It is that time of year again, we are geared up for the Grand Depart and the Tour de France is ready to begin. The greatest show on two wheels begins its journey with stage 1 in Brest, ending 20 stages later up the Champs-Élysées into Paris. The rider will work there way throughout the unforgiving mountains of the Alps and the Pyrenees trying to hold on and win the 2021 additional of this historic race. For the fans it is a spectacle of sporting excellence and for the winner a shot at immortality.
Part of the fun of Le Tour is watching riders play the chess match that is a 21 day stage race. Watching the climbers jostling for position in a crowded peloton. Admiring the sprinters on the flat stages reaching ridiculous speeds one day and then watching them hold on up into the mountains. Seeing many a rider form a breakaway, and then watching them slowly reeled in by the favourites, like a predator stalking its prey. This race is the one of the most unique experiences to behold.
Too much fun?
Now I know what you are saying… Tom how could this possibly get anymore exciting. Well, I have some excellent news for you, and that is through the majesty of fantasy sports. The Tour de France has a fantasy sports platform, sponsored by Tissot and here is how it works. The riders are split into 4 categories, Leaders, Sprinters, Climbers and All Rounders. The Leaders are the ones most likely to win overall, the Climbers get their points in the mountains, The All Rounders are utility riders working for breakaway points and the Sprinters take the flats by storm.
It is important to get the balance right, take too many of any category and you severely affect your chances to be solid throughout the race. The important part of any fantasy team is to play to each persons strengths and to hide their weaknesses. My team has been set up and will remain how the same throughout the race, to see how good my initial guesses are. The only things that will change are my leader on the day (more on that later) and replacements if riders are injured and retire from the race.
So, you ask, which team will win me the gold, sit back and settle in, we have some things to discuss.
The teams entering the Tour de France are made up of 8 riders, I like to run my team how a real manager would run theirs. You will therefore notice I have a Leader, two All Rounders, two Climbers and three Sprinters. As advertised you will notice that one of the riders has a stage winner bonus on him, this is the equivalent of a captain and means his points double if he wins.
With all this in mind, lets explore who I picked, why and give you a reason why you should take them too.
Leader – Julian Alaphilippe
There is not much more that can be said about LouLou that has not already been said. He animates the race every time he enters it and at 29 years old he is getting close to his peak. The current World Champion will be wearing the famous rainbow again in this edition of the Tour de France which means cameras will be following him everywhere. He adores the spotlight but my reason for picking him as my leader is he is pure competitor. No one fights like Alaphilippe and he will chase wins even if he has a chance to win the overall race. The man does not know the meaning of subtly and this is the reason he can lead you to a fantasy victory.
All Rounder 1 – Marc Hirschi
There is a reason Marc Hirschi won the 2020 Tour de France Combativity award. Hirschi wants to ride from the front whenever he can and enjoys taking the race by the horns a chasing victories. With each passing year, Hirschi gets higher in the estimation of the great sport of cycling, however in a team with reigning and defending Champion Tadej Pogacar expect Hirschi to be chasing stages. This plays into your hands in fantasy, if he is there to protect his leader, then he will likely finish near the top of the pile on occasions, and if he there for a solo outing, then watch, because Marc Hirschi is about!
My faith in the man from Switzerland is unwavering and betting him into the top 10 just makes sense.
All Rounder 2 – Greg Van Avermaet
The only person who loves fighting it out more than Marc Hirschi is probably Greg Van Avermaet. The current Olympic Champion from Rio 2016 will adorn the golden helmet again. This it seems more recently has become a target, with teams paying more attention to him than ever before. In previous years, GVA has loved a breakaway and I think this year we will see him return to the old ways. Having not won a stage race since 2016 at the Tour de France, he will be itching to get back to the top of the podium. Expect to see him sweeping up regular points during the breakaway groups.
Climber 1 – Chris Froome
Right, so the teams are picked on stars, you have 120 stars to spend on racers, with the most expensive coming in at a massive 22 stars. Chris Froome costs 9 stars! Let me put that into perspective Chris Froome has won 7 Grand Tours, 4 of which were this very race, and for 3 years he won each addition of the Tour de France. Let that just sink for a moment, Christopher Clive Froome is worth 9 stars. In most fantasy settings, there are cheaper players you throw money at to complete the team of superstars, Froome is that person for many this year. If he has a team supporting him, he is a serious threat, if however he is allowed to free roam, the man can go toe to toe with anyone up a mountain and he can absolutely win.
Climber 2 – Rafal Majka
The man from Poland loves to win a stage at the Tour de France, but he loves the mountains even more. He has won the Polka Dot jersey twice at the Tour de France, which is impressive as he has never really challenged for the title, his best finish being 19th. He is another member of the almighty UAE Team Emirates sent to help Tadej Pogacar defend his title, however last we saw Pogacar can do it alone. The reason for my pick here is because Pogacar will have a team to protect him in the mountains and with Hirschi free roaming that is likely to be Davide Formolo, Brandon McNulty and Rui Costa. This will free up Majka to chase the stages and the mountain points.
Sprinter 1 – Wout Van Aert
As I said earlier, these teams are being built how I would run a Tour de France team, and while I would have a designated Sprinter and his lead out train, that consists of three Sprinters in my version of it. Wout Van Aert is the next big thing in sprinting and he showed us a taste of it at last years edition. He ended up finishing 5th overall in the Points classification, however he did manage to win 2 stages in 3 days, whilst being one of the main support riders for his leader Primoz Roglic. That kind of performance will have turned heads and will bitter rival Mathieu Van Der Poel entering this years Tour, expect a battle for the ages to ensue any time they sprint. Either one will get you some serious points, but my edge goes to the man from Belgium.
Sprinter 2 – Michael Matthews
The cycling world has been waiting for Matthews to take the next step for as long as I can remember, and although he technically has previously won the Points classification at the Tour de France, the victory has always felt hollow to the fans. Winning the Mallot Vert back in 2017, he won it in a field missing Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan to injury and disqualification respectively following a crash on stage 4. This was the same year he watched Marcel Kittel win 5 stages and without the German crashing out of the race may never have taken Green himself. So why now? Well Matthews is back where it all began with Team BikeExchange, formally known as Mitchelton-Scott and with familiar territory comes a team who supports race wins over the General Classification. Watch for Matthews to be chasing points and stages all race.
Sprinter 3 – Andre Greipel
Okay, I admit, this one might be my nostalgia kicking in, but when I first really started watching the Tour de France, I loved the sprint finish. These usually came down to a combination of Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel roaring towards the line, with Peter Sagan relaxing on their wheels winning the Green Jersey. Now as a Brit, I always supported the Manx Missile Mark Cavendish, but I could not help but admire Andre Greipel. This year he comes to the Tour without much fanfair and at the age of 38, cannot have too many more years left in him. Watch as his battle with Cavendish resumes, however riding for Israel Start Up Nation may give him an advantage as they will have plenty of men for a lead out train come the end of the stage.
There you have it, my picks for the 2021 Tour de France fantasy cycling’s winning team. Without these are going to be all correct, but I would love to here your opinions. Check back in at the rest days for the enforced changes and a breakdown of what is happening in the world of fantasy cycling.
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