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 13: 166.4km, Bilbao – Los Machucos
Ian: Tadej Pogačar – UAE Emirates
I’m feeling a little bit sick. Went for Gilbert on stage 11 and failed miserably. Went elsewhere for stage 12 and he won. Would have gone for him for this one – bastard of a finish on Los Machucos following a series of lumps, decent Gilbert territory – but he won’t do it two days in a row. Anyway, top ride, Phil, top ride. Back to the GC battle, then. Valverde is the obvious pick, so I’ll go with Tadej Pogačar to get his fresh young legs whirring up Machucos and inch closer to the podium.
Ben: Dylan Teuns – Bahrain Merida
Dylan Teuns for me today. He’s looked in good form all year and this stage is bang on for him – a similar final climb to his Tour win and possibly one of the last chances of freedom before Rod Ellingworth brings more GC discipline to Bahrain Merida next year.
Andy: Miguel Ángel López – Astana
That Los Machucos looks horrible – and right up this Colombian’s street. He’s yet to win a stage and needs to start putting the pressure on Roglic if he is to win this Vuelta. Lucky number 13 for Lopez (personal house style: I refuse to call him Superman, #sorrynotsorry).
Nick: Miguel Ángel López – Astana
Los Machucos? Dios mío, this looks like a bugger of a climb. With the amount of time the trio of Valverde, Quintana and Lopez need to make up on Rodgelick (©️ Sean Kelly), if one of them doesn’t win the stage, or at least give it a damn good go, I’ll only have to assume they’ve already given up. It was a coin-flip between the brawler and El Bala that’s landed Superman side up.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Miguel Ángel López- Astana
Miguel Ángel López. Superman has had the same cape on for a few days, now. He probably won’t be good enough to step into a phone box to change into red again, but I think he’ll win stage 13.
I got it wrong today, it was one for the break and not the GC riders. Luckily, the Rouleur team didn’t manage to pick the winner, what a shame. Jon Aberasturi, hahahaha.
Stage 13 and a big day in the battle for the red jersey. The stage ends with Los Machucos, where Stefan Denifl took the win in 2017, before having it taken off him due to doping. This is a brutal climb, 6.6km at 9.7%, one that us mere mortals would struggle to walk up. The whole day is rammed full of climbing, with seven categorised hills, which means a big day in the battle for the polka dot jersey. The breakaway could win, but I sense that Astana will be keen on a stage win, as López doesn’t have one yet.
Poor Ian sounds a little downbeat. He’s frustrated that he picked Gilbert for stage 11, just like me, only for him to win stage 12. This is something that cycling punters often get frustrated with, but not me. It doesn’t matter that we chose him for stage 11, he didn’t win, stage 12 is a different day. His pick of Pogačar is one that doesn’t impress. Yes, the youngster won a brilliant stage on Sunday, but he struggled on the steep slopes of Mas de la Costa.
Rob, Andy and Nick are pinning their hopes on the Colombian, the man who the bookies have as the favourite. He has looked impressive during this race, and will want a stage win to go with his good legs. He sits 2:01 down on GC, but Roglič won’t be allowing him any freedom, to win this stage you need to be the strongest. Rob is hoping he lives up to his nickname, I’m hoping he’s more Clark Kent than Superman. Our red jersey, Ben, has decided to give us all a chance and picked Dylan Teuns. I’m a big fan of the Belgian, but this is a horrible pick, he simply cannot win from the GC group and is too close on GC to be allowed in the break. I sense our leader is starting to bottle it.
Verdict – Who’s got the Machucos to win on Machucos? If we get a GC day it’s going to be Roglič v Valverde v López, with Quintana hanging around the edges. Once again, I’m pinning my hopes on the world champion. The stage doesn’t actually finish at the top of the hill, we have a short section of downhill to the finishing line. I expect Valverde to outsprint whoever he is with and take his second win of the race.
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
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