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Starting at 12.30 CET you can follow the final stage of the Volta a Catalunya on

Photo: Sirotti




29.03.2015 @ 12:25 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The wind was not strong enough to split the peloton and as the breakaway took away the bonus seconds, nothing changed in the overall standings in the penultimate stage. However, the GC riders still have a chance to shake things up in tomorrow’s stage where the difficult Montjuic climb will be the scene of a final battle in what has until now been an unpredictable race.


The course

In 2013 the race ended with a stage in Barcelona that included several laps of a circuit with the famous Montjuic climb and it produced some very exciting racing as Michele Scarponi used the ascent to attack and move himself up to 3rd on the final day of racing. The organizers were so pleased with that stage that they again used the very same circuit in the Catalonian capital for last year’s race and it will be back on the course for the 2015 race too.


The final day sees the riders tackle a short 126.6km stage and like last year, the race will both start and finish in Barcelona. In fact, the stage is very similar to last year’s and has only been slightly modified in the early part. From the start at the L'Hospitalet de Llobregat on the western outskirts of the city, the riders head along flat roads in a northwesterly direction before they tackle the category 3 Alt de Castellbisbal (3.7km, 3.5%, max. 5%) whose top comes at the 15km mark.


At the summit, the riders will turn around and head along flat roads back towards the coast, contesting the first intermediate sprint at the 29.8km mark. They will continue along flat roads to the coastal city of Castelldefels where the final intermediate sprint comes after 46.7km of racing. From there, they follow the road back towards the centre of Barcelona where they reach the start-finish area after 75.4km of racing.


The race ends with 8 laps of the 6.4km finishing circuit in the Montjuic park and it is a tricky affair. From the line, it goes almost straight up the category 3 Alt Montjuic (2km, 5.7%, max. 8%) that is well-known for most bike riders. At the top, 3.9km remain to get back to the line and they are almost entirely downhill. The descent is not overly technical and follows a winding road. The riders turn left in a roundabout with 2km to go and go straight through a roundabout around the flamme rouge and then the road only has some sweeping turns as it continues its way back down to the finish. The final 2km are descending at an average of 3%.


The Montjuic is an iconic climb in cycling. In 2009, Thor Hushovd won a tough uphill sprint on its slopes in the Tour de France while the climb last featured in a grand tour in the 2012 Vuelta. On that occasion, Philippe Gilbert and Joaquim Rodriguez escaped and held the peloton at bay on the descent, with Gilbert taking an easy sprint win, his first victory for BMC.


When the final stage finished on the same circuit in 2013, Thomas De Gendt and David Lopez attacked 22km from the finish to join the early breakaway and after dropping their companions, they were joined from behind by Michele Scarponi and Robert Kiserlovski. With Scarponi riding for GC, the quartet stayed away to the finish where De Gendt won the sprint to take his only victory of 2013 while Scarponi moved up to 3rd on GC. Behind, a 57-rider group sprinted for the minor placings. Joaquim Rodriguez tried to attack overall leader Dan Martin on the final laps but the climb was not hard enough to make a difference.


Last year the stage was held in rainy conditions and the organizers had to change the circuit to avoid the most difficult parts of the descent. Alberto Contador tried to attack overall leader Joaquim Rodriguez which turned out to be impossible. Meanwhile, the early breakaway managed to stay away and it was a strong Lieuwe Westra who dropped his companions and soloed away to a big win.



The weather

Last year the organizers were forced to shorten the finishing circuit in Barcelona as torrential rain made the slick roads very dangerous. Tomorrow the conditions will be very different as the riders will have nice conditions for their final day in the saddle.


After a sunny morning, clouds are set to appear by the time the riders take off and when they reach the finish, they are likely to do under an overcast sky. The temperature will reach a maximum of 20 degrees which should make it a pleasant day in the saddle.


There will be a moderate wind from a southerly direction which means that the riders will first have a crosswind before they head into a tail- and a headwind-section. Then it’s a cross-tailwind in the final section to the finishing circuit. Here the riders will have a headwind on the Montjuic climb and a tailwind on the descent.


