February is an important month for the cycling fan, with the end of the cylocross season, the start of the Classics… and the launch of all the Virtual Directeur Sportif games. I’ve written about my love for DS games before, so before I tell you about the 2017 versions of the Podium Café FSA DS game, and ChicaBike, this is why I love them so much:
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!
DS Games are such an excellent way to get to know more about riders’ skills – even if you don’t know that much when you choose your team, you’ll definitely learn. And with so much live women’s racing being shown and streamed in 2017, you can cheer them on in real time. And most importantly… 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.
So, how do you play?
Podium Café is this lovely community full of awesome bike fans, and one of the things they do is run the FSA DS game. There’s a women’s and a men’s version, and you pick your team at the start of the season, and for better or for worse keep the same squad all year. I love this one so much, even though I’m terrible at it (when I play, I tend to be top of the table for the Classics, but then crumble, having forgotten about stage races, and how many sprinty races there are in the season…).
The full rules are here, but in a nutshell: you start with 150 points, and out of that, have to pick 15 riders, and as your riders do well throughout the year, you earn points. The pricing is run by the amazing Jens, and so is evil – you can’t afford, for example, Lizzie Deignan, Anna van der Breggen and Marianne Vos in your squad, as you can only spend 100 points on the top riders. There are decisions to make around whether to go for a few stars and the rest 1-and-2-point riders, or whether you focus on the mid-price range. It’s so much fun – but as I said, you can also pick based on nationality, or completely random factors.
You can also set up sub-leagues, so you can see how you’re doing against friends, foes, people from your club etc etc. It’s lots and lots of fun, and you can start now and faff around with your team right up to the last minute.
The deadline is midnight on 23rd February, and there’s an article about this year’s game on Podium Café. They’re super-friendly over there, so ask any questions in the comments, or hit them up on twitter.
The Chicabike game is different, as you have three opportunities during the season to swap riders, and only the top 8 riders in each race score points, so you’re just aiming at the very top.
It’s based on CQ Ranking points, and you pick a team of exactly 15 riders, within a 6,000 point budget. There are three transfer windows, where you can swap up to 3 riders in/out of the squad, which they’ll email you to remind you about. So, for example, I might pick riders for the Spring Classics, and then swap three of them for sprinters, as the stage racing picks up – or if one of my riders is injured, or having a bad year, or I have a feeling about a rider having a great year, I can put her into the team. The rules are here, and you can play with your team right up to their deadline of 24th 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. They’re tons of fun, and even if you’re new to the sport, and pick riders based on something like “I think I’ve heard of her…” you’ll learn a lot more about your riders by the end of the season.
Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted I talked about three games in the title, and the final one is offline, a card game. I really like this one:
Pro Cycling Trumps are based on the British card game Top Trumps, which has been around since the 1960s. There are tons of themed versions, and you challenge your opponents on a specific aspect of the it. So in cycling terms, each rider card has different scores for the riders’ skills (have a look at the cards here), and you might pick “sprint” as the category, and if your card has a higher sprint score than your rivals’, you win that round.
It’s really simple to play, and a lot of fun – and the design of the cards is very, very cute. Check out the whole range of the Pro Cycling Trumps games, from men’s racing, track, climbs, to of course the women’s games – they have an edition featuring the 2016 women’s peloton, and the 2015 riders – there’ll be a 2017 version out later, too, and you can also buy things like personalised prints of you (or a friend!) and you and your bike, and a print of the famous cycling climbs.
The games are all under £10, and they’ll ship them all over the world for you. I’ve got a pack, and I love them – and it’s been really sweet, seeing kids getting riders to sign their cards for them at races, too. Ask them any questions on their twitter, they’re very friendly too.
Learning more about women’s cycling, or proving that you’re already a genius at the sport, AND having fun? What more can you want? Sign up to the DS games, buy the cards, and tell me in the comments, or on twitter how you get on with them!