In the final part of our three-part series on playing Fantasy Cycling Dan Heaton, Fantasy Cycling admin and top-20 player, looks at the tactics for day-to-day management of your team through the Tour.
One of the key parts of managing your fantasy team throughout a three week long race is being able to plan ahead. There's no point in scoring heavily one day only to drop a hundred points on your nearest rivals the next. It's more than checking ahead to the next stage: good planning involves looking ahead days in advance to make the most out of your transfers.
During a long race like the Tour de France stages will change from flat to mountainous quite quickly. Looking at stages a few days in advance can help to shape not only your transfer policy but also how you think about the potential outcomes.
A difficult mountain stage followed by an another, equally difficult, stage is likely to finish differently to one followed by a rest day. If the main contenders for the overall title know they have a day off then they can risk more; if they have to save some strength for the days to come they may be more defensive allowing others – especially those that aren't a threat on the overall – to take a stage victory.
Likewise, if a race features only limited chances for a sprinter to take a stage win they may work harder on stages less likely to suit them in order to force a result.
Looking at a race as a whole, or at least considering stages two or three days in advance, can give you a big advantage over players simply working day to day.
Every fantasy player only has 150 credits to work with. How you use your cash will differ depending on the riders taking part, the stage profile and the race as a whole but there are some common things to consider in every situation.
One in one out - it's often the case that to get a high value rider into your team you'll need to take one out. When looking at who to drop don't just think about the finish line points, consider jersey points too and whether that rider will feature in the days to come.
Freeing up credits - if you know that you want to bring in an expensive rider for a particular stage you may want to think about moving credits around in advance. Swapping expensive riders for cheaper counterparts a day in advance it may allow you pick up who you want without having to make penalty transfers or too many compromises.
You can't have everyone - no matter how hard you try you can't pick all the riders you want to; that never changes. So, make your picks count and go for the riders who'll get you the highest return. If one rider is likely to finish in the top 5, but is inconsistent, they may not be as good a pick as a rider who should finish in the top 10 and also earn you jersey points.
Perhaps the most important part of managing your meagre credits is making the most of your cheap riders. Many players think of their under 10 credit riders as nothing more than filler but in fact, these riders are often the difference between an average day and a great one. Picking a cheap rider who can score on a single day is great, but picking a rider you can leave in your team for days on end and who could score consistently too is the perfect scenario as it earns you points without costing you transfers.
The riders are valued based on their form over the last 12 months. So riders that are coming back into form after a bad year will be undervalued. For example Andy Schleck, a former Tour de France champion, is currently valued at 9.2 credits after a dismal year that's just starting to pick up again. He may perform at the Tour or he may not; picking the right cheap riders and being able to leave them in your team for most of the race is arguably as important as picking the right expensive riders on any given day.
Every player gets two free transfers per day (four on rest days) to use to alter their team. Extra transfers can be used but cost 10 credits per transfers. Free transfers can be saved up and used to radically alter your team. Unless you're playing premium they expire after a day, though, so don't be tempted to stockpile too many.
Saving transfers is a great strategy when appropriate but with penalty transfers costing only 10 credits saving transfers often isn't worth it at the expense of picking better riders. If you are happy with your team and do not need to change then you should absolutely save those transfers. Being able to make 4 transfers when the terrain changes is a plus, but in effect you're only 20 points ahead of someone who uses two free transfers and two penalty transfers; save transfers wisely.
Penalty transfers are incredibly useful but can also be a double edged sword. If you want to bring in an extra rider then 10 points may seem a small price to pay but don't forget: you may also need to make another penalty transfer to get them out of your team again. Here, again, forward planning helps and judicious use of penalty transfers can reap big rewards. On the flip side, making a handful of penalty transfers and getting it wrong can really hurt. An average score, reduced by 20 or 30 points by penalties, can quickly become a terrible one. Even more so when you need to take further penalties to sort your team out again.
One common strategy is to pick a stage where you want a particular team, the first day in the mountains perhaps or the first of a few flat stages suited to sprinters, and work backwards from that to your current position. How many transfers do you need to make to get the team you want? How can you do that between now and then? How can you manage the transfers whilst still having a strong team for each individual stage? It may be you can save transfers one day and spend them the next or possibly that making one or two penalty transfers helps you achieve the team you want. Either way, having a team in mind, a fixed idea to work towards, can give structure to your transfer dealings.
That's it: knowledge imparted, tips given, time to put my money where my mouth is. I've stared a league for new players to enter (league ID is 77088), come and join in. And feel free to ask questions on the forums (there's a new players thread) and in the comments below, I'll answer them as best I can.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.