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 6: 198.9km, Mora de Rubielos – Ares del Maestrat
Ian Cleverly: Omar Fraile – Astana
A lumpy and bumpy day in the saddle. A big break to stay away? I recently watched a TV programme on betting, where the expert referred to the presenter’s efforts as “mug betting”. Well, here’s my mug’s bet: Omar. I like him. And he likes lumps and bumps (and the King of the Mountains jersey). Deal with it, Moley.
Andy McGrath: Sergio Higuita – Team EF
I think a break will make it, but it’s a pointless lottery picking a name at this early juncture. I had enough disappointment in last year’s Top Mañana when my escapee pick hadn’t even made it into the day’s move. So, a different tack – let’s assume the bunch chases them down. Having seen the way he monstered the sprint for seventh on stage two, I’ve got to go for the quick Colombian.
Nick Christian: Tao Geoghegan Hart – Team Ineos
I’d forgotten how hard it can be to pick a winner when, on a stage like this one, there are so many riders who could come good. I’ve always thought I’d do fine living in a command economy and this is why. After much deliberation I’m going for Geoghegan Hart, a rider who, from his interviews, seems to have something to prove to himself.
Ben Ward: Óscar Rodríguez – Euskadi Basque Country – Murias
There seems to be an unusually large amount of team leader prevarication amongst the big teams this year so I’m going with one of the breakthroughs of last year’s Vuelta, Óscar Rodríguez, to take advantage of the GC caginess.
Eurosport’s Rob Hatch: Alejandro Valverde – Movistar
Looking at stage 6 a couple of days beforehand, I can smell the first Alejandro Valverde victory of this Vuelta – that’s if a break isn’t allowed up the road. Let’s not forget we already have considerable time gaps, so a group allowed away by the GC teams is always possible. A type of finish that the race has made its own over the past few years.
Ladies and gentlemen, that is why we love the Vuelta. A harmless looking break stays away to the end and the man who’s been dropped more times than David Haye somehow takes the win. Nobody said that predicting cycling races was easy! We remain at 1-1.
Stage 6 is one that is hard to work out. We begin with a couple of climbs, it’s possible that a big break goes down the road and kisses the peloton goodbye. The problem is that the rest of the stage is nice and easy, which should mean plenty of men to chase the morning move. The day ends with 6.9km at 5.7%, which makes it far too hard for the quick men. This is a finish that screams puncheur, but will it all come back together?
Where to begin? Ian is going on the offensive with his “mug bet”, but Omar certainly isn’t a mug. The problem is that he has López in the red jersey and will have to sacrifice his personal goals. Andy seems to be overthinking this, I think I’ve got in his head with that cardigan comment! The Higuita Monster (think Honey Monster, but smaller) is a great pick, as he packs a very fast sprint finish, already putting Valverde in his place back on Sunday. That was a flat finish, this one is uphill, will he manage to roll the world champion again?
Nick’s on Tao, a rider who arrived with big expectations, but has dramatically fallen from grace, maybe he’s distracted by his quest to get insured for his vintage car. This isn’t a stage for him, he needs to go on the attack in the big mountains. Ben is hoping we are all dazzled by the use of “prevarication”, check out the big brain on Ben! He might have an impressive vocabulary, but his pick of Óscar Rodriguez is simply awful, he doesn’t stand a hope in hell.
What about Rob Hatch, the man who went to the University of Wales, who knew that was even a thing? The smooth talker has gone for Alejandro Valverde, although, I bet you he doesn’t say that name the same as you and me.
Verdict – after today’s shamble of a chase, I think the bunch will control the break and we’ll get a sprint. The final climb to the line is absolutely wonderful for Alejandro Valverde and he looks in fine form. It’s got to be a win for the world champion.
Rob Hatch is commentating on the 2019 Vuelta a España in the English language for Eurosport International