After a wonderful-busy 6 weeks of road cycling, we’ve got space to pause, before the Spring Classics start with a bang on 27th February. It’s a good time to look back on the racing we’ve had so far… and to plan your Virtual Directeur Sportif team for the season!
If you’ve never played DS or other fantasy cycling games, there are a lot of them about, and two particularly good ones for the women’s road racing, at Podium Café (FSA VDS) (including a game for the men’s side too) and Chicabike. I’ll tell you more about them below, but I want to take a moment to sing the praises of playing them in general.
If you’ve followed the sport for a long time, they’re the perfect opportunity to show off your skills. We’ve all been armchair tacticians, and have views on who’d be the best rider for which race, and this gives you a chance to prove it! Or not, and then sob all season as your favourite rider makes mistake after mistake…
But if you’re not already a die-hard women’s cycling fan, they’re a fantastic way to get to know the sport. You don’t have to have a team you can spend hours over – some people pick their FSA VDS team purely on nationality, all the Aussies, or all the Canadians, eg, and one team that did especially well one year was all riders whose names began with E (with Emma Johansson and Evie Stevens, that was fantastic!). There’s always a huge helping of luck involved, too. Years ago I played a Tour de France game, and as well as my own lovingly-picked team, ran a “Team Random” that was auto-generated by the site, and it was depressing how well that did – and the person who picked the “wrong Feillu” by accident ended up winning a TdF game stage!
It’s just a fun way to think about the riders, and especially with more live women’s cycling being shown than ever this season, and the Olympics coming up, it gives a way in to the sport, cheering for your riders in the race. And there will always, always be someone who does worse than you in the game, and hundreds of players, so you don’t need to worry about people laughing and pointing.
I love the FSA VDS game – you start with 150 points to “spend” on a squad of exactly 15 riders, which means you can’t have Marianne Vos and Anna van der Breggen and Lizzie Armitstead and Emma Johansson, eg, and it’s always fun trying to decide whether you have a big points rider, and lots of lower-ranked ones, or spread around the middle. Your riders then score points (or not) in the races according to the race rankings – it’s simple! Our friend Jens is the man you can curse for setting the prices, and there’s a huge set of conversations about men’s and women’s teams you can join in, in the lead up to the competition deadline of 27th February.
Update! Here’s a Podium Café article about picking your women’s team.
The Chicabike game is based on CQ Ranking points, and you pick a team of exactly 15 riders, within a 6,000 point budget and you have 2 opportunities during the season to swap up to 3 riders in/out of the squad, which they’ll email you to remind you about. So, for example, I might have Jolien D’hoore in my squad initially, for the Spring Classics, but swap her once they’re, as I know she’ll be focusing on Olympic track after that – or if a rider gets injured, or someone else is having a fantastic season, you have more options. Only your top 8 riders in each race score points, so you don’t need to worry too much about all riders being good. Their deadline is 26th February.
Both games are free to play, so if you’re agonising over a strategy (eg “To Vos, or not to Vos”) you can run a team in each, and see which one works better.
I can’t recommend these games enough – they’re so much fun, and even if you end up picking your 1-pointers just because you vaguely think you might have heard her name before, you’ll learn tons about the sport. And in Podium Café game, you can set up mini-leagues, so you can challenge your friends.
They’re free, and they’re something to think about until the racing starts, so what are you waiting for? If you want to chat about tactics, or have no idea which of the 4-pointers to choose, or don’t really understand how they work, you can always ask me, in the comments or on twitter, and I’ll do my best to help, with caveats that my teams are usually terrible, all heart-over-head! And if you want to share other games, let me know too, and I’ll edit them in.