The Volta a Catalunya starts in the way that it has since 2012, with a route around Calella and this year’s Calella circuit may be the toughest yet, with six categorised climbs on the menu and a short, but sharp uphill finish.
The peloton will roll along the coast for the first 25km before taking a left turn inland and tackling the first climb, the cat 3 Alt de Parpers. After that, the riders will rise around 400 metres in elevation over 40kms when the reach the top of the second climb of the stage, the cat 2 Alt dels Pinars de Badó. The climbing then continues for another 15km when they will reach the cat 3 Alt de la Pullosa. This should signal the start of the action, as they will then descend along winding roads for 15kms, giving an opportunity for attacks and also for the break to extend any lead it has, depend on the descending skill of those in it!
After this, the main challenge of the day awaits, the climb of the Coll Formic, which is down as a cat 1, but is essentially an HC split in two. The break comes in the shape of a 4km plateau when the riders reach the top of the El Muntanyà, which is a wall of a climb at only 3.9km long and with gradients topping 18% and we should the peloton blow up here with the first showing from the GC contenders. The climb the resume in earnest when they reach the foot of the Formic, which is a longer and more measured accent at 8.4km and averaging 4.7%, but it peaks at 12% near the summit.The climb is 8.4 kilometres at 4.7% with a maximum incline of 12%. The peak is crested with 54.9 kilometres remaining.
There are then just under 55km remaining and 34 of them form the descent of the Coll Formic. The likes of
Alaphillpe (Not on the final start list), Pantano, Contador, Valverde and Bardet will be sure to be at the front driving the pace and trying to forge gaps within the group (or groups) of main contenders. The pace will then be interrupted by the final climb of the day, the cat 3 Alt de Collsacreau, but any chasers will only have 3km to make up any time of the riders leading the charge up front. After this its back in the big ring all the way down to the finish, except for the final 200m which ramp up to 5% giving this, hopefully, explosive opening stage a nasty sting in the tale for those fighting it out for the win.
Given that we have the TTT the very next stage, the GC contenders will be on alert here for anyone who wants to try and snatch time before the race against the clock. That means it’s unlikely that a break will make it, but the fact that this is such a demanding stage full of climbing and technical descending means that there are chances to jump away from the main group. There are a host of riders that are capable of pulling this off and we’d look for the likes of Diego Rosa, Alessandro De Marchi, Davide Formolo, Jay McCarthy, Enrico Gasparotto and Gianluca Brambilla to try and have a crack at getting away. However, the two riders that stand out for this stage are Alejandro Valverde and
Julian Allaphillipe*. They are the two best riders who that can climb, descend and still have a kick on that 5% finish. For us, Valverde has the extra advantage as he hasn’t just featured in a thrilling finish of Milan-Sanremo!
*Allaphillipe wasn’t on the final start list this morning, Paris-Nice and Milan-Sanremo saw huge efforts from him and his focus will now switch to the Ardennes Classics.
Our Pick: La Balla for the win and the first leader’s jersey.
Winner: Davide Cimolai, Alejandro Valverde 14th,