Volta a Catalunya Stage 7 Preview

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The final stage and a decisive one too. Yes this features laps of an urban finish in a large city but it’s hilly, twisty and the time bonuses can still decide the race.

Stage 6 Wrap: a solo win for Belkin’s Stef Clement after he jumped away from his breakaway companions with two kilometres to go. A fine win for a rider with a big engine but few wins.

Stage 7 Preview: first a loop to the countryside and then the race is all about the eight laps of the Montjuic circuit with its steep climb and twisting descent. After ski station summit finishes this is nothing in comparison but eight laps of 125m of vertical gain = 1,000m. It’s more like a structured session for the Ardennes classics with the 2km climb that reaches 8% and averages 5.8%. As such it’s perfect for Joaquim Rodriguez who might find offence the best form of defence as he seeks to contain Alberto Contador, just four seconds behind on GC but in a winning position if he can win the stage. Here’s the GC:

1 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Team Katusha 27:03:13
2 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo 0:00:04
3 Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 0:00:07
4 Romain Bardet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:10
5 Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team
6 Christopher Froome (GBr) Team Sky 0:00:17
7 Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin Sharp 0:00:18
8 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale 0:00:26
9 Warren Barguil (Fra) Team Giant-Shimano 0:00:42
10 Robert Kiserlovski (Cro) Trek Factory Racing 0:00:48

Time bonus + countback = Contador win: If Alberto Contador wins the stage and Joaquim Rodriguez finishes in second place on equal time then Contador wins the 10 second time bonus and Rodriguez takes six, which puts them on equal time. As there are no fractions of a second the rules state it is done by “the sum of places won in each stage”:

Stage Joaquim Rodriguez Alberto Contador
1  21  25
2  52  28
3  1  2
4  4  3
5  24  6
6  34  36
7  ?  ?
Total 136 100

As the table shows it’s advantage Contador. However the probability of this 1-2 is low: others want the stage win, in a straight sprint you’d back Rodriguez and even if they did finish 1-2 there could well be a time gap too. But there are others in range two, Ag2r La Mondiale’s Romain Bardet is an outsider assuming his hands have defrosted, he seems the punchiest among Tejay van Garderen, Nairo Quintana and Andrew Talansky.

As for Chris Froome, if he doesn’t up his overall position this will be his “worst” GC performance since the 2012 Tour de Romandie when he finished 123rd overall riding (and crashing) in the service of Bradley Wiggins. Of course this is more testimony to his selective race programme and consistency than the wheels coming off this week.

Weather: cold, wet and windy. Nothing apocalyptic with 15ºC but even a few rain showers make the Montjuic circuit much harder. If the conditions are dangerous the race has said it might shorten the final stage, previous visits here in the rain have seen riders use terms like “skating rink”.

TV: 90 minutes starting from 3.30pm to 5.00pm Euro time. It’s on TV in Spain and Eurosport around the world but if you can’t find it on TV cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv are the go-to sites for TV schedules and feeds.

Daily Diaz on culture: Besides the economic factor, Catalan nationalism can be explained by the cultural element. With an own language (Catalan, a Romance language the same way as Spanish, Portuguese, French or Italian) and deeplyrooted traditions, many Catalans feel different from the rest of Spanish people. For example, some years ago bullfighting was forbid, but other traditions involving bulls have been maintained.

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

Bundle March 30, 2014 at 10:33 am

Perfect circuit for a Worlds… Oh, wait.. Montjuich was already used a couple of times, and it was much better than Zolder or Copenhague. On the nationalist propaganda, after reading a bit of it, I wonder why space was given to explain or underline aspects of why the Catalans want to see themselves as different from the rest of Spain, and no space was given to underlining the at least equally weighty similarities with the rest of the Spanish regions, and to considerations of geopolitical stability (why as a rule unilateral secessions must never be possible, unless there is ethnic discrimination that can’t be corrected otherwise) and individual rights (Catalans enjoy the same civic and political rights as the rest of the Spanish, which is the bottom-line).

