The Amstel Gold Race on Sunday is the fifth race in our season-long Fantasy Cycling competition, brought to you in association with Evans Cycles, and the Classics action now switches from Flanders to the Ardennes, with the Flèche Wallonne following on Thursday and Liège–Bastogne–Liège next weekend.
Our resident pundit in the peloton, Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas, is taking a well earned break after his exertions on the cobbles, but he found time to give a couple of pointers about who you might select for the races ahead.
“Obviously the guys who specialise in the cobbled Classics, once those race are done they take a little break,” says Geraint. “So it’s more the GC guys who ride races like the Pays Vasco and the Tour of Catalonia who come to the front now. So people like Alexander Vinokourov and the Schleck brothers and Bert De Waele, that type of rider, will get up there in these next three races.”
One feature of Paris-Roubaix discussed at length in the aftermath of that race was that while Garmin-Cervélo showed their strength in depth on the day, with Thor Hushovd perhaps not needing to make a move on pre-race favourite Cancellara inside the closing kilometres because Van Summeren was away up the road, the Leopard Trek man, by contrast, was isolated from his team mates, as has been the case in several races this year.
Geraint expects, however, that the Luxembourg-based team will come more to the fore in the races ahead.
“They’ve got a lot of good riders for these coming races, people like Jens Voigt and the two Schlecks, so they’ve definitely got a stronger Ardennes team than they did for the cobbled Classics, so you can take Cancellara out of the equation really.”
While the Swiss rider is down to ride on Sunday, he may play more of a supporting role to other team mates, and Geraint’s advice is to look at the riders who have been in form in the recent multi-stage races such as those in Spain when selecting your team.
“In the stage races just gone, guys like Samuel Sanchez have been doing well, so that type of rider who has being riding strongly in those races is well worth watching out for. But if someone’s been riding in the Classics, that’s one hard race per week, so they may need to be struggling a bit now. To do well in the Ardennes Classics I think you need a stage race in you fairly recently.”
Among his own team-mates, Geraint says that he would have singled out Mick Rogers, who moved to Team Sky from HTC-Columbia at the end of last season, but the Australian has been ill and doesn’t feature in the squad.
However, the British Pro Team still has plenty of options, insists Geraint. “Obviously Simon Gerrans has the class to get up there, although he’s had some problems with crashes and illness. Rigoberto Uran” – who misses Amstel Gold, but races in the other two – “he’s been going well, and these are good races for Steve Cummings too – if his head’s in the right place and he races off the front, he’s definitely strong enough to get a result.”
Tom Boonen’s win in Gent-Wevelgem apart, the four races so far in our Fantasy Cycling season have all been won by riders from outside those who might be considered the main contenders – although, of course, if you’d picked Fabian Cancellara for the three races he’s competed in, you’d be well in the points, with the Leopard Trek man getting a podium place each time.
That’s not to say that the riders who have won those other three races are rank outsiders, mind. Matt Goss was in cracking form this season even before winning Milan-San Remo, although whether that would be enough to convince you to choose him for your sprinter’s place ahead of say Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar or Thor Hushovd is debatable.
Again in Flanders, it’s unlikely you might have plumped for winner Nick Nuyens ahead of some of the other big guns in the All Rounders category, the likes of Cancellara, Boonen and Alessandro Ballan all vying for your credits.
However, Paris-Roubaix victor Johan Van Summeren epitomises the kind of domestique we’ve been hinting that you pick from the outset – a glance back at the top ten in the race shows top ten finishes in two out of the past three seasons. Course and distance is, as ever, a great guide to how a rider might do this time round.
Okay, you would have been ill-advised to head down to the bookies to put your mortgage on him winning, but that certainly suggested that for spending a few credits, you could be on for a decent return in terms of Fantasy Cycling points – and you know what points make.
Don’t forget that with wholesale changes to team rosters ahead of the forthcoming trio of races, you’re allowed six transfers ahead of Sunday’s race, followed by four for each of the two following events. You don’t have to plan any further ahead than that; ahead of next month’s Giro d’Italia, you’ll be allowed to change your entire line-up, should you so wish.
The trio of one-day races will also see the culmination of our first mini-competition of the season, to see who will be crowned King (or Queen!) of the Classics and win a £100 voucher from Evans Cycles.
Dr Brock’s eponymous outfit is currently leading with 207 points, one ahead of chieflordy’s team, Pablo’s Peddlars, but a decent outside pick or two could see anyone shoot up the leaderboard, and there’s also a £20 voucher for the highest individual score in each race.
There’s also an added incentive to take part in the game, with all teams registered prior to the start of the Giro d’Italia in three weeks’ time eligible to enter the draw for a once-in-a-lifetime prize of a day at the final stage of that race in Milan with the Garmin-Cervélo team.
And if you entered late, don’t worry – there’s a consistency prize too, of £600 in vouchers, for the person with the highest average score from their best 45 stages of the season, and of course there are some fantastic bikes on offer in the standalone competitions for each of the three Grand Tours.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.