The favourites

The sprinters missed out on their only real remaining opportunity to win a stage in the Volta a Catalunya and so the fast finishers will all leave Spain empty-handed. For the GC riders, however, there is still a lot to play for on the final day as the finishing circuit in Barcelona could potentially create some changes in the overall standings.


We were a bit surprised to see Alejandro Valverde throw in the towel in today’s stage. To win the race overall, he probably had to score bonus seconds in today’s stage but Movistar did nothing to bring the break back. Hence, Valverde is still 16 seconds behind Porte and this means that he needs to win both intermediate sprints and the stage to get equal on time with the race leader – if he doesn’t manage to drop the Sky rider. That is unlikely to happen as it will be hard to keep things together for the two early sprints and so he will probably have to be content with a spot on the podium.


This is good news for Porte who can now only be passed by Domenico Pozzovivo and Alberto Contador if he can keep up with the best on the climbs. None of them are sprinters and they are very unlikely to win the stage. Furthermore, Contador crashed in today’s stage and even though he has only suffered superficial injuries, his condition for tomorrow’s stage is uncertain at the time of writing.


Porte may not be perfectly suited the punchy Montjuic climbs but he is actually pretty strong in this kind of terrain too. He has won the queen stage of the Tour Down Under twice and the Willunga Hill is not too different from the Montjuic. He has proved that he is the fastest rider in this race and he only has to stay with his rivals in the finale to win the race. We doubt that anyone will be able to drop the Sky rider who is also a solid descender and so he will probably win his second WorldTour race of the year.


That doesn’t mean that the GC battle will be put on hold. Alejandro Valverde will do his utmost to get onto the podium and a stage win would be enough to elevate him to third – provided that Contador doesn’t finish in the top 3. This stage is tailor-made for his characteristics and we expect Movistar to come into the race with all guns blazing.


To set Valverde up for the win, however, they will need to control what is likely to be a very aggressive stage. The two first editions of this stage have been won by strong escapees and there is no doubt that lots of teams want to go on the attack. That means that the stage is likely to get off to a very fast start with many attacks and it will probably take a long time for the break to get formed.


This means that the intermediate sprints could come into play. The first one comes after less than 30km of racing. We don’t think that anyone will actively work to keep things together but no one have gone clear at that point, we can expect the GC riders to sprint for seconds. Rigoberto Uran and Valverde are both fast in a sprint and they may try to pick up some bonifications.


In the end, a break will definitely get clear and Movistar have to be on their toes to make sure that it is not too big and too strong. Sky will be pleased if they take away the bonus seconds and so they won’t do much to chase it down. In such a short stage, we expect Movistar to hit the front pretty early and the gap is unlikely to be very big.


They may get some help from the Cannondale-Garmin team and Etixx-QuickStep. The stage is suited to Daniel Martin and Uran. Both have been close to stage wins in this race and they will do their utmost in a stage that suits them well.


This means that the break is unlikely to stay away and the tradition of breakaway wins in Barcelona may be broken. However, the finishing circuit is very difficult to control and it will require a lot of work to keep things together. Furthermore, we can expect lots of attacks on the many passages of the Montjuic and there is a chance that one of those late moves from strong climbers will stay away.


The GC riders are most likely to wait until the final passage of the climb to make their attacks. Here we can expect Valverde and Contador – if he has recovered – to try some moves but as said, we doubt that they will be strong enough to distance Porte. On dry roads, the descent is unlikely to create any splits but there won’t be much time to get back in contention for riders that have been dropped. The most likely outcome is that a select group of favourites will sprint it out for the win.


Here it is hard to look beyond Valverde as the best favourite. The Spaniard was not at his best in the queen stage where he probably paid the price for his crash one day earlier. Yesterday he looked very strong though and he seems to have recovered. This stage suits him down to the ground and on short climbs like Montjuic he is the best rider in this field.


It is very unlikely that anyone will be able to drop Valverde but his main challenge will be to keep it together for a sprint. Movistar are not very strong for this race and they have to do a lot of work throughout the stage. Ruben Fernandez has to be at his best in the finale to avoid that Valverde is isolated. If they manage to keep it together, Valverde will be the obvious favourite.


His biggest threat in a sprint from a select group is Rigoberto Uran. The Colombian has already finished second twice in this race and in both cases he won the sprint behind a lone winner. The same happened in Tirreno-Adriatico and he is currently unbeaten in this kind of sprint from a small group.


