Here is the Stage 1 preview along with a quick take on route as a whole, the overall contenders and the Daily Diaz reprised from the Vuelta a Espana.
High Volta: no race profiles are drawn to scale but the 2014 edition does scale the heights with the first high altitude finish of 2014 for Stage 4′s finish at Vallter-Setcases, scene of Nairo Quintana’s triumph last year. Note the diagram above isn’t even putting the stages to scale, Stage 4 is higher than Stage 3. There are no easy days to spin along inside the peloton. The final stage is no procession, the tricky Montjuïc means hill reps on the 2km slope which averages 5.7% but hits 8%, enough to decide the overall winner for good. Overall this race is destined for a climber and stage race specialist.
The Contenders: have you ever looked up to the sky at night and tried to count the stars? Scanning the startlist during the day will give you same feeling of wonder and enormity. If you’re in a hurry it’s quicker to note who’s absent: Alejandro Valverde, Vincenzo Nibali and Cadel Evans, the Schlecks and super-domestique Bradley Wiggins.
Alberto Contador is fresh from winning the Tirreno-Adriatico and back in Spain, his win in Italy was impressive but against the elite; now we’ll see him up against the best. There’s no time trial in his race which suits him even more and he’ll look to attack. But will Chris Froome have gone first? This contest looks to be a rare skirmish between the two before the Tour de France and it’s more than a game of scissors, paper, stone. Froome’s back in action with Richie Porte riding shotgun having not raced for a while but that should not be a problem, by contrast Porte has been racing but has yet to look as incisive as he’s been in the past. It’s the first meet between Froome and Contador since the Worlds last year.
Contador attributed his success in Tirren0-Adriatico to a new training regime including time spent on Mont Teide in Tenerife. It’s also been the base for Joaquim Rodriguez who hasn’t raced since Oman. The Katusha rider is the local and a prime contender with sidekick Daniel Moreno for back-up. Nairo Quintana was beaten by Contador in Italy he might find the longer and higher climbs to his advantage and he’s building form too for the Giro; he won a stage last year.
Tejay van Garderen is back after illness took him out of Paris-Nice… but is he on track? Rigoberto Urán is another climber who will enjoy the course. FDJ have an interesting team with Thibaut Pinot, Kenny “Angliru” Elissonde, Arnold Jeannesson and Alexandre Geniez, all good climbers and the test is whether Pinot is over injury and illness.
This is almost a home race for Garmin-Sharp given so many of their riders live in Girona. Dan Martin won last year but was off the pace in Tirreno and similar for Andrew Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal‘s form is unknown while new recruit Janier Acevedo (Garmin-Sharp), is one to watch, the Colombian was supreme in the Tour of California and other US races last year, how will he fare with the Euro peloton? Acevedo can ask Trek’s Julián Arredondo for tips as he’s just finished fifth in Tirreno after being plucked from the UCI Asia Tour. Talking of Colombians, surely Carlos Betancur who will find the law of gravity too much but could poach some stage wins?
Warren Barguil (Giant-Shimano) was top-10 in the Strade Bianche and he should flourish this week, but will he aim for the GC or stage wins… or both? Astana’s Fabio Aru is tipped to lead the team in the Giro, if so now is the time to feature. Chris Horner is back in Spain and we’ll see if he’s over his tendonitis, his Tirreno DNF is bound to cost him given the bonus vs. salary structure of his deal with Lampre-Merida. Jurgen Van den Broeck is fascinating, twice fourth in the Tour de France but with a profile lower than a recumbent.
Pierre Rolland is like sunflower, visible every July but with Europcar in the World Tour the team needs points and Rolland needs results. Cofidis’s Dani Navarro is a good climber. Finally you might not have heard of Heiner Parra but maybe one day you will, the Colombian climber was irresistible in the Pyrenees last year as an amateur finished seventh in the Tour de l’Avenir and has now signed for Caja Rural, a pure climber he weighs just 48kg (105lbs).
Time bonuses apply but they are 3-2-1 seconds.
Stage 1: 169km starting and finishing in Calella on the coast. The race heads inland for some climbing in the Montseny massif. The Alt de Montseny and the Collsacreu are gentle affairs with an average gradient of 5.6% and 3% respectively. Collsacreu rises near the top but only for a short period and some dropped sprinters should be able to get back to the bunch. This might be a day for the sprinters but it’s just not their week and consequently the startlist is light. Orica-Greenedge come with Leigh Howard, Lampre-Merida have Roberto Ferrari and Giant-Shimano have Luka Mezgec, winner of the Handzame Classic last week and Trek have Giacomo Nizzolo but he’s on the comeback after a crash. There are not many others so a late break is possible given the sprint teams won’t be chasing too hard.
Weather: cool and cloudy with the chance of a shower, a top temperature of 13ºC but cooler inland and in the hills.
TV: it’s on local TV and Eurosport with daily coverage each day around 3.30pm Euro time with the finishes expected for 5.00pm Euro time. If you can’t find it on TV steephill.tv and cyclingfans.com are the go-to sites for TV schedules and feeds.
Daily Diaz: Catalonia is the English name for this territory. It is called Cataluña in Spanish, Catalogne in French, Katalonien in German, Catalunha in Portuguese and Catalogna in Italian. If you prefer the original name, though, you should refer to it as Catalunya (in Catalan, the local language, which is spoken in other parts of Spain and even France and Italy). The capital is, of course, Barcelona.
“Gràcies” to cycling podcaster and history teacher Manuel Pérez Díaz for the local information. You can follow him on Twitter as perezdiazmanuel and he is also covering the race in Catalan for the Només Ciclisme blog
- That poster? No it wasn’t the winning entry from a local school but is the work of Catalan artist Pilarín Bayés