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?
Ian: Ben King – Dimension Data
Flip me. Between us, we called every rider from second to sixth yesterday: Bennett, Stybar, Gilbert, Valverde and Van der Sande. Did any of us have Cavagna, though? Did we heck. Still, I guess we are getting the hang of it, even if it’s a bit late in the day.
Now then. Back to bonkers mountains and big breaks. I fancy the GC is done and dusted now, unless something goes badly wrong tomorrow. Not sure how his form is but Ben King won two stages at this race last year. Time for another.
Ben: Tadej Pogačar – UAE Emirates
I think Oscar Rodriguez and the likes will go all out for the breakaway win, but while Roglic has surely got the overall title sewn up, there are some proper battles for the podium places behind. So although the mercurial Pogacar has been blowing slightly hot and cold, I’m going to tip him to have one of his excitingly relentless days as the GC group catch the escapees.
Nick: Alejandro Valverde – Movistar
Though it won’t be enough to win him La Vuelta, knowing Bala, he’s going to at least want to throw the last punch of the race. My guess is the GC group will catch the break at the foot of the final climb and stay together until the last k. That’s when Valverde will jump off the front – more symbolically than meaningful – and get his arms in the air for the last time as World Champion.
Andy: Pierre Latour – AG2R La Mondiale
Call me crazy (it’d be justified, as I haven’t got any other breakaway picks right yet), but I’ve got a good feeling about Latour. He’s been holding back in recent days, morale in the team is higher as Bouchard has near as won the Mountains jersey and he looked bloomin’ good in his stage 13 Basque Country break. He was just unfortunate the favourites lit it up behind him and passed him close to the finish.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Miguel Ángel López – Astana
Miguel Ángel López is fired up. His interview on Spanish tv showed him to be angry at Movistar and having heard a couple of his teammates, they were of a similar opinion. On stage 20, they will try to make Movistar pay. As we say in Accrington, $h1t or bust.
Stage 19 and those QuickStep boys did it again. Remi Cavagna took a huge win from the break, a rider none of us picked, but we did manage to get second, third, fourth and fifth! The game remains level, with two stages to go, it’s squeaky bum time.
Stage 20 is the last day in the mountains, but the climbs just aren’t hard enough for real GC action. There will be attacks, but riders will have to be having a very bad day to go pop. The stage ends with 3.8km at 6.5%, so it’s one for someone who has a punchy kick. As ever, we have to decide if the breakaway is going to win, I think they have a great chance.
Looking at today’s picks, I can sense a general fatigue setting in, one that has led to some bonkers picks. Ben has gone for Pogačar, a rider who’s been looking rather tired, it is his first grand tour after all. I just can’t see the Slovenian winning this stage. If Ben thinks it’s a GC day, I can’t believe he’s gone with Pogačar.
Andy is on Pierre “Don’t call me Roger” Latour. He was very good on stage 13, but since that point he’s looked awful, and I’m not just talking about his dodgy hair colour. Rumour is he went for blonde, but got ginger instead. Nick’s on Valverde, which is a good pick. The final ramp to the line is great for him, as long as the break haven’t gotten there first.
Ian’s on Ben King, maybe he’s a big fan of his music, or perhaps he’s forgotten that it’s 2019, not 2018. This is a terrible pick. Finally we have Rob, who’s been lured in by the talk by López. His comments will have been noticed in the Movistar camp, they’ll make him pay tomorrow.
Verdict – I’m going for a slightly risky one, Dylan Teuns. The Belgian has enjoyed a good race, where he was in the red jersey for a day. He sits just outside the top 10, there is just under 3 minutes between him and Marc Soler. I think we’ll see him looking to get in the break and he has the punch to win from a reduced group.
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