The column: Playing Monopoly with the new cycling season

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Which team will go all-in on Park Lane? Who’s heading straight for the stations? Considering the reconfigured cycling season through the prism of one of the world’s most popular board games

Photographs: Offside/L'Equipe

I was torn this week between writing about the serious subject of the recently reconfirmed cycling calendar, and the fairly frivolous topic of the lockdownalicious cycling edition of the board game, Monopoly. Although it might only serve to deny me a topic to talk about next week, I think I’ve found a way to do both.

In the Koers edition, they’re going with landmarks in place of streets and it seems largely classic-centric. At the time of writing the full list of what’s where remained under wraps, with a poll currently being to determine whether the Roubaix velodrome, the Muur van Geraardsbergen, the Poggio, or the Cauberg should be the most valuable.

As fond as I am of the Muur, the correct answer is clearly that ramshackle ring in the grotty almost Belgian town.

I can’t wait to play and have already had a word with our friends in Belgium about sending one to the new Rouleur Towers, whenever we move in. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about.

Julian Alaphilippe bags Fenchurch Street for the Top Hat

Just as there are different strategies to Monopoly, Riders and teams are currently agonising over the best way for them to “win” the 2020 season, now crammed into a mere three-and-a-bit months. In “normal times” there are fewer trade-offs but, as people won’t tire of telling you, these are not normal times.

Team Ineos will, we know, be putting it all on the equivalent of the final two properties on the board – the Tour de France. Just as when a player goes all in for Mayfair and Park Lane (or the Champs Elysees and Rue de la Paix in the Paris version, Boardwalk and Park Place in the original), it’s a risky strategy. It can cost a lot to get them both and if you fail you’re pretty much screwed. (You come at the king, you best not miss.) Also, not a surefire way to succeed, and you’ll probably need a few of the minor properties as well. More on those in a bit.

The smartest approach, I have it on good authority, is to invest in the stations. Individual victories that don’t multiply in value the more you own of them but do generate plenty of bang for the proverbial buck. For our purposes this can be seen as the Quick Step gambit, with the railroads replaced with the Monuments. Take two and you’re doing fine; sweep them and it’s game over for your opponents. (For the avoidance of doubt, Paris-Roubaix is Kings Cross, Flanders fills in for Liverpool Street, Milan-Sanremo takes the place of Marylebone and Fenchurch Street is La Doyenne. There’s only four, okay, so Lombardy has to miss out. Sorry but don’t @ us.)

There are other paths to success of course, but they’re more convoluted. Take either the Giro d’Italia or La Vuelta and you’re doing fine, but you really need both, just as you can’t be getting by with only one of the green, yellow or red sets. Three riders in the top ten is the equivalent of bunging a few measly houses instead of a hotel on Euston Road. Which team could I possibly have in mind here?

Tom Dumoulin
The Giro d’Italia’s Trofeo Senza Fine. Also known as, “one of the green ones”

The left hand side is where we find the higher status week-long races, your Paris-Nices and your Criterium du Dauphines. On their own enough for a team to claim their season hasn’t been a total bust and, when combined with one or two more big ones, a potential winning combination. In that respect, Bora-Hansgrohe are already halfway there. (I bet you couldn’t even remember who won this year’s race to the sun now, can you? Perfectly understandable, what with it having happened approximately seven hundred years ago, but it was Max Schachmann.) 

Read: The greatest cycling board games

The blues and browns at the bottom of the board are really good for nobody when it comes to the end of the season. A marker on the board at best, so a team can say they’ve got a win early doors, but none is going to make much of an effort to win them. Obviously these are the races in the Middle East and Down Under.

You think I’ve forgotten about the utilities? I haven’t. Those are self-evidently the minor classics. The electric company is Driedaagse Brugge-De Panne while the water works is, I dunno, the Bretagne Classic. What do you mean I haven’t properly thought this through? 


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