Your guide to greatness in the 2021 CyclingTips Giro Fantasy Competition

by Dane Cash

photography by Kristof Ramon and Cor Vos


When riders clip into pedals in Torino this weekend for the 104th edition of the Giro d’Italia, they signal the kick-off of the 2021 CyclingTips Giro Fantasy Competition.

Before going any further, sign up for the Fantasy Competition here.

For the next few weeks, you’ll have the chance to pick one rider a day to lead your fantasy team to glory, with the possibility of winning prizes if you can manage to come away with a fantasy classification win.

To do that, you’ll need to be a savvy team manager. To help, we’ve put together a guide with an overview of the basics as well as some more in-depth advice to help you achieve fantasy greatness.

Get to know the rules

Understanding the rules of any competition is pretty important to having success, so let’s start there. The CyclingTips Fantasy Competition is pretty straightforward but it may also be a bit different from other competitions you’ve participated in.

Here’s how it works: You pick one rider per stage, and receive that rider’s time on the day. You also get any points the rider racks up in the purple (points classification) and blue (mountain classification) jersey competitions. Once you’ve picked a rider for a stage, you can’t pick him again later in the race, so be judicious. To limit any competition-ending time blowouts this year we’ve introduced a new rule to cap your daily time loss to five minutes.

At the end of the race, the player with the lowest overall time wins the fantasy competition, and there are prizes for the points and mountain classifications as well.

It all sounds pretty intuitive to us, which is why we like it and hope you’ll agree.

Rider selection 101

Once you’ve got the rules down, you may be wondering how to pick your rider for a given stage. Make sure to keep a few tools in your tipping toolbox.

First, taking a look at a stage profile is absolutely key to making an accurate prediction for the day. If you’re relatively new to scoping out stage profiles, be aware that the vertical gain is not represented on the same scale as the distance. Otherwise, even fourth-category climbs would pose physically impossibly challenges for the peloton to overcome, with 5% gradients looking more like 100% gradients in race graphics.

As an example of how you might use a profile (and our handy guide has all of them in one place) take a look at stage 2 of the Giro. Being an almost entirely flat stage, it looks like it will probably come down to a bunch kick, so you’ll probably want to name a sprinter to your lineup if you want the best chance of winning the stage.

And if there was any doubt of that, you might use another key tool in the fantasy toolbox: betting odds. Bookies make a living by being smart about predicting outcomes. If you’re looking for insight on which riders might be well-suited to a certain stage, consult the experts.

Beyond the basics of rider selection, you want to tailor your team to the rules. If you’re not sure about a rider’s form before a stage, feel free to take a wait-and-see approach and potentially pick him later, because once you’ve picked him one time, you won’t have an opportunity to rely on him again later in the race.

At the same time, if someone looks like they’re flying, make sure to capitalize on that when you can. This is bike racing, after all, and crashes do happen. You may not want to wait for a rider to take on that perfect parcours for his skillset two weeks into the race if you know he’s riding well and has a good shot on a stage right now.

Key pointers: Be strategic, be flexible, beware breakaways

With the basics out of the way, we can move on to a few more in-depth pointers.

Let’s start with being strategic about achieving your fantasy goals. There are a few different categories in the CyclingTips, and they’ll reward different strategic approaches. If you want to win the general classification, you don’t necessarily need to pick the stage winner in a sprint stage. If you’re dead-set on targeting the GC at all costs, maybe don’t pick the heavier pure speedster on a day with a few hills before the finish. Maybe your guy makes it over and takes a convincing win in the end, but maybe he gets dropped and doesn’t get back on.

On the other hand, if you’re going for the points classification or the mountains title, you can probably afford to take some risks, just like the real riders that get into breakaways or mix it up in chaotic sprints in pursuit of those goals.

With all that said, you’ll also want to be flexible — again, just like the real riders. Take the mountains classification, for instance. Every climber dreams of winning the whole race, but the savvy ones have the good sense to refocus their efforts if things go haywire in the early goings of the race. You can too. If things don’t go your way in the GC battle early, don’t despair. You can always switch your focus to trying to pick stage winners in the sprints and breakaways, even if it means taking chances on riders who could just as easily finish in the gruppetto.

And since I’ve mentioned breakaways, it’s worth noting that breakaway days are often where fantasy cycling competitions are won or lost, because they can be so unpredictable and the margins can be so huge. In real life, the peloton won’t often allow a real GC contender to get 15 minutes on the pack, but anything goes in fantasy cycling (even hitting the new five-minute daily cap in our fantasy competition will likely be problematic for your GC ambitions).

Watch out for up-and-down intermediate stages, particularly those without long summit finishes, especially when they come before or after other hard days. If you think a breakaway will win the stage, you might gamble on trying to pick someone who will get into the move, and the reward for getting it right could be huge.

Or maybe you lose out big time. It’s all part of the fun.

Follow the links for our stage-by-stage breakdown of the 2021 Giro d’Italia route and the riders you should be keeping an eye on.

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