Each stage, 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. Who will win?
Stage 5: 188km, Granada – Roquetas de Mar
Pierre Rolland – EF Education First-Drapac
At the Abu Dhabi Tour in February I spent more time than I care to confess interviewing an EF rider who I thought was Pierre Rolland but who turned out to be Will Clarke. You might think the extra inches, kilos and Australian accent would have given me a clue, but no. Anyway, the Frenchman has been in the break for the last three days, is clearly desperate for a stage win and I have a hunch he’ll have enough in the tank to fire himself over the final climb for a victory party by the beach. Would at least absolve me of a little lingering cringe.
Gorka Izagirre – Bahrain-Merida
A second category climb this close to the finish is typically enough to deter the sprinter’s teams from fully committing to a gallop. In which case, you have to assume an early escape may get its chance. Although always a bit of a lottery punting on a break, there is a certain type of rider who, on a lumpy day, can reliably be expected to (a) try and get in it and (b) finish it off. The Izagirre brothers give you two options. Gorka is further down the classification at the time of writing, so more likely to enjoy freedom of movement.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)
That punchy last climb will tire the legs of a few rivals, and the Slovakian should be getting into his groove.
Elia Viviani – Quick Step
After his sprint finish on the apparently “flat” stage 3, I’m going to hedge my bets that the Quick Step man has it in him again. Although the course profile has a category two and three climb, it’s a flat 10km run into the finish line from the bottom of the final descent. That should be enough road for teams to bring the break back.
Omar Fraile – Astana
I picked Fraile for stage 2 to no effect, but figure if I keep the faith, he’ll come good eventually. Besides, he shares a name with my favourite character from The Wire: “Omar comin’!”
So, the break won today, but I was on the wrong horse. Onwards to tomorrow! The stage is classic Vuelta, with over 3000m of climbing, but only two categorised climbs. Let me put it another way, no way a sprinter wins this stage. Hannah goes with Viviani, think she didn’t get the memo. Nick has Sagan, who did look better on Monday, but he’s not climbing particularly well. We have a cat 2 climb of 10.8km at 4.1%, which crests with 26.7km remaining, which will be too much for Sagan.
Who wants to control the stage? Movistar to set up Valverde? Sky to set up Kwiatkowski? The picks of Gorka Izagirre and Omar Fraile are both good, as the finish is perfect for them to take advantage of their fast sprints. I think we’ll see another breakaway success, but it certainly won’t be easy to make the move. The stage is likely to go to a strong rouleur.
My pick – Alessandro De Marchi