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How To Win The SkiTrax FIS Fantasy World Cup Contest

SkiTrax and FIS are holding a fantasy World Cup contest, roughly modeled after the very popular fantasy baseball or fantasy football competitions that we all know and love.  Basically, you pick four men and four women (plus a “bonus” man and woman, from outside the top 15 rankings from last year), and then your “team” accumulates points over the season according to a fairly involved point system.

This is the first of three such contests, apparently, the other two focusing on the Tour de Ski and the Oslo World Championships.

Fantasy sports competitions are simply awash in numbers.  People can spend hours pouring over stats on their players.  It can get pretty involved.  I’ve decided not to be selfish and use my data and statistical know-how to utterly dominate this contest, which quite clearly, I could.  (Just kidding!)  Instead, I’m going to be generous and provide a little simple analysis that might help you decide how to pick your own team.

I’ll save a more detailed discussion of the the rules for awarding points for later in this post.  The rules themselves can be found at the first link above, and they are fairly complex (and a tad ambiguous, if you ask me).  There are basically two kinds of points,

  1. Points awarded to each individual skier based on their race performances
  2. Points awarded to your entire team of skiers based on some group characteristic

What I’m going to do here is calculate, as best as I can, the points that each athlete would have contributed to a team based on last season’s results, so I’m ignoring type (2) points.  This requires a few simple modifications,

  • Points for OWG will be swapped in for WSC results
  • For simplicity, I’m going to ignore the U23 bonus and the “abandonment” penalty for starting but not completing the World Cup Final
  • Doping penalties shouldn’t be an issue, since my database has already had those skier’s results removed

There are some complicated issues that come up in order to actually calculate these, involving what to do about ties, and the order in which we apply various point rules.  After a few emails with the SkiTrax folks, though, I think I’ve figured it all out and here’s what you get for the men:

[table id=70 /]

And here’s what you get for the women:

[table id=71 /]

Hmmm.  Not surprisingly, Petter Northug is the most valuable fantasy skier.  Things are slightly less lopsided on the women’s side, but not by much, with Justyna Kowalczyk and Marit Bjoergen running away with it.  What’s happening here is that a skier gets bonus points at the close of each race day if they are the overall, distance or sprint WC points leader.  You get 10 points for the overall, and 5 for the distance and sprint titles.  But it often works out that the WC point leader position doesn’t change all that much, thanks to the enormous weight given to finishing on the podium in WC points (the point values are 100, 80, 60).  Once one or two skiers pull away from the field in WC points, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to catch them.  For instance, note how valuable Petra Majdic is despite not racing for much of the season.

The other thing to note is that the athlete point values I’ve listed above are not the athlete’s WC point totals.  Points in the game are not the same as WC points (although they are roughly correlated).

(Just in case you’re worried, I’m only awarding a distance World Cup leader bonus on days when there was actually a distance race, and similarly for sprinting, per SkiTrax’s instructions.  So you don’t get credit for remaining in the lead for the distance WC on a day with a sprint race.)

The problem is that Northug (and Kowalczyk/Bjoergen) racked up many, many days leading both the distance and overall WC race, and sometimes all three.  In fact, nearly half of Northug’s points come solely from this source.  So he’d still be quite a ways in front of Marcus Hellner, but not absurdly far ahead.

While it might seem odd that the Tour de Ski and World Championships receive so little weight here, recall that they have separate contests for the Tour de Ski and World Championships, so that’s probably the reason.

Basically what this means for you is that there is a huge penalty for not including the eventual WC overall winner (male and female) on your team.  This person will likely have spent a lot of time as both the WC overall leader and the WC distance leader, or even all three.  And they will rack up massive amounts of points for it.

Now, none of this renders the game moot.  Far from it.  We don’t know who’s going to win the WC this year.  It’s possible that one person won’t manage to dominate the points so completely, although I sort of doubt it.  Personally, I have a hard time believing that the overall WC points leader will be anyone other than Northug, Hellner, Bauer or Cologna for the men or anyone other than Bjoergen, Kowalczyk, or perhaps Kalla, Majdic or Saarinen for the women.

So what it comes down to is whether you think the WC leaders will come from this group or not.  If you think they will, you should probably just pick these skiers for your top four.  If you think some dark horse is going to sweep in (one of the Russian men or women? Follis?) you should swap one of the “obvious” skiers out for them.

This makes your choice of the fifth man/woman on your team more interesting.  You have to pick someone who was not in the top 15 in WC points standings last season.  This obviously involves a bit of guesswork about who might ski particularly well this year.  My tables should be a good guide, assuming that past performance is a good indicator.

Finally, remember that I’ve ignored points that are awarded based on characteristics of the “group”, and you might also want to watch out for skiers you think might start, but not finish, all the events in the WC final as they will incur a penalty.

As for which U23 skiers are the most valuable, I’ll leave that research to you.  I’ve got to keep some sort of an edge, if I want to win!

Have fun and good luck!


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