Volta Ciclista a Catalunya preview

The 94th edition of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, the fifth event on the UCI World Tour and Spain’s oldest professional stage race, starts on Monday. It’s packed full of GC contenders so here’s a quick preview of what to expect.

The parcours

  • Volta Ciclista a Catalunya is run over seven stages starting for the third consecutive year in the coastal resort of Calella and concluding in the region’s capital, Barcelona.

VCroutemap

  • The race has no individual or team time-trial, just lots of climbs (25) with the two tough mid-race summit finishes in the Pyrenees likely to be decisive.
  • The first stage has a couple of stiff climbs at the back end, favouring the likes of last year’s stage winner Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-QuickStep). While the second day won’t be quite as arduous, there’s still a climb just 6km from the finish.

VCstage4

  • Stages three and four should determine the overall order as the bunch faces back-to-back summit finishes on La Molina and then the hors categorie Vallter 2000-Setcases climb – a stage won by Movistarlet Nairo Quintana in 2013.
  • Day five is not too dissimilar to the first two stages while stage six is the only true day for the sprinters, with a slight downhill over the final 50-odd kilometres.
  • The race concludes with a loop around Barcelona that includes eight ascents of the Monjuic climb – ouch!

Fast facts

  • All 18 WorldTour teams will take part, plus the only Spanish ProConti squad Caja Rural, Cofidis, CCC Polsat and Wanty-Groupe Gobert with Philippe Gilbert’s younger brother, Jerome. Each team has eight riders.
  • The race is organised by the regional sporting association and the overall leader wears a green and white striped jersey.
  • This year’s event will feature a special intermediate sprint in honour of recently deceased 1950s and ’60s Catalan cycling legend, Miguel Poblet, who holds the record for stage wins in this race (33) and twice won the overall.
  • The 2013 edition was won by Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin.
2013 Podium (l to r) Rodriguez, Martin, Scarponi (image: official website)

2013 Podium (l to r) Rodriguez, Martin, Scarponi (image: official website)

Who to watch

Girona-based defending champion Martin will be at the start line but he’s facing arguably a more difficult parcours and stiffer competition this year. Keen to steal his crown are recent Tirreno-Adriatico winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Carlos Betancur (Ag2r) who’s already won Tour du Haut Var and Paris-Nice.

Then there’s local boy, former winner and 2013 runner-up Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and more Colombians with Quintana and, keen to impress his new team, Rigoberto Uran (OPQS) on the starting roster. Sky are rolling out the big guns with Chris Froome and Richie Porte (Sky), but no Bradley Wiggins as originaly expected, while BMC come with Tejay van Garderen and Samu Sanchez. Yes, there’s a positive galaxy of stars.

I assume he'll leave the trident at home (image: RCS)

I assume he’ll leave the trident at home (image: RCS)

There’s slim pickings for the sprinters but expect the likes of Leigh Howard (Orica-GreenEDGE), Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek) and Roberto Ferrari (Lampre-Merida) to be in the mix on stage six.

With so many riders having their eyes on the overall prize, this should provide opportunities for those keen to attack. Expect to see the likes of Jens Voigt (Trek), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and his teammate Luis Leon Sanchez well to the fore. There’s also the likelihood that riders eyeing prizes in Grand Tours, such as Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), will test their legs and maybe go for a stage. In any event, it’s likely to be a cracking race.

Race details

March 24th: Stage 1 – Calella to Calella, 169.7km

March 25th: Stage 2 – Mataro to Girona, 168km

March 26th: Stage 3 – Banyoles to La Molina, 162.9km

March 27th: Stage 4 – Alp to Valter 2000-Setcases, 166.4km

March 28th: Stage 5 – Llanars to Vall de Camprodon, 218.2km

March 29th: Stage 6 – El Vedrell to Vilanova I la Geltru, 172km

March 30th: Stage 7 – Barcelona to Barcelona, 120.7km

Daily live coverage and highlights will be shown by Eurosport in the UK. For other coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website

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