[ Rouleur Derby ]

What is Rouleur Derby?

Fact:

Rouleur Derby is almost certainly the best fantasy cycling game in the world.

How does it work?

Predict. Win. Have fun.

Rouleur Derby is set up as a parimutuel, a form of betting common to horse racing. Odds fluctuate based how many points have been collectively bet on that outcome. Odds are determined when betting closes, not when the bet is made.

Rouleur Derby uses fractional odds. (This is new as of 2013.) In fractional odds, the number on the left represents possible profit for a stake given by the number on the right. Given 4/1 odds, for example, a 100-point bet would return a 400-point profit, or 500 points total. Given 3/2 odds, a 100-point bet would return a 150-point profit, or 250 points total.

Odds are designed to reflect an outcome's chances of happening. If an outcome has odds of 5/1, the crowd has deemed it to have a 1-in-6 chance of happening. Odds of 1/1 are called "even odds," meaning the outcome has a 50 percent chance of happening.

There are rules. They are listed here.

How is this better than other fantasy cycling leagues?

Rouleur Derby is better because like cycling itself it rewards guile, patience and taking calculated risks. Other fantasy games become lotteries based on luck. Rouleur Derby is a dynamic, self-correcting marketplace based on skill.

We've all done the Tour de France office pool: Everybody picks Contador to win, Cavendish to get the points jersey and Cancellara to win the time trial. Yawn.

In Rouleur Derby, going with the herd will still earn points, but more points are earned by spotting outcomes that are undervalued by the other players.

In addition, Rouleur Derby will introduce a variety of fun side propositions, not just race winners. Popular propositions include "Will Jens Voigt get in a break?" and "Will there be a dog- or livestock-related crash at the Tour de France?"

With dozens of prop bets available, players can spread their resources across the game, placing more points on the outcomes they feel strongest about.

And unlike other "set it and forget it" cycling games, Rouleur Derby can be played every single day of the cycling season.

What races are included?

Rouleur Derby will follow all major European races, with extra attention on the classics and grand tours. Also included will be major American races, such as the Tour of California and national championships.

Is it free to play?

Yes.

What do I win?

Cash! At least $50 will be awarded to the players who do best during each of the following contests: the spring classics, the Tour de France, the Giro d'Italia, the Vuelta a España and the World Championships, and at least $100 will go to the overall winner upon completion of the world championships in September. (Prizes void where prohibited by law.)

I was late to the party, and it looks like other players already have a big lead. What fun is that?

It can still be a lot of fun!

It's a long season, and it's never too late to catch up. In addition, cash prizes go to whoever does best during each of the grand tours (Giro d'Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España). Those contests are judged by percentage gained, so your initial scores won't matter.

I just placed a bet and the odds changed. What gives?

That's how a parimutuel works. The more points that are bet on a given outcome, the less that outcome will yield.

In the early stages of each bet, the odds may swing wildly. As more players place bets, however, the odds will reach equilibrium.

Each proposition will show the number of points that have been wagered (the "action"). If there is not yet much action, your wager may have a significant effect on the odds. Note, however, that the shortest possible odds are 1/10, meaning you will always earn at least 10 percent on an accurate prediction.

I'm not seeing odds for a proposition, nor the action or number of bets. Why not?

Such data is concealed in the early, volatile stages of betting. Each proposition has a minimum number of points that must be bet on it, after which this information is revealed. Until then, the house's "morning line" is shown, and if the minimum is not bet, this morning line is what will be paid out. (This has yet to happen.)

Can I place more than one bet in a race?

Yes. And you can place multiple bets on the same outcome.

What if I run out of points?

Once you drop below 100 points, you will be shown an option to take out a bailout loan. These loans must be repaid, with 10 percent interest, by the world championships. Furthermore, for the first week after a loan, you will be limited to 20-point bets and won't be able to take out further loans.

Once you have accrued enough points to pay back your loan, you will be shown an option to do so.

I don't know anything about cycling. Should I still play?

Absolutely. Use the same strategy that you would if you were at the horse track. Which is to say, bet on the riders with the goofiest names.

What's the deal with nemeses and victims?

Rouleur Derby is what's known as a "zero-sum game." Every point that someone loses is won by someone else. As such, the game keeps track of whose points you're winning, as well as from whom you are winning yours. Players who have lost points to you are your victims. Players who have won points from you are your nemeses. Wag your fist at them if you see them on the bike path.

How do I stay up to date with the game?

Rouleur Derby Report is an occcassional e-mail newsletter with news, upcoming races and other developments. Also be sure to "like" us on Facebook and follow Rouleur Derby on Twitter.

What is a "rouleur"?

A rouleur is a bike racer who is a good all-arounder, as opposed to specialists like sprinters, climbers and time trialists. Likewise, players who thrive in Rouleur Derby will be the ones with a wide breadth of knowledge who can make accurate predictions on a wide range of propositions.

Do you have anything to do with Rapha's magazine Rouleur?

If only.

Why are you doing this?

Rouleur Derby started in 2010 as an exercise to teach myself Django, a popular web application framework. The exercises in the books were boring, but bike racing is fun!