Tour of Catalonia Preview

Monday, 18 March 2013

A short preview of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. A World Tour race it has attracted an impressive startlist with many names to watch, including Bradley Wiggins and Ryder Hesjedal as well as local lad and pre-race favourite Joaquim Rodriguez. Unlike other most other stage races, this one has no time trial meaning the small climbers like Nairo Quintana and José Rujano have a chance to win the overall too.

As usual here are the stages, the contenders and other info like TV times.

The Route
Overall the route is for the climbers as there’s not a single time trial in the race. There are time bonuses although not for the two mountain stages. 3-2-1 at intermediate sprints, 10-6-4 at all finishes except for Stages 3 and 4.

Here are the stages one by one.

Stage 1: Calella – Calella, 159.3km

A circuit race with some climbing throughout but a sprint finish is likely. The final includes a short climb but there are not many pure sprinters in the race so many will fancy their chances for the return to Calella.

Stage 2: Girona – Banyoles, 160km

A home start for a good number of English-speaking pros, this stage finishes with a flat circuit for the sprinters, their last chance before the race heads for the Pyrenees and its ski resorts.

Stage 3: Vidreres – Vallter 2000-Setcases, 180km

The race heads north to the French border and right into the Pyrenees with the finish in the ski resort of Vallter. It’s uphill for most of the day and the final is 12km long and averages 7.8% with sections at 12% making this a real test for the climbers but also the general overall contenders like Wiggins and Hesjedal as they try to perfect their pacing.

Stage 4: Llanars-Vall de Camprodon – Port Ainé-Rialp, 217km

The Queen Stage of the race and on the adopted home roads of Joaquim Rodriguez, the Catalan has moved to Andorra, the mountain principality that’s the Pyrenean version of Monaco, minus the port. Port Ainé means a pass in the local lingo and the final climb is 18.9km long and averages 6.5%, enough to hurt but the real damage will be the 12% section.

Stage 5: Rialp – Lleida, 156km

The race heads away from the mountains and if there’s one climb in the middle of the stage, the 9.6km Port d’Âger and its 5% gradient, the finish is flat and this is a stage for the sprinters.

Stage 6: Almacelles – Valls, 178.7km

A good day for a breakaway if the move includes no threat to the overall. The first category Prades is the main climb of the day but a gentle ascension which never rises beyond 6%. It’s followed by the Lilla, a second category climb just 14km from the finish which is 6.1km long and averages 4.8%, the perfect launchpad for a strongman.

Stage 7: El Vendrell – Barcelona (Montjuïc), 122km

Few kilometres but no procession as the final stage visits Barcelona and uses the tricky Montjuïc circuit for eight hill reps on the 2km slope which averages 5.7% but hits 8%. If the time gaps are small, this stage can still decide the overall classification.

The Riders
Defending champion Michael Albasini of Orica-Greenedge is not riding. Instead Joaquim Rodriguez looks like an obvious pick to win the race as the Katusha rider can climb well and will be motivated by racing in his home region, plus he has a strong team with the likes of Simon Spilak and Denis Menchov in support, both in the front group on the Montagne de Lure.

Rodriguez won’t have it easy as a stellar cast of rivals will look to exploit the mountain stages. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre-Mreida) are in-form and previous winners. Meanwhile Robert Gesink (Blanco) will be hoping for some good luck and he might find it here. Another Paris-Nice revenge-seeker will be Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) who fell ill in France. Lotto-Belisol’s Jurgen Van den Broeck is a stealthy outsider, so much that few remember he came fourth in the 2012 Tour de France.

Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) are in a similar position, both won grand tours last year, both have strong teams but neither has been visible in racing so far so we’ve yet to see what state they are in. Both are planning a return to the Giro which is now, wait for it, less than six weeks away. Wiggins will appear here and then in the Giro del Trentino so we can probably expect ambitions similar to his run of Paris-Nice and Romandie last year.

This is a race for the climbers to take on the others though. Amongst the climbers, watch Ag2r’s Domenico Pozzovivo, Radioshack’s Chris Horner and Cofidis’s Dani Navarro whilst Vacansoleil-DCM pin their hopes in José “El Condor” Rujano. Nairo Quintana almost won the final stage of Paris-Nice and seems to be the best of the lot. FDJ send Thibaut Pinot and Kenny Elissonde away from France to avoid the media pressure whilst Euskaltel might feel the heat from their lack of wins but Igor Anton and Mikel Nieve are capable of winning on a good day.

