PREVIEW | Volta a Catalunya 2023 - Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel's final pre-Giro battle. Landa, Yates, Almeida, Hindley and Carapaz promise climbing showdown

Preview. The Volta a Catalunya will be taking place from the 20th to the 27th of March in 2023 and it promises to be an exciting edition with three summit finishes throughout the seven-day Catalan stage-race, which will feature aswell the classic explosive finale in Barcelona.

Sprinter days

Stage one to Sant Feliu de Guíxols will be a loop, with the coastal town receiving the start of the Catalan event. It is a tricky day, one that is designed for the sprinters, however those who are able to climb as it is by far a flat affair. A 5-kilometer climb at 5.3% will make for a tough challenge near the finish, but if that is not enough, the closing kilometers are very rolling themselves and will present a serious challenge for the heavier riders.

Stage four will be fit for the sprinters, although a breakaway could carry significant danger. The start in Llívia is at over 1000 meters of altitude and they will climb La Molina early in the day. From 1700 to less than 200 meters in altitude is a big difference and the speeds will be very high throughout the rest of the day into Sabadell.

Stage 1: Sant Feliu de Guíxols – Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 164.6 kilometers
Stage 1: Sant Feliu de Guíxols – Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 164.6 kilometers
Stage 4: Llivia – Sabadell, 188.2 kilometers
Stage 4: Llivia – Sabadell, 188.2 kilometers

Mixed Days

Stage six will be another tricky day, with a lot of rolling roads which may lead to a sprint or a breakaway win. A late attack aswell isn't to be ignored, as the roads into Molins de Rei feature quite a few of small but explosive ascents.

Finally, the traditional day into Barcelona. A short but intense stage, it will see a climb early in the day where the breakaway should be formed and inside the final circuit it will not be easy to bring things back. There will be six laps of the Montjuic circuit in the capital of the region. The steepest section features 900 meters at 10% and it will be a brutal challenge for all riders seeking to preserve or attack the race.

Stage 6: Martorell – Molins de Rei, 183,2 kilometers
Stage 6: Martorell – Molins de Rei, 183,2 kilometers
Stage 7: Barcelona – Barcelona, 135.8 kilometers
Stage 7: Barcelona – Barcelona, 135.8 kilometers

Climber Days

Stage two will open up the GC fight, with the famous summit finish to Vallter 2000. By some this could be considered the queen stage, but being the first of three summit finishes is likely to see a more conservative race. Still, with the finale at over 2100 meters of altitude, gradients of 7.5% for 11.4 kilometers is enough to make meaningful differences.

Over the past few years the stage to La Molina has proven to be one of the most frequent. All the riders who've been at the race will know what to expect, it's a tricky mountain stage. It will feature the 18.5-kilometer ascent of the Coll de la Creueta before the final climb. La Molina is split in two, with the first part having 8 kilometers at 6.4%, where attacks are expected. There's a good chance a large group of climbers will pull through though, and instead battle the win out in the final explosive hilltop.

8.4 kilometers at 9%. That is what awaits the riders on the fifth day of racing in Catalunya in what will be the toughest summit finish of the race and perhaps the queen stage. It is a day where the focus will be all about the final climb to Lo Port, where the gradients will tighten and see a fierce battle between the GC riders for success.

Stage 2: Mataró – Vallter/Setcases, 165.4 kilometers
Stage 2: Mataró – Vallter/Setcases, 165.4 kilometers
Stage 3: Olost – La Molina, 180.6 kilometers
Stage 3: Olost – La Molina, 180.6 kilometers
Stage 5: Tortosa – Lo Port, 176.6 kilometers
Stage 5: Tortosa – Lo Port, 176.6 kilometers

Estimated start and finish times for Volta a Catalunya stages:

Stage 1: 13:05 - 17:00CET

Stage 2: 12:50 - 17:00CET

Stage 3: 12:05 - 17:00CET

Stage 4: 12:30 - 17:00CET

Stage 5: 12:25 - 17:00CET

Stage 6: 12:45 - 17:00CET

Stage 7: 10:35 - 14:00CET

The Favourites

Remco Evenepoel - Evenepoel has already put in a big dig at the UAE Tour where he won the overall classification. After some altitude training, I expect to see him close to his best level. A race with only mountains and hills he will be outside his best terrain, but has a necessary test ahead of a brutal Giro d'Italia, and will be racing alongside his block.

