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Preview: Tour de France 2019

The 106th edition of the Tour de France rolls away on Saturday 6 July with the Grand Départ from Brussels, Belgium. The opening stage will be a sprinter's delight and the ideal setting to honour the first maillot jaune wearer with the finishing ground outside the Castle of Laeken - the official residence of the Belgian royal family.



We'll be following the action with daily fantasy picks for all 21 stages of the Tour. If you're new to the game, here's an overview of the basics:

Bands

As is the case in our 'Superstars' or '5-a-side' games in other tournaments such as Super Rugby, the Premier League, Wimbledon and the World Cup, the aim of the game when playing Tour de France at Superbru is to pick the rider you believe will be most successful from four different lists of riders known as 'bands'.

Essentially, rather than having a full list of the 176 riders set to start the race (which can be quite daunting to pick from), we curate a list of four bands of riders containing the likely top riders for each stage. These include the General Classification (GC) riders to compete for the yellow jersey, Sprinters, Attackers/Climbers and some Wildcard riders - typically a mix of outside favourites, all-rounders, puncheurs, or baroudeurs who don’t fall into the overt sprinters or climbers categories. The mix of the bands will differ somewhat for each stage to cater for the unique route for the day.

Scoring

The game is designed to reward riders who perform well during each stage. This includes points for the top 40 riders to cross the finish line (with diminishing returns from first to 40th), the jersey wearers for each stage and the top riders through each of the classified climbs and sprints of the stage.

Climbs

Each climb along the route is categorized in terms of difficulty. Category 4 being the smallest and easiest (not so much for us mortal human beings), through to Category 1 being the more challenging. No less than four climbs this year are just too obscene to grind up and are beyond classification, or as the French like to say, Hors Catégorie (HC).

Intermediate and Bonus Sprints

Each stage (except for time trials) has an intermediate sprint along the way for which we award points for the first classified riders through the sprint line. Similarly the Tour organizers have included a new Bonus Sprint for stages 1-9 this year. The first riders through these sprints will earn time bonuses which could make the early GC battle pretty interesting. We’ll award points for this on the same grounds as the normal intermediate sprint.

The full scoring breakdown is available here.

Top General Classification Contenders

With the four-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, out with injury as well as last year's runner up, Tom Dumoulin, this year's race for the Maillot Jaune is a lot more open than one would've expected a month ago. Here's a look at my favourite contenders for this year's title:

Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal (Team Ineos)

Team Ineos would have been distraught about losing Chris Froome their pre-race favourite after a nasty training crash just 3 weeks ago, but they're still lining up one of the strongest teams on the start list.

The defending champion, Geraint Thomas, rode like clockwork in last year's edition which earned him the coveted final Tour de France yellow jersey in Paris, and in typical Sky (now Ineos) fashion we can likely expect more of the same this year. Thomas hasn't had as good a year on the bike in the buildup to the Tour, with no wins thus far in 2019 and having crashed out of the Tour de Suisse two weeks ago. He'll be at the forefront of the race at times, but might not be able to win back to back titles this year under the circumstances.

Ineos' co-leader Egan Bernal on the other hand has had an illustrious year after performing as a super-domestique for Froome and Thomas in last year's Tour. Having won the Paris-Nice and Tour de Suisse, Bernal is clearly in great form and with his undisputed climbing prowess he's right up there in the list of title favourites despite this year's race only being his second Grand Tour. At a mere 22 years old Bernal will be the third youngest rider to don the Maillot Jaune if he manages to hold off the other riders.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana Pro Team)

Fuglsang has had one of his best seasons of his racing career while winning the Criterium du Dauphine (often a precursor for Tour de France champions in the same year) and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. With pre-race favourites Froome and Dumoulin out of the picture, Fuglsang’s chances of winning overall this year have improved drastically.

I can really see Fugslang improving on his career best seventh overall finish in 2013 but whether he'll win the title comes down to if he can consistently hold Bernal's wheel on the many long uphill drags this year.

*image via @SuperSportTV (Twitter)

Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Realistically speaking Quintana and Landa will be Movistar's main General Classification hopefuls, but one can never discount the current World Champion Alejandro Valverde (even at 39 years of age). He's finished in the top 10 no less than 6 times in his career and will most likely ride in support of Movistar's other two top riders, but should things not go according to plan there's always the chance of a change of tactics in favour of a rider of his calibre.

Quintana is always present at the forefront of the peloton in the big mountains, but hasn't quite met the expectations over a 3 week tour in recent years.

Landa is likely the better title winning option here but the real test for him will be whether he’s recovered enough from the Giro earlier in the year when he finished fourth overall. If Landa's legs can hold up for the whole three weeks he’s definitely in with a shot at the podium.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott)

Mitchelton-Scott and Adam Yates are aiming for the podium at the very least this year - totally attainable with a strong squad behind him. Yates has had a fairly quiet year thus far and having pulled out of the Dauphine recently due to illness he should have fairly fresh legs, but may need a few days in the saddle to really find his peak form.

Adam’s twin brother Simon Yates will be lining up next to him on super-domestique duties. With Simon and the likes of Jack Haig looking after Adam in the mountains there will be no surprise if he matches or improves on his best of fourth overall (2016).

