The Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, or Volta Catalunya, is Cannondale-Drapac’s next stage race, running from Monday 20 March to Sunday 26 March. One of the three WorldTour stage races in Spain, the Volta Catalunya is a brutal race that serves up plentiful climbing.
“Catalunya is always a nice race for our team. It’s as close to a home race as we’ll get in the WorldTour, seeing as roughly half of all our riders are based in Girona, as well as the team’s service course,” Alex Howes said. “This was my first major WorldTour stage race as a neo-pro back in 2012. That year, it dumped snow on the queen stage and nearly 50 riders pulled out.
“Still to this day I think that was the coldest I have ever been. We managed to lock up the team classification that year [as Garmin-Sharp], with a strong effort from each rider — and we had an absolute blast.”
The 2017 Volta Catalunya starts with a 178.9 kilometer mountain stage that starts and begins in Callella. There’s no easing into things. The opener includes six categorized climbs, two of which sport a category one rating.
A 41.3 kilometer team time trial follows in stage two, over an undulating profile. It’s back to climbing in stage three, with a summit finish atop la Molina. Stage four is mostly downhill, with a start in Llívia and a finish in Igualada and two small climbs along the way.
Stages five and six take the race to an area in Catalunya that typically hasn’t featured in the race route as the peloton travels south of Barcelona. Stage five finishes atop Lo Port de Tortosa, and stage six covers three category three climbs and the Alt de la Mussara (category one) at 30 kilometers from the finish line. The race finishes traditionally with a hilly stage that includes laps over Barcelona’s Montjuic on Sunday.
“The race is going to be dominated by the team time trial in stage two. With that in mind, we’re more focused on individual stages. We will go for the win in every stage,” said Tom Southam, sport director with Juan Manuel Garate.
“We’re not ruling anything out,” Southam added. “If we get someone close in the GC, because the race is going a different way than is predicted, we might decide to protect his GC position throughout the race.”
According to Southam, there are two main reasons why this race is so hard: “It’s hilly and good riders turn up – like really good riders. It’s taken pretty seriously and there are a lot of climbs.”
Howes mostly has his eyes on the middle stages.
“I’m looking forward to the medium mountain days and the final circuit in Barcelona,” he said. “With some good training in the legs I hope to be a factor in animating the race and helping Cannondale-Drapac represent on home roads.”
Visit the official Volta Catalunya website.
Find Volta Catalunya results here.
Follow @VoltaCatalunya, the official Twitter account.
Use #VoltaCatalunya to follow the race live on Twitter.
Watch the finish of Volta Catalunya daily on Eurosport 1 and Cycling.TV from 3.30PM CET.
Cannondale-Drapac for Volta Ciclista a Catalunya:
Brendan Canty (AUS)
Hugh Carthy (GBR)
Davide Formolo (ITA)
Alex Howes (USA)
Pierre Rolland (FRA)
Andrew Talansky (USA)
Davide Villella (ITA)
Michael Woods (CAN)