Blazin' Saddles

Pick your Fantasy Tour team with RoadCycling UK

Blazin' Saddles

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Forget Sky's comparatively minor headache of picking a leader from Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome - try picking your own nine-man team from the whole peloton of Tour riders.

This year, British Eurosport are sponsoring RoadCycling UK's Tour de France Fantasy League competition - giving readers the chance to win a cluster of prizes while pitting their pedalling prognostic skills against fellow cycling enthusiasts.

WHERE?

First up, you have to go to the official entry page - http://rcuktourdefrance.fantasyleague.com - where you'll find all the rules and information required to join the game. But read on for a taster...

HOW?

The rules are really quite simple: you have a €20m budget to select nine riders - giving you an average sum of €2.22m to spend on each member of your team.

Points are awarded to the top 20 riders in each stage and for claiming or retaining the lead in an overall classification. 50 per cent more points are up for grabs on stages that are likely to have a large bearing on the general classification - that's the mountain stages and both ITTs - where the winners can snare 90 instead of 60 points.

For the team time trial in Nice, only the riders from the top five teams will score points.

WHO?

Riders range from as cheap as €0.5m to as much as €6m - meaning you have to strike a fine balance between big names and plucky outsiders.

For instance, you may think Froome is a shoo-in for the overall while Mark Cavendish will win multiple flat stages en route to taking the green jersey. This could well be the case - but to snare the British duo you'd have to part with €12m because each rider is worth six million big ones.

So, go for both Froomie and Cav and you'll be filling the rest of your roster with the likes of Kevin Reza, Julien El Fares and Imanol Erviti - all of whom are worth just half a million bob.

But there are bargains to be had; for instance, riders can also score "assist" points if their team-mates win a stage, so picking up Cavendish's lead-out man Gert Steegmans for €0.75 could be a shrewd bit of business.

To stop everyone running away with all the prizes - much like Sky last year - entries will only be allowed to feature two riders per team. So if you want both Froome and his best buddy Richie Porte (a snip at €3m) then you'll have to do without Edwald Boasson Hagen (€2) or Geraint Thomas (€1m).

WHEN?

Enter your team by 11:15 BST on Saturday June 29 - the morning of the Tour's opening stage in Corsica - to start scoring points from the outset. Any teams registered after that will only pick up points from the day they register - provided it's before the allotted cut-off time. Unlimited team changes are allowed before the opening stage - so if you're having second thoughts or one of your men suffers a crash in training, don't fret.

WHAT?

The overall winner will take home a Beacon Fell BF 70 Bike worth £1,300 (or in Fantasy Cycling currency - that's roughly around two hundred and thirty Mark Cavendishes and pushing three thousand Pavel Brutts) and a ride with Rob Hayles. Also up for grabs for the best team every day will be a Bike Fit at Protool Cycleworks Performance Centre in the Ribble Valley, Lancashire.

AND ALSO...

Once the Tour is under way, you'll be allowed to make 20 transfers. These can be used tactically - for instance, ahead of the mountains or before an ITT or a series of flat stages - or through circumstance - your leading sprinter crashes out of the race, or the rider you thought would dominate the mountains cracks on stage eight to Ax 3 Domaines.

Every day there is a transfer deadline time ahead of each stage so make sure you make your changes before the cut-off point. Check the times - and all the other rules - on the official game website: http://rcuktourdefrance.fantasyleague.com.

To make things more interesting, you can also set up your own mini leagues to take on your friends, family members or work colleagues.

BLAZIN' SADDLES' TEAM

Here's your faithful cycling blogger's team selection with some reasoning behind his choices...

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) €6

With Cavendish and Froome, the Slovak sensation is the most expensive rider - but he should win stages and stands a good chance of taking the green jersey, perhaps even the yellow in Corsica.

Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) €5.5

Picked because he's slightly cheaper than Froome - but the Spaniard also enters the race as joint favourite so should win many points.

Richie Porte (Sky) €3

Well, if you can't have Froome, then go for Porte - a rider many believe will finish second to his team-mate in Paris. Despite this, the Australian is much cheaper than other GC favourites.

Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) €1.5

A snip for his price, the American youngster finished second in Paris-Nice and should be Garmin's main man for GC.

Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) €0.75

A bit of a punt, but the Spaniard is one of three leaders at Cofidis and is known for his climbing abilities. An old friend of Contador, who has gifted stages to former team-mates in the past.

Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) €0.75

Well, if you can't have Cav then go for the man who will probably deliver him to five stage wins. "Assist" points aren't huge, but every little helps.

Rui Costa (Movistar) €.075

Perhaps the biggest bargain of the game, the Portuguese comes to the Tour fresh from his Tour de Suisse overall victory. Sure, he may play a domestique role, but he'll pick up points every time Valverde or Quintana win stages - which could be often.

Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) €.075

The Italian won a stage at the Dauphine and will score every time Sagan wins a stage - so fairly frequently.

Arthur Vichot (FDJ) €0.75

The new French national champion will no doubt be in the mood to pick up a stage in the 100th edition of his national Tour - and his champions jersey may give him an extra boost.

Total cost: €19.75

OTHER RIDER TIPS

Such is the nature of the game, you're going to have to make numerous compromises to assemble your team. You may forgo any of the really expensive names in a bid to bring in a strong balance of mid-range riders - or you may want to initially tailor your team to the first three stages in Corsica, and fill it up with sprinters or puncheurs.

The following riders didn't make Saddles' team - but they are very appealing and could well feature later on in the game once Saddles wishes to dip into his transfer allowance...

Climbers Carlos Quintana (Movistar) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar) are well priced at €3m apiece, while the in-form Thomas Voeckler - who won two stages last year for Europcar and costs €2.5m - will no doubt be revealing his tongue as early as stage two.

Also costing €2.5m is Liege-Bastogne-Liege winner Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp) - excellent value for money for a rider who could target both the polka dot jersey and a top ten finish, not to mention a stage or two.

Last year's white jersey Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) costs €2m - which is less than the requisite average - while new Dutch national champion Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil) is just €1.25m - not bad for someone who attacks so much.

Lotto-Belisol quartet Adam Hansen, Greg Henderson, Jurgen Roelandts and Lars Bak - who all cost €0.75m - may not have many chances to win individual stages, but will be pivotal in leading out team-mate Andre Greipel, himself €0.5m more expensive than fellow German duo John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel of Argos-Shimano.

Cheaper still is Marcel Sieberg, the team-mate to whom Greipel attributed his new German national champions jersey last week. More expert lead-outs and the €0.5m man will gain regular "assist" points.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) is probably worth a punt at €1.5m. The Dane may have crashed heavily in training, but alongside Janez Brajkovic (also €1.5m) he'll be Astana's man for the GC.

TAKE ON SADDLES

If you think you can do better than Blazin' Saddles then why not take him on in the official Blazin' Saddles mini-league? Just enter your team at http://rcuktourdefrance.fantasyleague.com and then use the pin number 33436 to take on your favourite cycling blogger.

And if all this has gone totally over your head - and yet you still want to enter the RCUK Fantasy Tour and join the fun - then simply press the lucky dip button and your team of Lycra-clad warriors will be selected for you.

But beware - when Saddles tried this out for a test run, his nine-man line-up came out like this: Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2R-La Mondiale €1.5m), Francesco Gavazzi (Astana €1.5m), Andrey Kashechkin (Astana €1m), Cadel Evans (BMC €4m), Fabio Sabatini (Cannondale €1m), Jerome Coppel (Cofidis €1.25m), Christophe Le Mevel (Cofidis €1.25m), Jens Voigt (RadioShack €0.75m) and Roman Kreuziger (Saxo Bank €2.5m).

The team costs a mere €14.75 and you can see why. In fact, at the end of the Tour, if this motley crew of lucky dippers has amassed more points than Saddles's initial star-studded team then Saddles will donate his entire Tour pay cheque to a charity of Alexandre Vinokourov's choice...

Channel your inner Dave Brailsford and play the game here: http://rcuktourdefrance.fantasyleague.com

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