Top Mañana: Vuelta a España – stage 9
Each stage, the Rouleur panel of ‘experts’ will give their picks for the following day’s race.
David Hunter, AKA Cycling Mole, is a top tipster who spends far more time studying the odds than we do. In a daily battle of wits, Team Rouleur will give their predictions before Moley runs his scathing eye over them and comes up with his own. Who will win?
Stage 9: 200km, Talavera de la Reina to La Covatilla
Thibaut Pinot – Groupama-FDJ
Pinot ought to be itching to attack after losing time in the crosswinds, and his rivals will be less bothered about shutting him down, given his larger deficit overall. Nobody would begrudge him success either, after his eleventh-hour Giro abandon.
Simon Yates – Mitchelton-Scott
My money is on Yates starting to play a few cards. He needs to be thinking about gaining seconds where he can ahead of the TT in a week’s time. And imagine how good that rest day coffee will taste with a bit of extra time gained.
Richie Porte – BMC
It’s a little surprising but several years working in service to Chris Froome and a few of being Sir Crash-a-lot mean Richie Porte has somehow still never won a Grand Tour stage. Like Contador last year he’s going to get a few chances to address that over the next few weeks. I’m betting on him converting the first.
Nairo Quintana – Movistar
The 2016 Vuelta champion has not exactly set the race alight. Yet… I’m banking on him to repeat his fabulous stage 17 Tour de France win and tear the field apart.
Pierre Rolland – EF Education First-Drapac
On paper, the Frenchman should have taken the stage Ben King won. That might say something about his form, but he was perhaps also paying a cost for being in the break on the two previous stages. I’m gambling on the escape sticking. Rolland’s clearly keen, he’s had a few days to recover from those early exertions, and his history of Grand Tour stage wins is one of tenacity, long-range breaks and summit finishes.
And on the ninth day, we hit the mountains. After a cracking opening week, it’s time for the GC battle to begin. This stage features four categorised climbs and ends with the first especialmountain of the race. The final climb to Alto de La Covatilla is 9.8km at 7.1%, it’s a monster! In terms of picking the stage winner, you must decide if the breakaway is going to win. Given the fact we have 8 men in a team, the balance of power does tilt to the breakaway, but if a team really wants to, we have a long area of flat before the final climb where the catch can be made.
Andy – with temperatures likely to be near 40 degrees, Andy has decided to take a chance and go with Pinot, a rider who doesn’t perform well in these conditions. I don’t see him challenging for the win.
Hannah – Simon Yates is going very well just now. After blowing so spectacularly in the Giro, his team are trying to get him to take the opening stages easy, but that’s not his style. Yates will be challenging for the win.
Nick – oh dear. Richie Porte is currently trying to ride into form, you can forget about him until the final week.
Ian – the little Colombian has sailed through the opening week, he looks in ominous form. This type of mountain is ideal for him to test his rivals and lay a big marker down for the stages to come. Like Yates, he’ll be challenging for the win.
Hugo – at last, someone goes for the break! Pierre Rolland will still be kicking himself after failing to win stage 4. The classy French rider will hope to make the morning move and the final climb is more suited to his characteristics.
My pick – the breakaway to take the win and Bauke Mollema to remind everyone what a great climber he is.