Volta a Catalunya 2015 – Overall Preview – Ciclismo Internacional

Volta a Catalunya 2015 – Overall Preview

By David Hunter

The pro peloton returns to Spain after a few weeks away. This race is not one for the pure sprinters. Every stage involves classified climbs and it’s a very well liked race. It’s the adopted home race of many riders, thanks to the huge numbers that stay in Girona.


The opening stage is very similar to 2013 and 2014. The presence of the cat 3 climb, just 18.6km from the end of the stage makes the GC riders nervous. We got a big sprint, in 2014, but not in 2013. Anything can happen.


Stage 2 has another cat 3 climb, close to the end. It’s only 2.1km at 4.5% but does have a 7% maximum. The climbing doesn’t stop there as the road goes up nearly all the way to the finish. It’s a difficult looking stage for all concerned. If raced fast, we will see a reduced bunch sprint.


Stage 3 finishes in Girona and lots of riders will have family present. The cat 1 climb is 6km at 5.5% and crests just 13km from the end of the stage. This is going to be hard for the sprinters and expect a small bunch sprint.


Stage 4 and we return to the climb of La Molina. It’s 5.6km at 5.8%, so not the most difficult mountaintop finish. We usually get a large group of riders together, inside the final kilometre, and something of an uphill sprint. This stage was crucial for Rodriguez, in 2014, and he’ll look to win it again.


Stage 5 is another familiar stage, with the finish in Valls. The climb is 4.1km at 4.8% and crests with 10.1km left. The descent is fast and the finish technical. Mezgec won in 2014 and Gerrans in 2013. Look for a similar type of rider to win here in 2015.


Stage 6 is the most sprinter friendly stage we have and it still has a cat 1 climb! After such a demanding week the sprinters will dream of this stage.


The race ends with the normal lap circuit that includes the climb of Montjuic. It’s a beauty, 2km at 5.7%, with a maximum of 8%. This stage has disappointed in the last couple of years, I hope it gets the action it deserves.

The race is full of GC talent, thanks to the parcours. We have Rodriguez, Contador, Van Garderen, Valverde, Froome, Porte, Dan Martin, Chaves, Barguil, Van den Broeck, Talansky, Bardet, Betancur, Pozzovivo, Aru, Uran, Valls, Niemiec, Kelderman, Pardilla, Rebellin, Navarro, Szmyd and Rolland.

The route has scared off most of the sprinters. We only have Rojas, Meersman, Ferrari, Henderson, Ewan, Coquard, Bole and Van Staeyen.

Illness robbed us of Froome v Contador, in Tirreno, but they’re here. With only 1 summit finish and not that hard, don’t expect huge fireworks. Both will be looking to get some more kilometres in their legs and take any opportunities that present themselves.

AG2R arrive with a very strong squad. It’s the sort of race that Carlos Betancur should really be challenging for. The mountain climb is brilliant for him and there isn’t a TT. He was way off the pace, in Tirreno, I hope he’s found some form as I love to watch an in-form Betancur. Bardet and Pozzovivo look more reliable picks.

Alejandro Valverde won this race in 2009. Since then, he only returned in 2013. He was going very well, 1st on GC, until crashing on a descent and abandoning the race. Without a hugely demanding mountain stage, the race looks brilliant for him. He can pick up bonus seconds, thanks to his fast sprint, on some of the “sprinter” days. Valverde should be the big favourite for the title.

Joaquim Rodriguez won’ t race due to a stomach bug.

Chris Froome and Alberto Contador are the big two, but not here. They would like a more demanding mountain stage and a TT. Don’t get me wrong, they could still win the race but the chances are less than usual. Contador didn’t look great in Tirreno and will hope for a better showing. Froome is recovering from his illness, so might lack a little power. I don’t see them winning. Probably a statement I’ll regret!

Riders that could challenge are Wilco Kelderman and Dan Martin. The Irishman, is a resident of Girona and a former winner of the race. The stages look good for his style and he arrives with good racing in his legs. The Ardennes are a big goal of his, so he should be starting to hit a purple patch.

Kelderman is a fast finisher, similar to Valverde. If he can pick up some bonus seconds, he’ll have a great chance of finishing on the podium. This race should be a massive target for the Dutch rider. He disappointed in Paris-Nice but finished strong.

The route doesn’t seem perfect for Aru and Van Garderen, but they could surprise.

Surprising is something Rafael Valls has been doing a lot of in 2015. Winner of the Tour of Oman, including the fastest ever climb of Green Mountain, and a solid 8th place in Paris-Nice. Do not underestimate the form of the Lampre rider. If he remains on form, he should be looking at the top 5.

Prediction Time

The man who’s always in form, is my pick…..Alejandro Valverde.

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David Hunter

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