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 11: 180km, Saint Palais – Urdax-Dantxarinea
Ian Cleverly: Philippe Gilbert – Deceuninck Quick Step
Big break to go away and stay away. I’d almost forgotten Gilbert was here. Fingers crossed he’s keeping his powder dry for this stage.
Andy McGrath: Gianluca Brambilla – Trek-Segafredo
This has all the makings of a day where the contenders shadowbox while the big fight happens in a hefty breakaway. Brambilla has shown willing, up the road on stage 7, and came very close in the Giro this year on a similarly punchy day.
Nick Christian: Pierre Latour – AG2R
In the words of Matt White, look. I might have got yesterday’s pick disastrously wrong, but I did predict precisely the way in which I would be wrong. So doesn’t that make me even more right, in a way? Latour lost a load of time on Sunday and it’s got to have been with a mind to a stage like this one. Three quite demanding climbs late into the stage will present the opportunities Latour needs to winnow the break down to just a couple. After which his experience should prove decisive.
Ben Ward: Luka Mezgec – Mitchelton Scott
The day after a long time-trial, surely a big breakaway is nailed on here? I’m going to pick Luka Mezgec to win the reduced sprint and continue the Slovenian rampage.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Tao Geoghegan Hart – Team Ineos
Lots of TT action the day before & GC riders will need to pick up the pieces. This is too hard for the sprinters. I’m going breakaway & Tao Geoghehan Hart.
Stage 10 ended with the expected outcome, a win for Primož Roglič. I’m still trying to work out how some of the panel decided against him. Ben now has 3 wins and is wearing the red jersey; Rob and I are currently on 2 wins. The rest of the panel are beginning to resemble Team Ineos.
We move to stage 11, and head into the Basque Country. The roads are deceptive tough in this part of the world, but the temperature is also a couple of degrees cooler, which is good news for a lot of the bunch. This stage contains 2900m of climbing and features a tough looking cat 2 climb. Can the sprinters survive it? Who will chase the morning break? This is the dilemma facing the teams, as most won’t be keen on wasting energy, only for their sprinter to be dropped a long way from home. Mitchelton-Scott are the only team who will be confident of their sprinter surviving, but with two riders high on GC, they don’t have a full squad to chase the break. If this is going to come back together, another team will have to help.
Ian, Andy, Rob and Nick are all hoping the breakaway stays away. After a disastrous campaign, they’re all gambling on a change of fortune. Nick’s selection is the worst, this stage just isn’t hard enough for a climber like Pierre “don’t call me Roger” Latour. Both Gilbert and Brambilla are good options if the break stays away. Rob is on Tao, a very popular pick in Top Mañana. He is showing signs of improving form, but it still won’t be easy for him to win a stage without big mountains.
Ben is playing it safe and going with the sprint. I sense our leader is going a bit conservative on us, wheel sucking all the way to the finish!
Verdict – If this was in a one-week stage race, it would end in a sprint, but it’s the Vuelta. We are in stage 11, bodies are tired, some are struggling to cope with the recent change in weather, and everyone could do with a rest. I just don’t see anyone really wanting to chase, which is a real shame for Luca Mezgec, as he would be the big favourite in a sprint. In the lottery that is picking a breakaway winner, it makes sense to go with a rider with a fast kick. He was climbing well the other day; I’ll follow Ian’s lead and go with Philippe Gilbert.
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
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