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  • Top Mañana: Vuelta a España – stage 18

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    Look at that profile. It’s as flat as they come on the Vuelta. A day for the sprinters say our panel. But could a chancer nab it?

    Photographs: ASO / Luis Ángel Gómez
    Vuelta 2018 stage 9

    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 18: Ejea de los Caballeros – Lleida, 186 km

     

    Andy McGrath
    Peter Sagan – Bora-Hansgrohe
    There’s a reason the world champion hasn’t gone home: he’s been waiting for this stage. They don’t come much more straightforward on the Vuelta. Despite the false flat finish, Sagan has still got to get his positioning right to pip Viviani.

     

    Hannah Troop

    Elia Viviani – Quick Step

    The sprinters have definitely been keeping their powder dry over the last few days, Andy has gone with Sagan but I still think Bora won’t crack the Quick Step lead-out.

     

    Ian Cleverly    

    Giacomo Nizzolo – Trek-Segafredo

    Rather feels like we go round in circles choosing the same five riders on sprint stages, but that’s the reality of the game. Outside of Sagan and Viviani, we are clutching at straws. I’m going to clutch Nizzolo’s straw this time.

     

    Nick Christian

    Mark Padun – Bahrain-Merida

    Even if I thought Van Poppel had a genuine chance, with team-mate Kruisjwijk back in the GC mix, he’s going to be on bottle duty all day, so I won’t do it. A miss is a good as a mile, so I’m taking a punt on Padun, who came third on stage 12, and who won a stage of the Tour of the Alps back in April with a crafty little clip off the front.

     

    Hugo Gladstone

    Danny van Poppel – Lotto NL-Jumbo

    I’d be more confident of a Van Poppel victory if this was 1991. Daddy vP took four stages in that year’s Vuelta. Still, thanks for the gift Nick. Sure, his team won’t chuck a lot of resources at the sprint, but Jean-Paul’s son Danny has had two previous podium finishes in this year’s race – neither with a great deal of assistance either.

     

    Cycling Mole 

     

    After all the recent GC action, it’s time for the sprinters to have some fun. Stage 18 will be one of the easiest days for the peloton. A small break will escape at the beginning of the stage and will be caught in the final 20km.

     

    The closing kilometres have a couple of corners, but nothing that will worry anyone. Get ready for a sprint royale.

     

    Andy – let me get this right, he had the first pick and went with Sagan? The world champion has not been able to challenge Viviani in the sprints, maybe Andy knows something we don’t.

     

    Hannah – bet she was amazed to get the pick of Viviani. The Italian has looked in fine form during the race and his sprint train is second to none. Anything but a win will be seen as a massive disappointment.

     

    Ian – I can sense Ian’s frustration! After Viviani and Sagan have been picked, it’s very difficult to find a winner. Nizzolo is a decent selection and will be fighting for the podium.

     

    Nick – instead of picking a top five contender, Nick goes bold with Padun. There is no point picking an average sprinter, you might as well go with a breakaway contender. I like Nick’s style!

     

    Hugo – Van Poppel has enjoyed a good race, but just can’t seem to get the win. He will hope that Viviani and Sagan have suffered in the mountains, slowing down their sprint.

     

    My pick – Elia Viviani, it’s inevitable.