[Underneath text was written before the start of the Volta a Catalunya and has not been updated since.]
Presumably, in terms of GC it comes down to three stages. The 3rd stage finishes uphill in Vallter 2000 at the end of a 12 kilometres climb with an average gradient of 7.3%. In the recent past, both Nairo Quintana and Tejay van Garderen have won stages in the ski resort. Stage 4 travels to La Molina, a last climb that’s not only shorter (5.6 kilometres) but also less steep (5.8%), so one might expect this mountain race to be not as decisive as the Vallter 2000 stage. The 5th stage offers a chance for riders with good descending skills to shine. It’s not only a long stage it also contains long ascents, while the finale is a 14 kilometres drop down to the line.
Alejandro Valverde (2009, 2017), Dan Martin (2013) and Nairo Quintana (2016) are the only contenders who have won the Volta a Catalunya before. Last year, Valverde was virtually unbeatable as he won he won three out of seven stages, sprinted to second place in the 6th stage, and pocketed the overall. Porte is the only former winner who is not competing this year.
For Nairo Quintana the Volta a Catalunya is his first race on European soil in 2018. While he was preparing at home in Colombia, his team-mates Alejando Valverde and Marc Soler were successful with wins in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Abu Dhabi Tour (Valverde) and Paris-Nice (Soler). The Yates-brothers are also very competitive. The overall victory in the Race to the Sun eluded Simon with a margin of 4 seconds (Soler’s time bonus in the last stage), while Adam won the Tirreno-Adriatico’s 5th stage with a powerful solo attack on the steep final climb.
Favourites Volta a Catalunya 2018
***** Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana, Adam Yates
**** Fabio Aru, Simon Yates, Michael Woods, Marc Soler
*** George Bennett, Daniel Martin, Tejay van Garderen
** Esteban Chaves, Davide Formolo, Steven Kruijswijk
* Bob Jungels, Warren Barguil, Sergio Henao, Thibaut Pinot