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?
Ian: Lawson Craddock – EF Education First
It’s been a torrid Vuelta for EF since losing their two star men, Uran and Van Garderen, to crashes early in the race. Lawson Craddock is coming into form – third on stage 11, fourth in the TT the previous day. I originally had his team-mate Higuita down for this one, but he had a long day in the break, so it’s Craddock’s turn.
Ben: Tadej Pogačar – UAE Emirates
I feel like I should pick Dylan Teuns again, but having a repeat pick seems against the spirit of things in a way that doesn’t really make sense. Can you tell that I don’t like betting, even when it is pretend? Anyway, I’m going to go for the youthful legs of Tadedge Podgikar.
Andy: David de la Cruz – Team Ineos
Had as much luck in breakaway bingo so far as Sideshow Bob in a rake factory but here goes another Hail Mary punt. Ineos have the square root of sod all from the race so far, despite having several handy climbers on board. What gives? The third week is their time to shine, surely. De la Cruz has (possibly) ridden himself into decent form and they must have picked him last-minute for a sporting reason…
Nick: Primož Roglič – Jumbo Visma
Another “only at the Vuelta” final climb. With the third week looking somewhat easier than the first two, I think Roglič’s rivals will view this as one of their last best chances to take time back, so they’re going to take it to him. And they’re going to wish they hadn’t.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Miguel Ángel López – Astana
One week to go & a fully televised mountain stage to start us on the countdown. Up and down all day and more grand tour style climbs than Vuelta goat tracks. GC guys will want a fight but may let others take the stage. If they don’t, I’m backing López to take that win he so desperately needs.
Sam Bennett delivered the goods today, poor Ian must have been wondering why on Earth he picked Gaviria. Ben is leading the way with four stages, myself and Rob “Last Minute” Hatch are on three. After a short respite from the mountains, stage 15 takes back into the big mountains of the Asturias region. These climbs aren’t well known, which adds a little bit of the unknown to proceedings.
We have a shortish stage of 154km, but four cat 1 climbs to deal with. This could be one of those stages that go down in legend, or it could be a relatively boring day until the final climb. The stage ends with 7.7km at 10%, which is simply eyewatering, especially given the climbs that come before it. When looking to pick the winner, we have to consider if it’ll be a GC or breakaway day. Well, what do you think? Astana seem like the only team wanting to chase and set up a stage win, but that plan went badly wrong on Friday. Will they keep the faith in Superman, or let one of their luxury domestiques chase the win? If we get a GC day, take your pick from Roglič, Valverde, Pogačar, López and Quintana.
Looking at the picks from the esteemed Rouleur crew, we have Andy and Ian going for the break with De La Cruz and Craddock. If you watched Friday’s stage, you’ll have seen that De La Cruz isn’t very good at descending, we have three of them in this stage. Craddock is just a horrible pick, he’s not a good enough climber to win this stage. The others have gone for Pogačar, Roglič and López. I can’t mock any of these picks, I just hope it’s not a GC day.
Verdict – I think it’s another day for the breakaway, it is the Vuelta after all. Now we all know picking the winner of a breakaway stage is incredibly difficult, especially at this stage of a grand tour. At this point, riders sitting outside the top 10, but inside the top 20 start to get interested in the moves. Looking at these riders, one name stands out to me, I’ll go with Jakob Fuglsang. The Dane has enjoyed a truly remarkable season, and a Vuelta win would top it off.
Top Mañana – Stage 1
Top Mañana – Stage 2
Top Mañana – Stage 3
Top Mañana – Stage 4
Top Mañana – Stage 5
Top Mañana – Stage 6
Top Mañana – Stage 7
Top Mañana – Stage 8
Top Mañana – Stage 9
Top Mañana – Stage 10
Rob Hatch is commentating on the 2019 Vuelta a España in the English language for Eurosport International