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?
Stage 3: 199.6km, Ibi. Ciudad del Juguete-Alicante
Ian Cleverly: Sam Bennett
A sprinter’s stage for sure. I’m very tempted by young Fabio Jakobsen – and seeing as youngsters are sweeping the old guard away with undue haste recently, he’s a sound punt. But I’ll play it safe. The Irishman to continue his fine run of form at the Binck Bank Tour and take the first of several Vuelta stages.
Andy McGrath: Fabio Jakobsen
A straightforward enough stage for the Dutch champ and his team-mates to control. This kid’s going to be good, and I’m expecting a maiden Grand Tour stage win from him, whether it’s in Alicante or later in the race. In Max Richeze, he has one of the best lead-out men in the business to help him too.
Nick Christian: Sam Bennett
I’ve tried to find the case for A. N. Other sprinter but I just can’t come up with any convincing arguments. Bennett won’t win all the flat (sorry, “flat”) stages at the Vuelta, but he will win this one.
Miles Baker Clarke: Fabio Jakobsen
With five wins for the year so far, perhaps he can be let off the leash in a big way and take home his first Grand Tour win. At 22 he might lack the long-range firepower, but with a punchy sprint, he’s in for a chance.
Ben Ward: Sam Bennett
I mean, he’s clearly the most in-form sprinter in the race and most capable of getting over the bumps
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Sam Bennett
South again, today & starting in Rubén Plaza’s hometown. He isn’t racing, however, and the finish down in Alicante is a fast one, following a similar long, downhill route to the one seen back at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana in February. Sam Bennett is the man in form and I’ll back him to continue his best ever season to date.
Stage 3 and the first of the big sprint finishes. We have two cat 3 climbs along the way, the final one is 6.7km at 4.1%, which is merely a speed bump in Vuelta terms. Due to the mountainous route, most sprinters try to avoid coming to the Vuelta, often picking up a carefully timed knee injury.
This year we have three of the top sprinters in the world: Bennett, Jakobsen and Gaviria. The Irishman starts out as the big favourite, thanks to his 11 wins in 2019. Jakobsen rides for QuickStep, which tells you everything you need to know! Gaviria was part of the UAE squad that all hit the deck during the TTT, not ideal preparation for a sprint finish.
You can see that everyone has gone for either Bennett or Jakobsen, which is a wise move. It seems that the writers are really stepping up their game this year, I think they were all a little annoyed after I humiliated them last year. The winner of the stage will also need a strong sprint train, they can’t do it all by themselves. Bennett has Shane “The Flying Mullet” Archbold, Jakobsen has Max “No Nickname” Richeze, both riders will be well supported in the finale.
Verdict – Prediction – Sam Bennett to take the win in the Irish province of Alicante. No cava at the dinner table, it’s Guinness all round.
Rob Hatch is commentating on the 2019 Vuelta a España in the English language for Eurosport International