With the Grande Partenza of this year’s Giro d’Italia less than 24 hours away, it’s time to finalise your RoadCyclingUK Fantasy Giro d’Italia team.
If you’ve already signed up then you have until 10am on Friday (May 9) to tinker with your team during the transfer amnesty. If you’ve haven’t registered yet, head to fantasycycling.roadcyclinguk.com and select your nine-rider dream team – and read on below for tips on how to develop a race-winning strategy, as well as some of our picks.
We’ve teamed up with Evans Cycles and the winner will ride away on a new Fuji bike, while the second highest scoring directeur sportif will earn six entries to Evans’ series of RideIt sportives, and third place will win a BMC Racing jersey. There are also prizes on offer to the best performing directeur sportif during each week of the Giro.
But who should you pick to lead your team to victory and what’s the best strategy in order to win the maglia rosa?
Developing a race-winning strategy
You have a budget of €60m to select nine riders , who will rack up plenty of points through the race by finishing in the top 20 on a stage, and you must also choose a bonus stage (on which your riders will score double points) and a bonus team (you will score additional points if one of the riders from that team finishes in the top five on a stage).
But unlike the WorldTour teams who will take to the start line in Belfast, you have the benefit of transferring riders throughout the Giro, with eight permitted per week – so a clever tactical game can see you racking up the points and rising to the top of the table.
Don’t fall into the tempting trap of picking the big names straight away – Nairo Quintana is the favourite for overall victory but he is unlikely to start scoring serious points until the mountain stages and he certainly won’t be out-sprinting Marcel Kittel on the relatively flat opening stages.
The very first stage in Belfast is, of course, a team time trial, followed by several flat stages. Pick the sprinters early on and phase them out when the race heads into the hills and the GC contenders take charge.
Remember, your riders score assist points when a team-mate wins a stage, so pick your domestiques carefully. Riders also earn points when moving into the lead in the general classification, King of the Mountains classification and points classifications, and when defending a jersey. Read the rules in full here.
My picks, I hear you ask? Well, here goes.
Bonus stage – stage 20
The bonus stage – which earns your riders double points – can’t be changed once the race starts, so it’s important to get it right. Each stage is rated as either category one or category two – with the former the stages likely to decide the champion of the Giro d’Italia and so worth 50 per cent more points.
So immediately, you should discount all of the category two stages when considering your bonus stage. It leaves us a choice of nine, and I have picked the last of them – stage 20, which finishes atop Monte Zoncolan. Not only is the stage set to be an epic, but I’ll have plenty of chance to assess the riders’ form before picking my team for the stage. Win-win situation – as long as bad weather doesn’t mess up my plan!
Team – Omega Pharma-Quickstep (€5.0m)
Your bonus team will score points whenever any of its riders finish in the top five of a stage. At the higher end of the price scale are the likes of Team Sky, Astana and BMC Racing with the ProContinental squads at the other end. I’ve gone for Omega Pharma-Quickstep. At €5.0m they represent good value, they are world team time trial champions and in Alessandro Petacchi have one of the greatest Giro sprinters of all time so top five finishes (and plenty of points) look like a decent bet.
Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) – €7.0m
Ok, straight away I have broken the rule of not picking GC contenders but there is a good reason – BMC Racing won the TTT at the Giro del Trentino and look in good shape for stage one. With eight transfers available, he will be among the first to be swapped out.
Daniel Oss (BMC Racing) – €4.0m
Oss was the beneficiary of BMC Racing’s TTT win at the Giro del Trentino, as they opted to put the home rider in the leader’s jersey. They have no Irishmen in their ranks, so for €4.0m I’m hoping if they win they will repeat the tactic of letting Oss lead the way.
Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) – €5.5m
Orica-GreenEDGE are strong in the team time trial, and Michael Matthews – a two-time stage winner at last year’s Vuelta will then lead their charge in the sprints. ‘Bing’ will be among the early favourites for stage wins this time out.
Marcel Kittel (Giant-Shimano) – €7.0m
His form may not be quite what it was when he dominated the sprint stages of last year’s Tour de France, but Kittel starts among the favourites for stage two, while team-mate Luka Mezgec is a more-than capable ‘plan B’ – meaning assist points could be won at the very least.
Alessandro Petacchi (Omega Pharma-Quickstep) – €7.0m
Alessandro Petacchi makes my team for two reasons. OPQS are world team time trial champions – and Petacchi earned his first career win in the discipline at Tirreno-Adriatico – and the Italian veteran is one of the Giro’s greatest ever sprinters with 27 stage wins to his name. He may be the oldest rider in the race but he showed at the Schledeprijs, where he finished fourth, he can still compete at the sharp end of a sprint.
Elia Viviani (Cannondale) – €4.5m
One of the in-form sprinters, Elia Viviani enters the Giro on the back of two stages wins at the Tour of Turkey – no mean feat given the form Mark Cavendish was in there. Viviani was a perennial contender at the Giro last time out and Cannondale have big ambitions of racking up stage wins in 2014.
Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) – €5.5m
Tyler Farrar, one of only two Americans in the race, continues to blow hot and cold but with Garmin-Sharp likely to be up there in the TTT and with points on offer to riders in the top 20 on the road stages you would fancy him to be in the running.
Ben Swift (Team Sky) €4.0m
Ben Swift is keen to impress for Team Sky with places in the Tour de France squad still – it would appear – up for grabs. Both Swift and Edvald Boasson Hagen will lead Sky’s bid for sprint victories, but it is the Yorkshireman in the best form – his stage win in the Basque Country proving it.
Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) €6.0m
Nacer Bouhanni has a point to prove, with team-mate Arnaud Demare apparently set to challenge him for sprint leadership at the Tour de France. The young Frenchman has enjoyed success already this season, with a stage win and time in the yellow jersey at Paris-Nice, and five wins in total to his name in 2014.
With eight transfers available per week there’s plenty of scope for change. If BMC Racing are unable to deliver Cadel Evans or Daniel Oss into the pink jersey they will be among my first changes, with Giant-Shimano’s Luka Mezgec looking great value at just €3.0m.
Alongside the sprinters, there are also early points available for any rider launching an assault on the King of the Mountains classification, with points on offer for when a rider earns or defends the jersey (as well as the overall jersey and sprint jersey). A handful of category four climbs are to be negotiated in the early stages, so expect a ProContinental rider like Diego Rosa (Androni) to feature in the break.
Then, when the road heads skyward, I have €9.5m left in the kitty to turn to the big boys like Quintana and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).