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 4: 161km, Vélez-Málaga – Alfacar. Sierra de la Alfaguara
Ion Izagirre – Bahrain-Merida
I originally thought Adam Yates might have something up his sleeve here, but I’m swerving him for a longshot. Izagirre is a proven winner – admittedly, it’s been a while – but he’s going well in Spain so far, so why not?
Tiesj Benoot – Lotto-Soudal
The break will finish ahead of the contenders. Early in the race, it’s a lottery when it comes to predicting who will be up there; I’ll plump for talented Tiesj, who will be hungry to salvage something from his injury-hit summer.
Richard Carapaz – Movistar
One for youth and skill I think, and Carapaz has a good measure of both. A recommencing of his rivalry with Miguel Angel Lopez looks likely and the Vuelta’s first summit finish (he won a similar stage at the Giro) will give him the chance to take first blood.
Miguel Angel Lopez – Astana
It could still be a bit early in the race for much to be seen as an innocuous escape. So, I think we’ll see the overall favourites at the front rather than the chancers. From that group, someone’s got to take the bait of a stage win. Miguel Angel Lopez, perhaps?
A few days ago, I put my money on Dan Martin for this stage. After seeing Kwiato’s disappointment at not winning on Caminito del Rey, I think the Sky man is going to try and bag himself some more time. Please, Dan, don’t let me down…
The start of the GC battle with two Cat 1 climbs, including a mountaintop finish. The final climb is 12.4km at 5.4%. Being the first big mountain finish, the breakaway will fancy their chances of success, but so will some of the GC favourites. The gradients aren’t overly difficult, but the baking heat will be a problem.
Ian’s gone with Ion Izagirre, who’s started the race okay, but doesn’t often win finishes like this. The pick of Lopez is good, this finish is much better for him compared with Sunday. Hannah’s gone with Kwiatkowski, which a lot of people will agree with, but can he beat Valverde?
My pick – Dylan Teuns from the break