BarcelonaIt is the fourth oldest cycling race in the world. The Cycling Tour of Catalonia kicks off this Monday with its 101st edition, in full form. A century of life means having seen it all, but thanks to the tireless leadership of Rubén Peris, La Volta is now living a sweet moment, consolidated in the international calendar. The route, which will cross the Pyrenees to start a stage in northern Catalonia, in Perpignan, is back on the mountain.
An edition that seeks the show with a poster that highlights the cyclists of the INEOS Grenadiers, great dominators of the last edition. The British Adam Yates, champion in 2021, will defend the title with the support of the Ecuadorian Richard Carapaz, Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021 and champion of the Giro, as well as the Australian Richie Porte. Other names who can aspire to the title are the British Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), Wout Poels (Bahrain-Victorious), Guillaume Martin (Cofidis), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) or Esteban Chaves ( EF Education-EasyPost). And all without forgetting the eternal Alejandro Valverde, who is still in his last season before retiring, proving that he wants to fight with a spectacular second place on the Strade Bianche. At 41 years old, the Murcian has won the race three times, in 2009, 2017 and 2018.
The UAE Team Emirates arrives with the Catalan Marc Soler trying to take a step forward after leaving Movistar. Soler will be a companion for proven cyclists such as the Portuguese Joao Almeida and George Bennet. The other Catalan cyclist with options to shine is David de la Cruz from Sabadell, with Astana-Qazaqstan. The last Catalan to win the Volta was Joaquim Rodríguez, in 2014. Soler took the podium in 2017, when he was third.
Unlike the last nine years, the starting shot is not in Calella. Sant Feliu de Guíxols took over, with a first stage with three third-class ports: Santa Pellaia, La Ganga and Romanyà, before returning to Sant Feliu de Guíxols. The second stage starts from L’Escala heading north, towards Perpignan, where a stage of the Volta did not end since 1955. A long stage that breaks legs, crossing the Pyrenees going up the Sa Perafita pass, the Coll del Frare and Coll dels Belitres.
The main stage, however, is the third, between Perpignan and La Molina, going up the Montlluís road and the Toses pass. After not being able to host the end of the stage in the pandemic race, the end of La Molina should make a difference in an edition with good climbers, but few specialists in sprint arrivals. In recent years, men like Valverde (2017 and 2018) have won in La Molina little cigar Rodríguez (2014), Dan Martin (2016) or Miguel Ángel López, in 2019. The fourth stage will also be spectacular, with a start in La Seu d’Urgell and the ascent to Boí Taüll, where the return did not pass from the year 2002. An end where they have won mythical names, such as Claudio Chiappucci (1994), the girl Jiménez (1995), the Colombian Hernán Buenahora (1998) and the Italian Ivan Gotti, in 2001.
The fifth stage will be between La Pobla de Segur and Vilanova i la Geltrú, down to the sea, which makes it an ideal setting for a long getaway. The sixth, between Salou and Cambrils, will have three ports full of danger, with the Coll de les Llebres, the Coll de Capafons and the Coll de la Teixeta. And, of course, the last stage will be the usual one, with departure and arrival in Barcelona, with the final circuit in Montjuïc.
The future, guaranteed
The director of the Tour of Catalonia, Rubèn Peris, is optimistic about the future, after confirming that the agreement with the French company ASO, which organizes the Tour between high tests, will be extended until 2026. “L “Last year it allowed the test to be broadcast in 190 countries, something that will be repeated in this edition,” he told Efe. “The link with ASO has given us a very important qualitative leap. Thanks to this, for example, the Tour is in the package of major events such as the Tour de France and the Tour of Spain when television rights are sold.”
The contract ending this 2022 was signed in 2017 and provides for the production of images and the distribution of television rights and sponsorship contracts. The renovation allows the Tour to remain among the best in the spring calendar of the UCI World Tour.