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 12: 171.4km, Circuito de Navarra – Bilbao
Ian: Ion Izagirre – Astana
Here we go again. Breakaway bingo. First off, I was thinking just plump for a random Spaniard. Then I remembered we are deep in the Basque Country and realised that, much like with the stupendous ride of Mikel Atturia yesterday – previous best result: 6th at Tour of Qinghai Lake, 2014 – some local lad will probably catch them all napping. It was brother Gorka’s turn yesterday, so I say Astana to send the other Izagirre up the road and smash it in Bilbao.
Andy: Omar Fraile – Astana
Well, it’s all about that steep blighter on the city limits of Bilbao. It’ll explode any breakaway and I dare say there’ll be a few GC seconds won and lost. I’m going for Omar – Fraile by name, not frail by nature. He has a good record on these kind of eyewatering short climbs and hails from the Basque city’s outskirts. Plus, Ian and our photographer Paolo Martelli have told me he’s a very nice bloke.
Nick: Jon Aberasturi – Caja Rural
Before Ian’s selection arrived in my Inbox I had also picked Ion Izagirre, based on him being a Basque rider and this being the Basque country. But we’re not going to beat the Mole unless we spread our bets, so I was forced to think again. My turn to go for the random Spaniard then. Except I don’t think he’s that random.
Aberasturi has two top ten finishes in this race already and although both came on the flattest stages of the race so far, he can clearly also climb, as his 6th place on stage 3 of Itzulia demonstrated. Add to that a stage win last month in the Vuelta a Burgos and he’s my hombre del dia.
Ben: Pierre Latour – AG2R
I don’t think Roglic will feel the need to try and stretch his lead with any risky descending today (he used to be a ski jumper dontcha know), as I think the other GC riders will largely be consolidating rather than targeting today’s stage. So far AG2R’s most prominent participation in the race has been Silvan Dillier getting a rain jacket from Burgos-BH, so I’m going to go with Pierre Latour.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Alejandro Valverde – Movistar
On paper, another chance for a breakaway, perhaps. Not easy to pick the correct number in that particular lottery. The start could be a fast one, and with the terrain, may go on for a while if the correct group hasn’t managed to get away. If it’s together in the finale, it could be Valverde territory.
Another day where I correctly predicted the break would win, but no way I was getting Mikel Iturria. The Vuelta is usual unpredictable, but this year it’s gone to new levels. I’m having as hard a time as Boris Johnson’s strategy team. Onwards, and hopefully upwards, to stage 12. We’re still in the Basque Country, which means lots of short, steep climbs. This is a very easy stage, until we hit the final 40km, and three steep climbs. The final one is 1.9km at 12%, cresting with under 7km to go. It could be one for the break, it could be a small sprint, it could be a win for a solo rider. Will the GC teams eventually chase the break? That will decide on Movistar.
Over at Rouleur HQ, I can see that they think it’s going to be a break. One pick stands out as being about as horrible as we’ve had the whole race, that is Jon Aberasturi. Nick has decided to play a tactical game by spreading the picks, such a shame he chose a rider who has as much chance of winning as I do. Aberasturi possesses a fine uphill sprint, but he can’t climb. Nick is showing up his embarrassing knowledge of pro-conti cycling. Ian’s going with a Basque rider, Ion Izagirre. He’s currently 16th on GC, 12:53 behind Roglič. There is no way Jumbo-Visma will let him in the break, they don’t want another Astana rider high on GC. Well done Ian, another wasted pick.
Andy’s on Omar Fraile, one of my favourite riders in the bunch. Astana did allow a rider in the break today, but they’ve been very cautious with their domestiques, which could be bad news for Omar. Ben, our red jersey, is going with Pierre “Roger” Latour. The French climber has not enjoyed a great season, but did look good at the start of this race. He’s lost some big time since that point, no doubt looking to pick the right break, which could be this day. Rob “Big Time” Hatch, who has a nasty habit of submitting his picks late at night, seems to be hedging his bets. It looks like he’s on Valverde, but doesn’t sound convinced.
Verdict – forget about the breakaway, this is a GC day. Movistar to lead the charge and Alejandro Valverde to appear cresting the final climb on a white horse named Canyon, and soloing away to the finishing line.
Rob Hatch is commentating on the 2019 Vuelta a España in the English language for Eurosport International
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