The Inner Ring March 30, 2014 at 11:14 am

On Manuel Diaz’s contributions, it’s one person’s take and your comment helps balance things. I suspect many readers from further away see this race as yet another “Tour of [Insert Spanish Region]” but Catalonia is different in some aspects from other regions and certainly making the news at the moment.

Manuel Pérez Díaz March 30, 2014 at 11:35 am

Since it’s the Tour of Catalonia and this blog is read mostly by non-Spanish people, I thought it would be a good idea to explain why there is a strong Catalan identity (not unanimous, of course) juxtaposed to the Spanish identity. Not everyone outside Spain has heard about this issue, and I’ve tried to give some data and put them into context. I’m not a nationalist (I’m not even Catalan), so I’m unable to see how the texts I’ve written can be considered propaganda.
Anyway, this is a cycling blog, perhaps not the best place for a discussion on this matter.

gabriele March 30, 2014 at 1:54 pm

Manuel, I totally agree with “this is not the best place”, but I noticed from something you said that maybe there has been a misunderstanding, due to an equivocal expression I used.
Therefore, I’d like to state clearly that the last paragraph of my *rant* :-) – the one which went about “the amount of sickening propaganda” – wasn’t in any possible way related to Manuel’s contributions (in fact, they’re neither too abundant neither sickening).
I realized just now that maybe the fact that I said “here” could be interpreted as “in this blog”, whereas I referred to “here in Catalunya”, as the last lines stressed, hinting at local media.
However, any misunderstanding is my fault: I’m aware that whilst I consider that opinion perfectly appropriate to describe what is happening here… in Catalunya, instead it can be even insulting if referred to Manuel. I beg your pardon if you read it like that.

That said, I find it slightly out of line to explain the situation using arguments which are in themselves so problematic (or even far from factual), like the economic ones (especially feeble) or the Catalan *cultural difference*.
It’s correct but quite ambiguous to invoke “how people feel” to justify that, when their feelings are conflicting with the “image of reality” that the international scientific community can elaborate on some questions.
You’re not making propaganda, I fully acknowledge that, but you’re giving for granted a perspective that has been fostered by full-gas propaganda campaigns.

Catalonia isn’t specifically *more different* from whatever we call Spain than most of other regions.
Canary Islands have forbidden bullfighting long before Catalunya, while enjoying their own “lucha canaria”! Euskadi, Valencia, Galicia have their own languages, and – as a specialist – I’d like to underline that a *language* can be created from a dialectal situation in any given moment, just as it’s happening now with LAPAO and as it happened with Catalan about one hundred years ago (pretty curious that the Catalans are so angry with the idea of Valencian or LAPAO as independent languages, preferring to consider them as “Catalan dialects”).

At least Catalunya was one of the “founding parties” of Spain, while most of the other regions were literally conquered. In the first half of the 15th century, the *Catalan culture* had touched its apogee and was starting to fade, merging in the new political subject of Spain which “they themselves” had created (no Franco-style cultural aggression, yet, just a quite normal cultural blending): meanwhile, part of Andalusia… was still arab!

Generally speaking, I can assure you that between every *province* of Italy there’s more cultural, linguistic, historical, and – many times – economical difference than between any Spanish “comunidades autónomas”… so what? I’d suggest that, since we aren’t in the 19th century anymore, any problem related to the creation of a State should be tackled from a wholly different point of view.

gabriele March 30, 2014 at 2:23 pm

But if you insert “País Vasco” or “Andalucia” you could find yourself with yet another Spanish Region with autonomy claims.
And if you’re speaking of “Vuelta a Castilla y León”, you may discover that the people from León don’t feel very much at ease being associated with Castilla! For example, the capital’s anthem starts defending that “well before Castilla”, León earned fame thanks to its own laws, kings, councils and legal authorities: “without León you would have no Spain”.
I hope we don’t have anymore the “Giro di Padania”, I don’t know what may happen…

Bundle March 30, 2014 at 4:42 pm

To me, and I’m often labeled anti-Spanish in Spanish fora, it read more than a bit like “Catalonia is basically a different world from the rest of Spain, except formally”. I sort of felt obliged to balance things a little… not exactly pleasant, especially when this is one of my favourite races. From an international point of view, I think it’s only fair to say Catalonia is already one the highest-profiled non-state territories in Europe and probably the whole world. The Volta itself is one of the many features of this profile, which is great. But honestly, I don’t think this profile needs to take an ever more politicised depth, because some people want it to threaten basic political stability, and I’m afraid (worked 8 years in the Ukraine and the Balkans, and also in Quebec and I’m partly Belgian).

ian March 31, 2014 at 11:30 am

A lot of good points herein.

