Preview. The Volta a Catalunya will be quickly moving on into the mountains, as stage 2 provides the first Pyrenean battle, as the riders head into a summit finish at over 2100 meters of altitude at Vallter 2000. Primoz Roglic has already taken the opening win of the race, but Remco Evenepoel looked just as sharp.
Stage two will open up the GC fight, with the famous summit finish to Vallter 2000. The first half of the day is mostly flat, a day with two differences faces some could say. Gradually the peloton heads inland towards the Pyrenees. A climb with 10.3 kilometers at 5.4% will warm the riders up, ending with 48 kilometers to go. There won't really be a descent, but instead a plateau into the final ascent.
Start and finish time Stage 2: 12:50 - 17:00CET
Volta a Catalunya: GC riders steal sprinter's day, Primoz Roglic outsprints Remco Evenepoel to stage 1 victory
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.
It's a climb that could be said to start in different places. The gradients go up gradually, and that grinding constant effort will be very difficult for some. Gradients will frequently go above 10%. It's also an ascent that - specially in the final two kilometers - are filled with switchbacks, making it easier to put on attacks.
Video: Dramatic crash marks Volta a Catalunya's stage 1 and takes out Adam Yates from GC fight
High up in the mountains but the weather will be stable. The wind seems to be too weak to have any influence on the day, and the temperatures will be at almost 10 degrees even at the summit.
Profiles & Route Volta a Catalunya 2023
Remco Evenepoel - Evenepoel looked very sharp today in the final sprint and almost took the stage win. He's hungry for success, and after training at altitude he talked of his form being even better than at the UAE Tour. That's a scary thought for the competition, no matter how strong it is. The mountains are not his absolute specialty, but I reckon his chances of taking the win here will be very high.
Primoz Roglic - As sharp as ever. As I've pointed out before, all of these victories do not mean Roglic will be at his very best in the high mountains. At Tirreno-Adriatico he couldn't match the attacks of the best but was saved by the weather. Here that won't be the case. However he's put in more work, and this does not mean Roglic won't be able to take a 5th stage win in 9 days of racing this season.
João Almeida - Adam Yates was one of the riders affected by the mass crash on the opening day. This doesn't immediately rule him out, but the Briton will no longer be in the fight for the overall classification. On the climbs, I'd expect him to perform perhaps only later in the week. Hence, Almeida should take sole leadership of the team. On his best day he should perform quite well here, and won the queen stage last year. His Tirreno-Adriatico form indicated that he is in the right place.
"The guys did a great job and I had my legs at the end" - 4 stage wins in 8 days of racing for Primoz Roglic in 2023
Mikel Landa - Bahrain have a very strong team here. Gino Mäder has shown great form at Paris-Nice and will definitely be on the lookout here. Jack Haig and Wout Poels will simultaneously give the team a lot of depth. Bahrain will not have the pressure to work, and the climb will suit Mikel Landa. This is a race very well suited to the Basque and he's got the form. It will be quite important for him to perform.
Jai Hindley - His performances this season haven't yet been the best but in the high mountains Hindley has shown he can perform seriously. It will be on this climb that we'll understand his true form, since the summit finish at Tirreno-Adriatico was rather blocked by the wind.
Richard Carapaz - Back to competition here, Carapaz is finally racing at the highest level again. New team new goals, but the GC should be the one here. The Olympic and Ecuadorian champion will be an outsider for this stage, but EF Education-EasyPost also have Rigoberto Urán and Esteban Chaves as options.
Video: The sprint between Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel at Volta a Catalunya's stage 1
The race has tons of top climbers. It really is a luxurious field. After the first mountain stage the order will be more clear, the riders who aren't here to fight for the overall classification will also be exposed, but for the time being we can only guess. Giulio Ciccone and Romain Bardet are in my opinion the most reliable. And you have riders split into some categories.
INEOS' Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas are likely far from their best, but will test their legs. Tobias Johannessen is also returning from a long period of absence and will hope to have a good level otherwise it'll be a painful week. You have youngsters in Einer Rubio and Lenny Martínez who could perform quite well here, and simultaneously some veterans who could feature in the Top10 at their best level such as Louis Meintjes and Guillaume Martin. AG2R duo Ben O'Connor and Geoffrey Bouchard wouldn't surprise to either finish within the Top10 or drop out of the GC fight.
Prediction Volta a Catalunya 2023 stage 2:
*** Primoz Roglic, Remco Evenepoel
** João Almeida, Mikel Landa
* Jai Hindley, Richard Carapaz, Romain Bardet, Giulio Ciccone, Ben O'Connor, Einer Rubio
Pick: Remco Evenepoel