Uran is very strong in this terrain and after a bad day in the queen stage, he seems to be back at 100%. He is usually very inconsistent but even on another bad day he should be able to stay with the best. It will be hard to beat Valverde but he will definitely have a chance.


The same goes for Dan Martin who will be extremely motivated to win a stage after his GC plans came apart in yesterday’s crosswinds. He no longer has to be concerned with bonus seconds and can focus fully on the stage. He is very strong in this terrain and he seems to get better and better, riding very strongly in the queen stage.


Martin is fast in a sprint and could potentially threaten both Valverde and Uran. He may also try to attack on the Montjuic and as he is no longer a GC threat such a move may pay off. With a number of options, he could take his first win of the year.


Paolo Tiralongo is mainly here to work for Fabio Aru but he has also been allowed to take his own chances. He tested himself in the sprint on stage 1 and he was third yesterday. The Italian seems to be in very good condition and he is strong in this terrain. He is fast in a sprint and so he has a chance both against the GC riders and from a small breakaway that gets clear early or late in the stage.


Tejay van Garderen has proved that he is one of the strongest riders in this race and today he was again on the attack. His GC is over due to a crash in stage 3 but he has proved that he has the legs to climb with the best. He is not fast in a sprint and so he has to attack from afar. However, he is riding so strongly that he will be very hard to catch if he makes a move on the finishing circuit.


This race hasn’t been the one that Giampaolo Caruso was hoping for and he is only 16th on GC. This means that his main goal is to win a stage and he will have a great chance tomorrow. He nearly won last year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege and is very strong in this terrain. He is an excellent descender, punchy on short climbs and has a fast sprint. Furthermore, he won’t be a marked man and if he attacks on the finishing circuit, he could stay away.


Another rider that could try such a move is Diego Rosa. The Astana rider rode an excellent Strade Bianche and he was impressively strong on stage 3. Since then he has faded a bit but he has proved that he is in great condition. He has the right aggressive mindset and he may be given some freedom from the Astana team. He could both make it into an early break or attack on the finishing circuit.


Jurgen van den Broeck sacrificed his own chances when Bart De Clercq suddenly had a chance to win the race and so he is far back in the overall standings. However, he seems to be riding really well and he will be keen to show Lotto Soudal that he deserves a spot on the Giro roster. Tomorrow’s stage offers him a chance and he will have the freedom to attack. He has looked very strong on the climbs and even though he is not a prolific winner, he could turn out to be the strongest from a group on this circuit.


BMC are chasing stage wins in this race and they have already taken one. They have a great chance tomorrow as Tejay van Garderen is not their only card. Dylan Teuns has proved that he can climb with the best when he rode as a stagiaire last year and he showed his great condition yesterday. Like his leader, he crashed in stage 3 and so will have lots of freedom. If he makes it into an early break, he could be the strongest rider.


Andrew Talansky is another rider who has dropped out of GC contention. Even though he is not at his best, he proved that he is at a decent level when he fought with the best in stage 3. Cannondale-Garmin will be keen to attack and Talansky is obviously one of the best climbers in the race.


Jonathan Hivert was in the break today and just came up short in the finale. If he is not too fatigued, he will have more opportunities tomorrow. He has been riding very well and is both a strong climber and a fast finisher. The same goes for Cyril Gautier and Enrico Gasparotto who are both perfectly suited to an attack on this stage.


Julian Alaphilippe was also in the break today and we doubt that he will be on the attack tomorrow. However, the Frenchman is climbing really well and if the favourites fail to distance each other, a bigger group could gather. If he is not too fatigued, he could find himself in that group and then he is fast enough to win the stage.


CyclingQuotes’ stage winner pick: Alejandro Valverde

Other winner candidates: Rigoberto Uran, Dan Martin

Outsiders: Paolo Tiralongo, Tejay van Garderen, Giampaolo Caruso, Diego Rosa

Jokers: Jurgen van den Broeck, Dylan Teuns, Andrew Talansky, Jonathan Hivert, Cyril Gautier, Enrico Gasparotto, Julian Alaphilippe



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