Primoz Roglic - His Tirreno-Adriatico comeback was nothing short of impressive. He's known for not needing racing to win big and proved it once again. Now onto Catalunya where he initially planned to start his season. Despite his dominance, Roglic did not look his best in the mountain stage of Tirreno. I think he was still not at his best level and Catalunya will be a different beast. Nevertheless he has had a week to improve his form further and I expect him to be at the level of the best and a serious winning candidate.

Adam Yates & João Almeida - UAE come in with depth and options, and that will be good for them. Pure climber and second at UAE Tour Adam Yates will be a big weapon. He worked for Almeida at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Portuguese rode to second. Both will be co-leading and have points to prove. For Almeida this is a crucial test as he faces his main Giro rivals, and he seems to be in the form to match them.

Bahrain - Victorious - Bahrain come in with a very strong team. With more of it's leaders focusing in the Tour de France, there is more freedom to have prepared the spring stage-races with more focus. Mikel Landa has been showing great form lately finishing second at the Vuelta a Andalucia and 7th at Tirreno-Adriatico. The pure mountains here will favour him though. Gino Mäder and Jack Haig who rode to 5th and 10th at Paris-Nice will also be present, whilst Wout Poels will still be able to provide enough support so that they can all be options.

Jai Hindley - Hindley showed good form at the Tour Down Under but has since been modest. This is a race that will suit him quite well with the high mountains and no time-trialing. However finishing only 15th at Tirreno-Adriatico wasn't the best of signs.

Richard Carapaz - The Olympic champion only began his season this week at Milano-Torino. A late start, but last year's runner-up is a climber perfectly suited to this terrain. Carapaz will be the leader of EF Education-EasyPost who also present Rigoberto Urán and Esteban Chaves as options.

INEOS - If they come in with serious GC ambitions is a good question. The most important question will be Egan Bernal, how his form will be and how he fares against the competition. Geraint Thomas also has an important test here as he's been out of competition for a long time, and the team's GC ambitions likely rest on Luke Plapp who was part of the podium at the UAE Tour.

Giulio Ciccone - Ciccone is a brilliant and pure climber for many years, but seems to have dialed his consistency and form this year, being on the verge of winning the Volta a Comunitat Valenciana and now finishing fifth at Tirreno-Adriatico. He will love the final explosive stage, but on the high mountains I also expect a competitive Trek - Segafredo leader.

Ben O'Connor & Geoffrey Bouchard - One of the most interesting duos in my opinion. O'Connor is returning from illness, that suggests his 13th place at Tirreno-Adriatico was far from his best, and in an only-mountainous race he can perform. Geoffrey Bouchard finished third at the Tour of Oman but most impressively third at Jebel Hafeet at the UAE Tour. The Frenchman has the opportunity to seriously prove himself within AG2R if he shows the same legs over the week.

Romain Bardet - Paris-Nice was a hit for Bardet who talked of demotivation facing Tadej Pogacar. Here it's a different field however. 7th at Paris-Nice, Bardet has since joining DSM been very consistent and should be a contender for the Top10.

The GC fight has naturally attracted many top climbers to the race, many B and C-tier climbers as well. The likes of Louis Meintjes, Guillaume Martin and Einer Rubio are pure climbers who will enjoy the many summit finishes. Michael Woods will surely try to improve his form towards the Ardennes, whilst Tobias Johannessen looks to put behind a tough start to the season with plenty health issues.

Sprinters and all others who dare such mountainous race

The race naturally does not attract many fast men. However, World Tour points and victories and on offer and with that, several riders come over with high ambitions. It will make for interesting and unexpected battles in the flatter stages. Bryan Coquard, Kaden Groves and Ethan Hayter are most likely going to be the main figures in these.

Classics specialists such as Hugo Hofstetter and Milan Menten will also be present as options. Corbin Strong and Clément Venturini come in as well a very versatile mix of puncheur and sprinter.

Prediction Volta a Catalunya 2023 overall classification:

*** Remco Evenepoel, Primoz Roglic
** Adam Yates, João Almeida, Mikel Landa
* Gino Mäder, Jai Hindley, Richard Carapaz, Luke Plapp, Giulio Ciccone, Romain Bardet

Pick: Remco Evenepoel

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