[Underneath article was written before the start of the Volta a Catalunya and has not been updated]
In terms of GC the race is likely to be decided in the Pyrenees. Two races take in high altitude finishes. The 3rd stage travels to ski resort Vallter 2000 and the final 12 kilometres climb at 7.3%. This is the toughest climb of the entire route, although the race serves another mountainous race on the fourth day. Stage 4 is the traditional leg to La Molina. The 11.4 kilometres climb at 4.3% is included twice as it is part of a local circuit. Arguably, stage 3 is going to be decisive as the route is tougher and better suited to open up big gaps.
Both mountain races were scheduled for last year’s Volta a Catalunya, but the raceto Vallter was shortened at the eleventh hour in favour of a false flat arrival in Camprodon as the original summit finish was impossible due to harsh weather conditions. Obviously, this was to the disadvantage of the pure climbers, but race leader Valverde was happy with this development. He took the La Molina stage ahead of Egan Bernal after a strong performance by Movistar. Bernal was sandwiched between Valverde himself and Quintana and ended up second.
In 2019, Valverde won one mountain race in the UAE Tour, while The Yates-brothers are also very competitive. Adam was strong in the Tirreno-Adriatico and Simon won the Queen Stage in the Ruta del Sol and – surprise, surprise – the time trial in Paris-Nice. Miguel Ángel López took the win in the Tour of Colombia and Egan Bernal sealed the overall victory in the SKY dominated Race to the Sun. Quintana had to settle for second place, partly because he didn’t have a strong squad to back him up.
Looking at their line-up, it is plain as day that Movistar won’t settle for less than another GC victory in Catalonia. The Spaniards won the last three editions and start with Valverde, Quintana, Soler, Carapaz and Amador in their ranks.
Still competitive riders who won the Volta a Catalunya are Alejandro Valverde (2018, 2017, 2009), Nairo Quintana (2016), Richie Porte (2015) and Daniel Martin (2013). All these former winners start in this edition.
Favourites 2019 Volta a Catalunya
***** Simon Yates, Enric Mas, Nairo Quintana, Miguel Ángel López
**** Adam Yates, Romain Bardet, Egan Bernal, Thibaut Pinot
*** Alejandro Valverde, Daniel Martin, Chris Froome, Steven Kruijswijk
** Rafal Majka, Michael Woods, Richie Porte, Marc Soler, Wilco Kelderman
* Ilnur Zakarin, Ben O’Connor, Jésus Herrada, Richard Carapaz, Davide Formolo