men will provide one final chance to rack up the points.
Save your transfers wisely as Marcel Kittel (€9.5m) looks to repeat of his achievement of 12 months ago where he bagged his fourth stage win of the race on the famous avenue.
How is your team faring? Got any good tips of your own? Comment below or let us know in the forum.