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 for the next day’s stage before Moley runs his scathing eye over them and comes up with his own. Who will win?
Stage 20: Andorra to Coll de la Gallina. Santuario de Canolich, 97km
Alejandro Valverde – Movistar
Caveat: I am writing this two days before the stage, but I fancy the canny old campaigner to nick the stage, and the Vuelta, from under the nose of Simon Yates.
Yates has been riding far more conservatively in red than he did in pink but he’s going to want to finish on a high rather than defending his way to victory. If he’s got as much in the tank as I think he does, it’ll be fists in the air time.
Steven Kruijswijk – LottoNL-Jumbo
Matt White, Mitchelton-Scott DS, referred to Kruijswijk as a diesel engine the other day; I’m thinking by stage 20 we’ll see him fully warmed up and ready to go. It’s now or never.
Nairo Quintana – Movistar
Under what circumstances this happens, I wouldn’t like to speculate. Quintana’s form is possibly on the wane (I haven’t had the luxury of seeing stage 19) and it’s most likely he’ll be dispatched to the service of Valverde. But it’s a conundrum how all the tactics will play out at this point in the race. There will be attempted highjacks, man-on-man marking, stalemates and riders sweating over defending their positions as much as gaining them. Yates and Valverde are already accounted for and the Colombian has a track record on this type of short, mountainous stage.
Tao Geoghegan-Hart – Team Sky
I am reminded of the 2015 Vuelta stage in Andorra, a brute of a day that crammed six classified climbs and 5,300km ascent into 138km, designed by Andorran resident ‘Purito’ Rodriguez – the most hated man in the peloton that day. This shortest road stage of La Vuelta still packs in 4,000m of climbing in under 100km – a brutal end to three weeks of racing. I’m thinking that, like in 2015, they’ll sit tight until the final climb and the GC boys will let someone slip away. The Hackney Flyer to take a flyer. And his first pro win. Yeah, I know…
Stage 20, the much anticipated climbing day in Andorra. The organisers have managed to pack six categorised climbs into this 97km stage. It promises to be chaos, good luck to those trying to predict it!
Andy – goes with Valverde, who suffered today. Now, Andy picked him before today’s stage, but it was always a poor pick. Valverde isn’t usually brilliant in these types of stages.
Nick – Simon Yates is clearly the strongest rider in the race, but he doesn’t need to win this stage. Yates will be focused on following his main rivals and not wasting any energy, he needs to leave some matches for Innsbruck.
Hannah – Square Shoulder Steve would be a very popular winner. Not even he really knew how he’d be in the third week of this race, he’ll be delighted to have maintained the form he has shown since the start of the Tour de France. The final kilometres are very steep, which isn’t ideal for him.
Hugo – goes with Quintana, but this pick was before today’s stage. As Hugo points out, Quintana is good in this type of stage, but he’ll surely be used as a domestique for Valverde.
Ian – a bold pick by Ian, but seriously? Sky have two riders far more likely of taking a breakaway win. Back to the drawing board.
My pick – such a tough and unpredictable stage. Once again, I think we’ll see the GC riders covering each other and one lucky boy will slip away and take the win. Given his form on steep gradients, I’ll go with Enric Mas.