As for the sprinters, there are not many. It’s a World Tour race but without too many sprint finishes the main sprinters are waiting for the classics. Astana have Andrea Guardini, OPQS bring Andrew Fenn… and that’s it. Instead there are several fast finisher who’ll look to exploit the climbing and sprint from a small group, think Allan Davis (Orica-Greenedge), Julien Simon of (Sojasun), Samuel Dumoulin (Ag2r) Michel Kreder (Garmin-Sharp) or Gianni Meersman (OPQS).

TV

As well as Spanish TV, Eurosport are showing the race each day 90 minutes a day from 3.30-5.00pm Euro time each day.

Once again cyclingfans.com or steephill.tv are the go-to sites for video streams but remember if a pirate video feed is better than nothing, Eurosport’s Player is the real deal offering internet streaming that normally won’t fail. Of course it’s not available worldwide but worth exploring if you can.

Weather
A forecast on Monday will be redundant in a few days’ time but in general the week looks set for sunshine and showers. Click here for the daily weather picture: www.meteo.cat

Last year saw the race curtailed by snow with a stage quickly adjusted to draw a new finish line halfway up a climb as the snow fell hard. These problems look unlikely for 2013 but there’s an unfortunately high chance of rain in the Pyrenees later this week.

Catalonia?
It’s the region in the north-east of Spain with Barcelona as its capital. Along with the Basque region, Catalonia is one of Spain’s most wealthy areas. It has a strong local identity which includes a flag and of course a language and also some popular support for secession from the Spanish Kingdom.

The region’s most famous cyclist is Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez but the region includes the scenic city if Girona which has become a base for many expatriate cyclists ever since Lance Armstrong moved there and many of his US Postal team mates congregated nearby.

As a whole the region offers some excellent cycling as it is framed by the Mediterreanean to the east and the Pyrenees to the north, offering a mild climate but also plenty of challenging roads. The pro race is a highlight of the cycling calendar but there is the annual Volta a Lleida, the amateur version of this race and one of the big races on the Spanish amateur calendar.

Pin It

{ 23 comments }

Wheelsucker March 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

The text on Stage 2 is cut off, I think.

It’ll be very interesting to see both Hesjedal and Wiggins in action, and up gainst Rodriguez too. With no TT this will be a real test of climbing. Thanks for the preview.

The Inner Ring March 18, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Thanks for the heads-up on the vanishing text, it should be fixed now.

tonyrone March 18, 2013 at 2:16 pm

a smarting JRod to triumph with Rigo and Horner to fill the remaining podium berths

Alasdair March 18, 2013 at 4:07 pm

Does Purito count as a Catalan for the purpose of the ‘best-placed Catalan’ jersey?

Ablindeye March 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Thanks for the preview. It seems the relatively amateur TV production is back for another year but nonetheless I enjoyed stage 1 in spite of that.

Hollis March 18, 2013 at 10:16 pm

I couldn’t find any info on the Volta a Lleida after a quick search earlier, anyone know when it is if it’s happening this year?

The Inner Ring March 19, 2013 at 8:11 am

It looks like it’s gone, I remember the race from the past but had not seen news of it. A shame.

Tovarishch March 19, 2013 at 7:31 am

Sir Bradley was magnificent yesterday. I think he is going to be difficult to beat.

I can’t find a detail route map anywhere. Is the last stage using the C31 coast road or the motorway. I drove up the C31 a few weeks ago and thought it would make a superb stage. I also walked up Montjuic, was knackered doing it once.

The Inner Ring March 19, 2013 at 8:12 am

Yes, they use the coastal road, you can see http://www.voltacatalunya.cat/ca/etapa/7/ and zoom in on the maps.

Samuel Gamester March 19, 2013 at 9:49 am

Are there any riders in the Volta who were one of the 135 MSR finishers? If so I take my hat off to them!

The Inner Ring March 19, 2013 at 10:02 am

Yes, Simon Gerrans is riding. L’Equipe today does a quick piece on his 670km drive around the Mediterranean from Italy, across France and to Spain.

Francesco Gavazzi and Adam Hansen are also here but they did not finish Milan-Sanremo. Moving the Italian race from Saturday to Sunday means fewer riders can move across like this.

