The main goal of this competition is to amass the most total points by the end of three weeks and claim top honors in your league, but teams can also vie to have the most points in the sprint and mountains classifications as well.
Winning any of these classifications will mean stocking your roster with riders who are expected to do well on any given stage. On flat stages, these will be the sprinters, whose teams are built around delivering them to the line at just the right moment. In the mountains, it might be the climbing specialists who are able to escape from the pack and go for glory.
With that in mind, here’s some general advice on who to watch out for as you draft your team and manage it throughout game play.
This year’s Tour de France is one of the most open in a long time, as four-time champion Chris Froome is home with multiple broken bones, and would-be challenger Tom Dumoulin is still nursing wounds inflicted at the Tour of Italy in May. Froome’s team, the newly redubbed Team Ineos, will still have a stranglehold on the race, though – defending champion Geraint Thomas and up-and-comer Egan Bernal are probably the best bets for overall victory in the Tour.
Beyond those two, things get murkier. Jakob Fuglsang has had an incredible season so far and just won the Critérium du Dauphiné, the unofficial warm-up race for the Tour, but he’s also 34, and he’s never quite put together a successful three-week race. The three-headed Movistar beast that is two-time Grand Tour winner Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa, and world champion Alejandro Valverde could threaten – especially under new management that just saw the team win the Giro d’Italia – but they often seem to crumple in the Tour. Adam Yates could surprise everyone and win it, or he could wither in the mountains and brother Simon Yates could pull off a real surprise. There’s also perennial crash-and-burn Richie Porte and the French duo of Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot (for whom the French press have said “it’s now or never”). And of course we can never count out Vincenzo Nibali, the only man in this year’s race to have won all three Grand Tours (though winning another Giro was his real goal this year).
Dark horses? Rigoberto Uran, Emanuel Buchmann, and Enric Mas, who came in second at last year’s Tour of Spain and is making his Tour debut. But banking on overall contenders in general is a risky strategy in the fantasy competition, and while these guys might do OK in the end, they’re not likely to net a lot of points. No, your better bet is on the sprint finishes.
Looking to rack up points? Stock up on sprinters, whose presence in the top 10 of any given flat stage is far more consistent and predictable than it is for overall contenders and climbers in the other stages. There are seven or eight potential sprint stages in this year’s Tour, and victory is almost sure to go to Peter Sagan, Elia Viviani, Dylan Groenewegen, and Caleb Ewan (these are also the four most likely to compete for the green jersey, which racks up fantasy points). And then there are a bunch of other riders who will probably not win any stages but will still accrue points by finishing in the top 15. Guys like Alexander Kristoff, Sonny Colbrelli, Christophe Laporte, Andre Greipel, Jasper Philipsen, and possibly Wout Van Aert. Picking up and dropping these guys around sprint stages can be a good strategy if you’re hurting for points otherwise.
There are ample opportunities for breakaway victories in this year’s Tour, but it’s difficult to predict the combination of form, luck, and strategy that allows any one particular rider to shine on any one particular day. That said, there’s a good chance that we’ll see Niki Terpstra, Omar Fraile, Tony Gallopin, Matej Mohoric, Max Schachmann, Alessandro De Marchi, Michael Woods, Alberto Bettiol, Stephen Cummings, Michael Valgren, Jasper Stuyven, Roman Kreuziger, and pretty much the entire Lotto Soudal team out there mixing it up at one point or another.
There are lots of points on offer for being among the first to cross the Tour’s many, many climbs this year – and daily points for being the one to wear the King of the Mountains’ polka-dot jersey – but good luck betting on this one. In fact, this competition could be even more unpredictable than usual this year because the opportunity to grab bonus seconds on some of the intermediate climbs is likely to lure overall contenders who might otherwise have been content to save their energy for the last climb of each day.
That said, look for the following riders to at least make an effort in the mountains: last year’s polka-dot winner Julian Alaphilippe, 2017 King of the Mountains (and current French national champion) Warren Barguil, Darwin Atapuma, Sergio Henao (who’s no longer tied to the Sky/Ineos train), Ben King, Lilian Calmejane, Michael Woods (who won a glorious mountain stage in last year’s Vuelta), and possibly Omar Fraile, or – who knows? – maybe even one-time Grand Tour contender Fabio Aru.
There’s only one individual time trial during the fantasy competition in this year’s Tour, so you probably don’t need to try to draft a time trial specialist right away, but you’ll do well to pick up a couple before Stage 13, on July 19. Your best bets are Rohan Dennis, Michael Schär, Kasper Asgreen, Wout Van Aert, and Tony Martin.