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"It's a good group and the only regret is that one of the teammates that was due to race, Sergio Paulinho, cannot do it because of an injury, while we have another one with a cold like me, but I hope he recovers and finds himself i...

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ALBERTO CONTADOR

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EVGENI PETROV

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JESPER HANSEN

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JESUS HERNANDEZ BLAZQUEZ

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MATTEO TOSATTO

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PAWEL POLJANSKI

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VOLTA A CATALUNYA

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YURY TROFIMOV

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20.03.2016 @ 14:13 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The fourth-oldest stage race in the world, the Volta a Catalunya – or Tour of Catalonia – takes place over seven days in north-eastern Spain from Monday. This year’s edition – the 96th in its history – has attracted some of the top riders of the World Tour and is set to be a thrilling race. Alberto Contador will lead Tinkoff after an incredible ride at Paris-Nice, where he finished second in the GC after blowing the race wide open in the closing stages.

The Volta a Catalunya, which comes after the Tour de France, Tour of Belgium and Giro d'Italia, as the fourth oldest stage race in the world, begins in Calella on Monday with a 175.8km loop that takes in five categorised climbs. This is a race with only one flat stage, with the remaining being categorised as either hilly or mountainous. This is a race for the climbers, where only the best all-rounders will have a chance to take a stage win.

Taking a fourth place finish in last year’s race, and second place in the 2014 edition, this is a race Alberto Contador has history, and a race where the contenders for the Grand Tours will come together for the first time in the season. It will be an excellent indicator of form and a chance for them to assess their rivals over a challenging course in one of the season’s earlier stage races.

Talking of his chances, Contador cites the high level of competition at this year's race. "The level of the line-up can only be matched, probably, by the Tour de France," says Contador. "There are so many rivals that there isn't any in particular that can be singled out, because virtually all teams will bring a favourite, who will be flanked by a very strong squad.

"I hope to head to the race well, because it was very cold in France, and one of the stages had to be cancelled due to snowfall," he continues. "A lot of us that were there got a cold. I was one of them and for that reason, this week I focused myself, above all, on trying to recover in order to be able to take the start at the Volta a Catalunya."

Sport Director, Steven De Jongh, was looking to assess Contador's form after some sickness following his strong showing at Paris-Nice. “With Alberto we have a clear leader here for Catalunya together with a strong team to support him in fighting for the GC. After Paris-Nice he was a bit ill but nothing serious and hopefully that won’t affect him too much in his preparation for this race. We will see how the racing is in the early stages, and how Alberto has recovered.”

Joining Contador in Calella will be Matteo Tosatto, Pawel Poljanski, Ivan Rovny, Jesper Hansen, Yuri Trofimov, Jesús Hernández and Evgeni Petrov, making up a team that can support their leader over a mountainous course and make an impact on the GC.

“Stage 3 and 4 are where the GC will be decided, I think.” continued De Jongh. “Stage 3 has two ascents of La Molina, and on Stage 4 we have a mountain top finish at 1,975m altitude. Hopefully the weather will be fine with no problems with snow here. After that on the other stages it will be about not losing time in the finals and being watchful of the bonus seconds. It could be another case of seconds separating the top riders here again.

“We have a strong team that can support Alberto across all terrains here, Pawl Poljanski, Matteo Tosatto and Yuri Trofimov who supported him at Paris-Nice.”

Regarding the squad that will flank him in Catalonia, Contador highlights "the trust I have in them. It's a good group and the only regret is that one of the teammates that was due to race, Sergio Paulinho, cannot do it because of an injury, while we have another one with a cold like me, but I hope he recovers and finds himself in form at the start."

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