Samuel Gamester March 19, 2013 at 10:32 am

Simon Gerrans, what a hero!! can you link to the L’Equipe piece? I can’t find it

The Inner Ring March 19, 2013 at 10:38 am

Paper edition only for now.

Alasdair March 20, 2013 at 3:59 pm

Also, Stannard who not only rode MSR, he was flat out in the finale too…

The Inner Ring March 20, 2013 at 5:48 pm

Note he’s doing the classics and rode the Dwars door Vlaanderen today.

Carn Soaks March 19, 2013 at 10:06 am

Does anyone have an opinion on “Cycling TV”. I understand that there were teething problems last year or the year prior, and that some found their subscriptions not active. Being an Aussie, I expect there to be geography issues during the year, but if someone has a positive or negative opinion, please let me know as I’m thinking of subscribing to one of the providers.
I Religiously rely on Steephill and CyclingFans, they are “the bomb”, but at times, as described, the pictures are sub-standard or the links drop out, or worse are non existent. But value for money and access to content Steephill is great, with their article and replay links.

robert g March 19, 2013 at 10:45 am

Funny you should ask that Carn Soaks. I’ve recently got into cycling a lot more over the last 12 months after having just really followed the TdF for 15 years or so. Mainly through following this inrng website. I wanted to follow the spring classics and semi classics this year and was thinking either the eurosport player (uk) or the cycling tv link. I plumped for cycling tv for £15 for 3 months and sat down last night to watch the 30 min highlights prog that was schedule on the website for subscribers. Only to find that despite being in the uk and the race being in spain I was geo-restricted. This may be partly my fault/naivety but I thought that paying a subscription would enable me to watch most things – appears not to be the case. I’d check the georestrictions page, which I didnt know about at the start, as it transpires my subscription doesnt get me too much more detailed coverage that the free recap does. Check out the http://www.cycling.tv/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=20300&ATCLID=206471977 to see. Probably eurosport player as mentioned above may be better if you can get it. Regardless saw the last 2km on you tube and looked a very exciting finish, most of the main players got some time gaps so will be interesting to see how the next few stages play out.

Timtams March 19, 2013 at 6:26 pm

Robert, I’ve been subsribed to Eurosport player for a year now and it is definitely worth it – you get an aful lot of coverage for £3 a month, the only sisue is that it isn’t really on demand so you need to watch it at the right time. Having said that, highlights from races are generally shwon 2 or 3 times so usually not too hard to catch them.

Any races I miss I watch later on youtube or daily motion, it usually isn’t too hard to find them. If you do0n;t mind French commentary a user called super_hugo seems to upload most races on daily motion!

Anonymous March 20, 2013 at 12:37 am

TX Timtams &Robert G for Your comments. I expect to find myself “”geo_d” due to aussie address issues the same with whomever I choose, but that might be worth it for some extra coverage.
On YouTube, “Tom Manning” is downloading full English replays extracted from his eurosport subscription. Have a look as know he intends to do so for as long as possible. He has T.A & P.N from last week and typically putting them up next day. Some commentators are saying he should run for president, but they are probably yanks , who get less cyclo_support than me in bondi . Tx again Carn

Robert G March 20, 2013 at 10:43 am

Thanks Timtams and Carn for those suggestions as well. I’ll be sure to check out those up-loaders on youtube and daily motion. Its helpful to be able to know where to you for good highlights and there will be a lot to catch up on over the next few weeks! Much appreciated. Robert.

Simon Ker March 20, 2013 at 12:18 pm

I have a subscription to both cyclingtv and eurosport. I have to say that I am in Paris and that has a lot to do with my issues with both services but I would definitely recommend eurosport over cyclingtv. My main problem with eurosport is the lack of english commentary (even though it is an available option when i use the service in Spain – but hey i live in france so don’t really have a right to complain about that) and the tendency for them to choose ultimate frisbee or biathlon over cycling on occasion but overall it is well worth the subscription cost. cycling tv on the other hand has been geo-restricted for every live event i have tried to watch this year and also for the VOD and highlight programmes (I can only see the “free to view” highlight clips which are about 1 minute long).

I did know about the geo restrictions when i signed up but there is a misleadingly optimistic line in the terms that says something along the lines of “these are the races that you are guaranteed to be able to watch – there may be more closer to the the time of the live event”…. there haven’t been more in france.

Ali March 20, 2013 at 8:27 pm
Ludovic surina March 23, 2013 at 8:17 am

Stage 6:Nicolas Roche

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: