Jordi Meeus wins stage 21 of the Tour de France.

Tips for Tour de Fantasy greatness from last year’s winner

Fantasy advice from someone who actually knows how it's done.

Jordi Meeus propelled Thomas Gibson to victory on the final stage of last year’s Tour de Fantasy.

Dane Cash
by Dane Cash 28.06.2024 More from Dane +

Ahead of a big race, it is standard operating procedure here at Escape Collective to dish out some advice on how to be competitive in our fantasy competition, and yours truly is usually the one to do it. I’ve been playing fantasy cycling games for years and I do at least kind of know what I’m talking about.

The thing is, I’ve never actually won an Escape Collective fantasy competition. In fact, I haven’t even come particularly close yet. As such, this time around, we’ve decided to let someone who has actually won an Escape fantasy game do the advising. Enter Thomas Gibson, who proved his credentials with a brilliant campaign in last year’s Tour de Fantasy that culminated with him taking the lead and the overall win on the final stage when he picked Jordi Meeus on the Champs-Élysées.

As this year’s Tour de Fantasy nears, we spoke to Thomas to get his insight on what it takes to win it all. The first thing you’ll want to do, of course, is sign up to play, so head to to do that if you haven’t already. Beyond that, here are some tips to guide you to fantasy greatness.

Perfect your pre-stage routine

Fantasy glory is earned through preparation. Thomas says that his biggest asset is simply being “an avid cycling fan,” and if that’s you, you’re in luck. Even if it’s not, you can still benefit by listening to the musings of those who are.

“There are some podcasts that I’ve listened to … I’ll just do it throughout the Tour,” Thomas says. “I’ll look at the betting odds, that can be pretty helpful.”

The bookmakers make oodles of money off of sports bettors, so clearly they’re doing something right when it comes to setting those odds. That’s not to say they’re perfect, but they’re a great guide. In our opinion, you could say the same thing about Escape Collective‘s crew of writers and podcasters.

The riders themselves can lend a hand too. They might not always tell the truth about their plans, and they aren’t always right in their own predictions either – but they might just give you a valuable hint to what’s coming.

“Sometimes guys will give away something in an interview, like, how are they feeling?” Thomas says. “A lot of those guys will just be like, ‘I’m going into the break tomorrow.’ Some of that can be cryptic, too, but yeah, I listen to them.”

Michal Kwiatkowski at the Tour de France.
Will Michal Kwiatkowski let us know if he’s thinking about going up the road …?

Know when to use the stars

One thing that makes Escape’s fantasy game so unique – and so fun – is that you can only use a given rider one time. You can’t pick Jasper Philipsen for every sprint stage and you can’t pick Tadej Pogačar for every other stage. You have to know when to use them, and seeing as they’re likely to score lots of points throughout the race, you better get your “money’s worth” from those picks (to be clear, the game is free, but it’s a good phrase).

Thomas advises against holding on too long to your stars.

“This year’s Tour has more sprint stages in the first 10 days,” he says. “It’s kind of front-loaded on sprint stages and then they get to the Pyrenees, and some of those guys might not get out of that, so you have to be careful on who you hold on to.

“I’ll probably use those guys earlier too, and I’ll probably go with like Philipsen on the first [sprint stage]. He’s the sure bet and any of these guys can go down [with an] injury. That’s the biggest reason to use the better guys early; because of the injury piece. You just never know what’s going to happen. There will for sure be a defection of one of the big four. I would be shocked if they all made it.”

Tadej Pogačar and Jonas Vingegaard.
“Hey, make sure you pick us while we are still in the race.”

Think of it this way: Getting lots of points in a sprint finish that is good for Philipsen but perhaps not perfect for him will help you a lot more than getting zero points from him if he later leaves the race.

Don’t forget the domestiques

Either way, you will eventually start to run out of obvious picks, and that’s where the real fantasy experts shine. On the climber-friendly days, Thomas would like to remind you to remember the helpers, who work hard for their leaders – and then often manage to finish highly enough to score you some points too.

“On the mountain stages, one thing that’s helpful to do is to look at the domestiques because a lot of times, towards the latter end, you’ve already picked the front runners,” he says. “It’s like, ‘OK, I don’t have Evenepoel anymore, I don’t have Pogačar anymore, I don’t have Roglič anymore, I don’t have Vingegaard anymore. But I bet you Sepp Kuss is going to finish fifth. And so, sometimes you can get the points that way.”

In case it wasn’t obvious, we talked to Thomas just before the news that Kuss would miss the race, but the point still holds just as true for fellow star support riders like Matteo Jorgensen and João Almeida. Sure, sometimes they will drop like a stone once they’ve done they’re turns, but quite frequently they’ll be ahead of plenty of other lower-tier GC hopefuls in the high mountains, and every point counts once you and everyone else has already used your Pogačar and Vingegaard picks.

So there you have it. Nail your preparation, get as many points as you can from the big names without waiting too long, and find your diamonds in the rough in the final week. Do that, and you’ll be well on your way to fantasy success, at least among your friends in your mini-league. To take the overall title, you will have to outshine the Escape staff, defending champ Thomas Gibson, and thousands of others.

Good luck!

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