Hirschi, Froome, Sagan and Carapaz headline Volta a Cayalunya

The Volta a Catalunya kicks off this Monday with an out-and-back race in Calella to finish on Sunday 28 March at Barcelona's Montjuïc circuit

Hirschi, Froome, Sagan and Carapaz headline Volta a Cayalunya

In terms of General Classification, the race is expected to come down to the Indivisual Time Trials on stage 2 and the high altitude finishes of stage 3 and stage 4.

Although it’s the ninth consecutive time that the Volta a Catalunya starts with a race from Calella to Calella, the route is never the same. 2019’s opener was very mountainous, which inspired Thomas De Gendt to solo to victory.

The 1st stage of this edition is less demanding, but still features three climbs.

The race serves an individual time trial on stage 2. The riders travel from Banyoles back to Banyoles on a rolling 18.5 kilometres route.

De GC battle intensifies further on the third day of action. Stage 3 kicks into gear near the Canal Olímpic Catalunya in Castelldefels to finish uphill in Vallter 2000. The climb to the ski station is 11 kilometres long and the average gradient sits at 7.6%.

The 4th stage travels over two intermediate climbs from Ripoll to Port Ainé. The finish climb averages 6.8% across its length of 18.5 kilometres.

On stage 5 the riders travel from La Pobla de Segur to Manresa. On paper, this race should be appealing to attackers.

The Volta a Catalunya returns after 39 years to Mataró on the 6th stage. The last finish in the geographic centre of Catalonia dates back to 1982, when Dutchman Johan van der Velde took the spoils. A sprint finish is the most likely scenario in 2021.

The final stage ends with six runs on a hilly circuit in Barcelona. The lap is 7.8 kilometres long and takes in two short climbs on Montjuïc.

2021 Volta a Catalunya Stage Map

The Contenders

The organisers of the Volta a Catalunya WorldTour stage race announced on Monday that Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) would make his debut appearance in the Spanish event. The seven-stage race is scheduled for March 22-28, overlapping with the E3 Saxo Bank Classic and Gent-Wevelgem in the final weekend, indicating that Sagan would miss both races, which are usually staples on his calendar.

The Israel Start-Up Nation team has announced their line-up for the Volta a Catalunya with four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome joined by Michael Woods, Dan Martin, and Daryl Impey.

Marc Hirschi and David de la Cruz join the list of great riders for the 100th edition of the Volta. At just 22 years old, Hirschi will compete in the Volta for the first time and will do so supported by the great results he obtained last year in important events such as the Tour de France, where he achieved a stage victory and the combativeness award.

David de la Cruz, he is one of the Catalan cyclists that compete in the international bunch. At the age of 31, he has a long experience on the UCI WorldTour, scoring stage victories in events as the Vuelta (2016), the Itzulia (2017) and the Paris-Nice (2017 and 2018).

This 2021, De la Cruz will participate for the fifth time in the Volta. Since 2016, however, the Catalan rider was not present in the race and, therefore, this year will be a very special event for the him, with the motivation to ride at home.

Hirschi and De la Cruz join other great riders who have already announced their presence in the Volta. Richard Carapaz, Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler, Enric Mas and Chris Froome will also be among the candidates to wear the Volta leader's jersey. In its 100th edition, the race  will present an attractive and demanding route, with medium and high mountain stages, two high finishes, an individual time trial and sections suitable for sprinters.   

Ineos Grenadiers are favourites to land what would be their first overall victory in the World Tour this season. They certainly have the strongest team on paper, with at least four riders all looking capable of overall victory. Adam Yates started the season on fire with second place at the UAE Tour; Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte could both use their skills against the clock to gain the overall lead after stage’s two’s time trial; and Richard Carapaz will make his first appearance of the season having impressed so much during his first season for this team in 2020.

On top of that, they also have an enviable engine room and super domestiques to rely on, with Rohan Dennis, Luke Rowe and Jonathan Castroviejo completing the line-up. It’s in races like this, without a single outstanding favourite like Pogacar and Roglic, that the formidable strength-in-depth Ineos have built for this season should really become apparent, and make it very difficult for other teams to compete.

Teams most likely to take-on Ineos Grenadiers could be BikeExchange, following promising early-season form from both Simon Yates and emerging talent Lucas Hamilton; and Jumbo-Visma, who, even without Roglic, have the dangerous trident of Steven Kruijswijk, George Bennett and Sepp Kuss.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) has a great record in this race, having won in 2016 and finished in the top five in each of his other four most recent appearances. But the addition to the route this year of an 18.5km individual time trial may make matters more complicated for riders like him, and swing things in favour of climbers who are good against the clock, such as João Almeida (Deceuninck – Quick-Step).

VIDEO: 2021 Volta a Catalunya Preview with Lantern Rouge

Tag: catalonia
Mar 21 2021 - NEWS: Hirschi, Froome, Sagan and Carapaz headline Volta a Cayalunya
Mar 31 2019 - NEWS: Lopez holds off Yates brothers to win the Volta a Catalunya