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida)

Nibali is one of the most experienced riders in this year's peloton and with no less than 4 Grand Tour titles behind his name, including winning the Tour de France in 2014, he's always going to be a hot favourite for another overall win.

Up until a few weeks ago Nibali was saying he'd likely aim for stage victories in this year's race after competing in the Giro in May. But he's undoubtedly going to be at the forefront of the race when it heads over to the mountains, and he's typically known to get stronger and hit his peak in the last week of a Tour. Let's see what happens on Stage 6 and call it from there...

Having the current World Time Trial Champion, Rohan Dennis on his team will certainly help NIbali's chances to be competitive come the Team Time Trial.

Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma)

Jumbo have been ever present at the front of the Grand Tours in recent years and Kruijswijk himself has had some near misses. He looked particularly good in the 2018 edition where he finished fifth overall. Considering that last year's second, third and fourth place finishers aren't racing this year one can only assume that he's got a great chance to make it up onto the podium in Paris.

Notable Outsiders

The above is by no means an exhaustive list, as there really are so many talented GC riders lining up. Over three weeks of arduous racing anything can happen and some these riders might just slip onto possible podium positions:
  • Rigoberto Uran and Michael Woods (EF Education First)
  • Dan Martin and Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates)
  • Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe)
  • Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin)
  • Enric Mas and Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
  • George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma)
  • Wilco Kelderman (Team Sunweb)
  • Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)
  • Richie Porte (Trek - Segafredo)
  • Thibaut Pinot (Groupama - FDJ)
We hope you enjoy playing our Tour de France game for this year's race and feel free to ask any questions you may have in the comments! It would also be interesting to know who you expect to win this year. Be sure to get your pool set up and invite friends and family members to get involved before the weekend as the action begins on Saturday.
14,327 caps
This Tournament is my personal favorite Superbru contest! Its an emotional rollercoaster. So many points can be decided by a few millimetres of tyre tread due to jerseys changing torsos at the line, with 4 Top 10 points becoming (4+3+3+2) 12 with a well timed throw of the handlebars. Propelling 4th to Stage Winner. Giving them 3 extra for 1st, 3 if they take Yellow, & maybe 2 more for Points (Green) and/or 2 more for Under 26 Young Rider (White). If they were in a long breakaway to the end then maybe 2 more for Combativity (Red Numbers)! The bonus seconds can be crucial especially early on as overall times should still be close, plus those extra Int Sprints time bonuses up to Stage 9.

But the real 'Fill yer boots' days are in the mountains. Getting 1 or even 3 picks in a breakaway can promote you from midtable to the top overnight! Study the Scoring VERY closely IT HAS CHANGED! With Int Sprints points now down to 15th! Climb points are less clear though Dawid? Presumably its as before
4 Jul 13:13
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Continued from above...(Damn those pesky character limits!)

Presumably its as before and based on Actual TdF points getting places .The first 8 get them for an HC, then 6 for a Cat 1, 4 for Cat 2, 2 for Cat 3 with SB giving 2nd over a Cat 4 molehill a point when the TdF only award 1st over. I've been known to invent new combo swear words if a pick takes a drink as he non-chalantly coasts over a Cat 1 and summiting in 7th instead of 6th, and costing me only 3 points! Do your sums. A breakaway looking for KOM (Polka Dot Jersey) points could be first over in 3 to 5 climbs, earning around 20-25pts before adding jersey & stage finish extras! Also check the Official TdF Points Distributions (Wikipedia) so you can forecast who might take a jersey(s). Steep summit finishes offer many TdF extra points & seconds! An HC Summit Stage Finish winner gets 40 TdF points compared to 1 TdF point for a mid stage Cat 4. SB would give only 6 & 2.5 respective climbing points. (Excluding Position & Jersey
4 Jul 13:45
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Part 3. Continued from above yet again...

(Excluding Position & Jersey points).

Oh and then there are those CRASHES wiping out a nailed on 10-15 pts to give you 0. (Crashers inside the last 3 kms get the main bunch's time though.)

Enjoy La Grand Boucle (The Great Loop)! But you will have to WORK for those points! (Nurse! My pills! My Pills!)

J-P
4 Jul 17:05
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Take 2 Asprin and call me in the morning...... 4 Jul 18:46
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Strewth J-P!! We do love TdF but calm down to a panic bru. 4 Jul 19:26
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Look forward to J-Ps in depth analysis on every stage. Very helpful although I hope you still have time to sleep...


4 Jul 21:55
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I catch up on sleep on the two Rest Days Mark. I do need to stay limbered up though like the riders, so maybe just a bit of Advanced Quantum Mechanics theory or working out how to correct the oven clock for Daylight Saving Time finally.

I'm touched by the support & concern for my mental well being from all 3 of you regular & worthy rivals. Its just so hard to explain all the intricacies when its like Chess at 70 kph. 4 Jul 22:59
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Jersey-puller,thanks for your insight,but I think I lost you half way into your 1st paragraph.
5 Jul 04:38
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Bugga!! I can't find the Tour De France option in my Tourneyment area....can only make picks from " To Do list" and it always says the something went wrong when I try to save my picks...grrrr
9 Jul 00:35
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