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 16: 144.4km, Pravia – Alto de La Cubilla. Lena
Ian: Sergio Higuita – EF Education First
Seeing as my punt for stage 15 was a “horrible pick” and “not a good enough climber”, I’ll take Lawson Craddock’s seventh place all day long. Wind your furry neck in, Moley.
Another peaky blinder of a stage coming up. I’ve an inkling the GC boys will cancel each other out and leave the break to do its thing. Therefore, it’s the old EF one-two swaperoo, with Higuita providing the sucker punch this time. Also, he shares a surname with the most bonkers goalkeeper ever, the great Rene Higuita (he of the Scorpion Kick). That’s either a good omen or completely stupid logic.
Ben: Primož Roglič – Jumbo Visma
I’ve been in Wales for the last three days, with no reception or WiFi so I have completely lost track of the intricacies of this race. So I’m just going to go with Roglič.
Andy: Esteban Chaves – Mitchelton-Scott
I feel like Roglic is the strongest and his team are content to keep their foot off the gas in the chase and let breakaways hoover up the stage spoils. Mitchelton-Scott haven’t won a stage yet, despite considerable aggression from the likes of Grmay, Nieve and Howson. Here’s reckoning their little Colombian will get them off the mark – he came good in the Giro’s third week, just like he might do in Spain.
Nick: Wout Poels – Team Ineos
Stage 15’s moral victory is definitely Ian’s, especially considering the slating Mole gave his pick of Lawson Craddock. The Texan can’t climb, eh? I came pretty close myself, with Rodgelick, but I think tomorrow he’ll barely even need to be on the defensive, as the final climb doesn’t offer enough opportunities to attack him. I can only identify two riders suited to tomorrow’s finish who didn’t give it a go today. Poels is one. I won’t name the other.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Gianluca Brambilla – Trek Segafredo
Another huge day, a few thousand metres more climbing & some tired Vuelta legs. I think the breakaway will have a good chance of hitting the long, final climb. It’s a lottery and my name is Gianluca Brambilla, who I reckon has been ‘resting up’ a little over the past couple of days.
Told you the break would win! Unfortunately for me, my pick of Jakob Fuglsang didn’t make the move. Ian had Craddock, who did make the move, but could only finish seventh. The rest of the pundits were on GC riders, poor them.
Stage 16 and we stay in the mountains. This time we have three categorised climbs and finish with a HC effort. We are faced with the same question about whether or not the break will take the stage? Roglič looks unstoppable, will another team chase the break down, just to set him up for a stage win? Yet again, I think it’s a stage for the breakaway.
Looking at the picks, it seems like most are thinking breakaway. It also looks like I’m taking a bit of stick for suggesting Lawson Craddock isn’t good enough at climbing to have won today’s stage. While the writers are throwing some mud at me, I’ll just point out that he finished seventh, last time I checked that isn’t a win. The name of this game is picking the winner of the stage, not the guy who finishes between sixth and eighth.
Andy’s on Chaves, maybe he didn’t hear that he crashed hard on Saturday. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. Ian’s going with the Higuita Monster. The little man is surpassing expectations in his grand tour debut, and he can certainly win this stage. It looks like Ian is now starting to understand the game. Nick is rolling the dice with Wout Poels. This race has been like a game of Where’s Wout, usually at the back of the peloton is the answer. The Dutch climber has certainly saved a lot of energy, but can he reverse a worrying run of results?
Ben is trying a new technique, one that includes not watching the race and simply picking the race leader. Whatever happens, I don’t fancy going to Wales, seems like you can’t watch the cycling. Rob “Last Minute” Hatch has taken his habit of picking late to a new level, just beating the deadline by a matter of seconds. He’s on Gianluca Brambilla, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen the wee Italian doing anything of note, I think he’s just here for a free holiday.
Verdict – I think it’s got to be another one for the breakaway, but which of the attackers to choose? We now have a long list of riders who have shown their hand and will be desperate to get up the road. I’m going to go a little left field and hope for some divine intervention, with my selection of Jesús Herrada. The Spaniard already has a stage win to his name, but he’s now chasing the KOM jersey. He has the quality to win from the break, and the engine required to make the move. Maybe he can ask the big man upstairs for a helping hand.
Rob Hatch is commentating on the 2019 Vuelta a España in the English language for Eurosport International
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