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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.