For each stage of La Vuelta, the Rouleur panel of ‘experts’ will give their picks for the following day’s race. Top tipster Cycling Mole, meanwhile, will dismantle our choices and give his own prediction for the likely winner. In a change to last year’s rules, selection’s don’t have to be unique. Who’s going to take risks? Who will play it safe? Most importantly of all, who will come out on top?
Stage 14: 188km, San Vicente de la Barquera – Oviedo
Ian: Fernando Gaviria – UAE Emirates
It’s not like Gaviria has suddenly turned into a crap sprinter. He just hasn’t seemed to have that top-end jump of late that I saw firsthand in Argentina a few years back, when he burst onto the scene by leaving Cavendish for dead. Give him a straight run – which this finish is – and he’s got as good a chance as anyone.
Ben: Sam Bennett – Bora-Hansgrohe
There haven’t been enough big mountains since the last sprint to drain him, so as long as he stays safe on the run in and the organisers haven’t pulled a Vuelta road furniture classic, then surely he’s nailed on.
Andy: Sam Bennett – Bora-Hansgrohe
Si, a rare bunch sprint in the breakaway fiesta that is this year’s Vuelta. That route is not tough enough to shake the fast men off. There ought to be enough collective desire and firepower in the chase to bring back another beefy breakaway? There’s also that steep-ish final kilometre to tackle, but I think Bennett will still just have the quality to beat the rest. They’ll be singing in Oviedo’s Irish pub tonight.
Nick: Sam Bennett – Bora-Hansgrohe
Is Top Mañana about winning the overall or the team prize? Are we trying to beat each other, or merely Cycling Mole? If the latter then I’m a git for picking the same rider as several of my compatriots; if the former I’d be a mug for not going with the Irish champ. Besides, why can’t it be both?
This isn’t strictly relevant, but I think it’s rather sweet that Sam Bennett has finished each of the last three stages in the company of team-mate Shane “the flying mullet” Archbold, and no-one else around. Also they’ve been way way down the pecking order, as far from the front as they could without being OTL, which says they’re saving every scrap of energy for tomorrow. 149th, Fernando? Tsk.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Sam Bennett – Bora-Hansgrohe
A rare chance for the sprinters. Bora-Hansgrohe have kept most of the team as ‘rested’ as possible over the past couple of days. They’ll control it and Sam Bennett will finish the job.
We were all correct in predicting a GC showdown, I’ll claim a moral victory as Valverde was better than López! The win was taken by Pogačar, what a future that kid has in front of him.
Stage 14 and one for the quick men of the bunch. It seems a long time since our last sprint, which was back on stage 4, when Jakobsen pipped Bennett to the win. Since that point the sprinters have been hauling their large frames over the mountains dreaming of another opportunity, will this be it? Much of the day is spent hugging the coastline, but the wind is light, which means we won’t see any echelons.
Those that simply take a quick look at the road book will see a flat finish, but remember people, the mighty Mole does a lot more than that. I’ve studied this route in detail, the finish is far from flat. The final 2km rises at 2.6%, with a maximum of 9.4%. Included in that is a 600m section at 6.1%, which tops out with 260m to go. This is not an easy finish. Sprinters will be worried about losing position on this ramp, making it impossible to win the stage. The late attack is also a likely option, as few riders will be there to chase it down. This is a fantastic finish, one that I’m looking forward to.
Verdict – In terms of the picks, only Andy has done his homework and spotted the dangerous final kilometre. Ian’s back on Gaviria, forgetting that you should always consult the form book before making your pick. Everyone else is on Bennett, and he simply has to be the big favourite, but what about a late attack? Keep your eyes open for Theuns, Gilbert or Aberasturi making a late move. If Theuns wins, I’ll expect a special mention in his interview, for my part of the plan! For my pick, I’ll go with my head, and another win for Sam Bennett.
Rob Hatch is commentating on the 2019 Vuelta a España in the English language for Eurosport International
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