I am far from a political expert, or fan of any side or party colour. I do, however, live in the centre of, arguably, Barcelona’s Catalan heart – the Gràcia suburb. And I lived in the heart of Catalan country, up in Arbúcies, above Girona for a good while.

On a personal note, I love La Volta, lets get the cycling bit first. I don’t think it gets the credit or attention it deserves. It is often a brave and adventurous parcours – heading to the snow caps in March is risky as we saw in 2012 with the cancellation of the Port Ainé stage, then they chose to go back the next year (2013) with great success, in the panache laden win by Dan Martin. Proud to say I was there and at Vallter 2000…indeed every stage in 2013 and most this year. Such a great live stage race with no time trials ruining the racing ;-) Relaxed riders, early season time for fans and kids with autograph books. In a beautiful location.

The whole independence thing is loaded on all sides with propaganda and vitriol. Politics is, no? I am not talking about Manuel’s comments at all here, but the feel on the ground. It is as if you are not allowed to have a balanced discussion about the issue with facts as they are clouded by flag waving agendas. Both sides. Again, politics. Always – well, often – an agenda in the words.

Catalunya – I use the Catalan spelling as I like the fact the language has such a strong identity – has a strong culture and identity. Being from Yorkshire, I can equate to some of that to the degree that Yorkshire has a stronger identity than many counties in England – an accent so distinct from the south it can seem like another language to many. Bah gum lad!

But I feel, yes, Yorkshire, but also Catalan and Spanish and European by living here and having pride and joy in the place and the people – of Catalunya and Spain. I lived in Australia for 13 years so feel a part of me is Australian, of course. Except when the Ashes is on – less said about that the better, perhaps. And I lived in Uganda for over a year and have a great affinity for Uganda, the people and the country – that changed me for the better for ever, learning about another culture and people. I don’t want to be pigeon holed. Nationality based on birth is pure luck, why should we be prejudiced, punished or benefitted by luck?

I really enjoy the personal pride people have in their identity. But to the end of politicising it and ostracising others based on fiscal or other rubbish is, I find, a shame.

Proud Catalunya, great. Politicised Catalunya, at every event that one goes to and on every street you turn to, when you live in such a multicultural Europe…World…

We, as people, are all unique and very different, so Catalunya is indeed a different world. But we are also, all, very much alike and the same and part of the same world. One idea does not have to exclude the other.

The sad thing for the pro independence proponents is, for many, it starts to cloud the real positives of the culture. Instead of talking about La Volta and beautiful Catalunya, here, we are talking about politics – and for myself, from a real laymen’s point of view, who doesn’t claim to be right or wrong just how I feel living here. And I have fallen into the same trap! That is the real shame. Catalunya is a beautiful part of Spain and Europe. We should talk about that. And the cava. And the wine of the priorat and penedès. And the food. And La Volta!… Instead of politics.

Flags, for me, of all styles, are of use for one thing alone. For telling me if I am battling a head wind and making me feel better about my pathetic pace. Or for letting me now I have a tail wind all the way back to the cafe stop after a long ride.

(NB: Just as a Catalan natives addition. My girlfriend, of many years, is Catalan. We met in Brisbane. We live here in Barcelona. She does not like the flag waving either. She has a global view similar to mine above. She wants to be, and is, Catalan and Spanish. As are most of her friends and family.)

Anonymous March 30, 2014 at 10:55 am

Love the route profile, it’s like something out of Roadrunner (nip nip).

The Inner Ring March 30, 2014 at 11:11 am

It’s not so wild, the race this year has stretched the y-axis in all stages. But it’s still a hard finish and the latest is that they will do 8 laps but reserve the right to shorten things if it’s raining.

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