In addition to the 19 pro tour teams, the three wildcard entries; Caja Rural from Spain, Cofidis and Sojasun from France make up this year’s Volta a Catalunya.
Last year’s winner Michael Albasini will be absent but some big GC names including Bradley Wiggins, Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Robert Gesink, Ryder Hesjedal, Michele Scarponi, Chris Horner and Thomas de Gendt are attending this year. We have seen both Rodriguez and Horner were in very good shape during Tirreno-Adriatico, whereas Scarponi was still building up his form. Elsewhere in Paris-Nice we saw Gesink struggling and abandoning in stage 6, same also true for de Gent.
Last time we saw Wiggins was in Tour of Oman in early February, where he was barely keeping up with the peloton. He was in Tenerife training till then, so his recent form is a big unknown at the moment, which is also true for last year’s surprise Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal who will be riding for the first time in a stage race this year.
The startlist of the 93th edition:
Volta Ciclista a Catalunya ranks second behind Vuelta Espana in popularity but its history predates the latter. It is the fourth-oldest stage race in cycling history, only after Tour de France, Tour of Belgium and Giro d’Italia. The race was first organized by the Barcelona club in 1911, and this year’s edition will be its 93th.
Past winners include Mariano Canardo (7), Miguel Indurain (3), Sean Kelly (2), Emilio Rodriguez (2). Most recently, Alejandro Valverde, Joaquim Rodriguez, Michele Scarponi and Michael Albasini each clinched a title.
The second and last mountain stage of Tirreno-Adriatico starts from Ortona and ends in Chieti on 10th March, Sunday and favors Peter Sagan more than anybody else. Expect a bunch sprint from a select group shaped on the ascent and descent of Passo Lanciano.
Last year, it was Peter Sagan outsprinting Roman Kreuziger, Vincenzo Nibali and some other GC riders in the final meters. In 2010 and 2011, Michele Scarponi won the stage but Sagan was in Paris-Nice that time instead. Only Joaquim Rodriguez can have a chance against Sagan if he keeps up with the front group on the descent.
It will be an interesting day for GC qualification as well. Michal Kwiatkowski is a very good time-trialist in GC standards so if he keeps the “Maglia Azzurra” at the end of the day, the 22-year-old Polish may very well grab his first World Tour title.
Last 2 climbs before Ultimo KM
Tirreno-Adriatico, “the race of the two seas” is an early season stage race held in Italy and widely regarded as a Milan-San Remo preparation. Now a 2.HC race in the UCI World Tour, it traditionally starts from the west coast of Italy – the Tyrrhenian Sea and ends in the east coast, in the seaside resort of Adriatic Coast, San Benedetto del Tronto since the second edition of the race.
With its first edition dating back to 1966, the Belgium cyclist Roger De Vlaeminck holds the record by winning the race 6 times in a row between ’72 and ’77. Most recently Cadel Evans, Vincenzo Nibali, Michele Scarponi and Fabian Cancellara each clinched a title.