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: Fabio Jakobsen – Deceuninck Quick Step
Well, that was fun, wasn’t it? If there’s one thing you can say about La Vuelta, it’s impossible to predict the outcome of any given stage – virtually every day. Maybe it is the best Grand Tour after all.
Obviously, Sam Bennett will win this, so I’ll throw Jakobsen from the excellent Deceuninck-Quick Step squad in the mix, so we are not all backing the same horse. Adios, amigos!
Ben: Sam Bennett – Bora Hansgrohe
Simples. Got to be, surely. Having valiantly defended Majka’s 6th place from the onslaught (!) of Wilco Kelderman, Bennett’s team might be able to afford him a modicum of support, if they can be bothered to put down the champagne glasses. Not that he’ll need them.
Nick: Sam Bennett – Bora Hansgrohe
So yeah, I didn’t actually look properly at the last couple of kilometres of the previous so-called flat stage but Bennett showed he’s not only the fastest sprinter in the WorldTour, but he’s more versatile than any of them as well. He’d have gotten away with it if wasn’t for that pesky Cavagna fellow. I don’t think I need to examine the Madrid profile in detail to know that this one is going to finish in a bunch sprint.
Andy: Sam Bennett – Bora Hansgrohe
Well, Top Manaña has been fun. It’s also been emotional. Mainly emotions of denial, rage and despondency for me when my breakaway pick repeatedly doesn’t even make it into the day’s escape let alone get close to winning. This predicting lark is tough. But I genuinely feel that when it comes to stage winners, this Vuelta has been needle-in-a-haystack type difficulty. What say you, Moley?
This one should be a dead cert. As much as I’d like to go for anyone else to not be boring, Jakobsen is gonna be jaded from his debut Grand Tour. We’ve already seen that nobody can hold a candle to Sam Bennett in the bunch sprints. Rinse and repeat in Madrid. Sangrias all round and hasta luego everybody.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Sam Bennett – Bora-Hansgrohe
Me and my big bold statements. Sometimes I look like a genius, other times I’m left to eat humble pie. Tonight, I’m digging into an extra big piece of pie! Congratulations to Ben, his pick of Pogačar was inspired and he now sits in the red jersey. We move to the final stage, a quick spin around Madrid, and a sprint finish.
I expected all the team to be on Sam Bennett, he is the overwhelming favourite to take the stage, but Ian’s decided to go with Fabio Jakobsen. These are the two men who have been battling for sprint wins in this race, and they should also finish first and second in Madrid. With thunderstorms and heavy rain predicted, we could see an upset, but I doubt it.
It’s been a brilliant edition of the Vuelta; I trust everyone has enjoyed it. From a prediction point of view, it’s been rather tricky. We’ve seen many breakaway wins, and some surprise results, this is the beauty of the race. It’s not as controlled as the Tour and Giro, and it allows riders the chance to launch themselves on the world stage. You can bet we’ll be hearing a lot more from Pogačar, Higuita, Knox and Cavagna. The Rouleur team have also taken any light ribbing in good spirit, I’m actually not like this in real life, I’m a lot worse.
Verdict – I’m one stage behind Ben, there is no point in selecting Bennett, even though I think he’ll win. Instead, I’m chasing the glory of drawing the game and going with Fabio “Please save me” Jakobsen. QuickStep have enjoyed a wonderful race; can they deliver one more win?
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