Testing the legs of the best climbers around, the Volta a Catalunya takes place in the Spanish Pyrenees. The race features two of the range's huge mountains, with the summit finishes of stages three and four ending on La Molina and Boí Taüll respectively.
Now on its 101st edition, this year's race starts on the 21st of March 2022 before coming to a close after seven stages on the 27th.
The race's promotion has understandably focused on home-favourite and Movistar veteran Alejandro Valverde as he comes in as co-leader with Ivan Sosa. However, there are other big names in the race which shouldn't be overlooked. Olympic champion Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) is a prime example as he continues to find his way with the British team. At the same time, Portuguese star João Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) also has a chance to lead his new squad.
Adam Yates (Image: Getty)
Last season's edition of Volta a Catalunya was completely dominated by Ineos Grenadiers, with Adam Yates taking the win ahead of teammates Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte. The team looks slightly different this year though, with the two Brits currently missing from the provisional startlist.
Stage one: Sant Feliu de Guíxols to Sant Feliu de Guíxols 21st March
Stage two: L'Escala to Perpignan 22nd March
Briefly dipping into the French part of the Catalan region for a finish in Perpignan, this stage is likely to be a sprint.
Stage three: Perpignan to La Molina 23rd March
Leaving France behind, the race heads to its first summit finish on the well-used climb of La Molina. The race last took on this ascent in 2019, where Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) took the win.
Stage four: La Seu d'Urgell to Boí Taüll 24th March
Stage four sees the second summit finish in as many days, with the race heading up to the ski resort of Boí Taüll. The last time this was used was in the Volta a Catalunya in 2002, when Aitor Garmendia came out victorious in an ITT up the climb.
Stage five: La Pobla de Segur to Vilanova i la Geltrú 25th March
A pyrenean stage that begins in La Pobla de Segur, a village in the Lleida Pyrenees and finishes on the Mediterranean coast – in Vilanova i la Geltrú.
Stage six: Salou to Cambrils 26th March
Stage six starts and finishes on the Costa Daurada and the riders take a on lumpy route featuring the Prades Mountains and the Serra de Montsant mountain range.
Stage seven: Barcelona to Barcelona 27th March
The usual conclusion to the race sees the riders take on the tricky circuit around the regional capital of Barcelona, with the famous Montjuïc climb peppering the field each lap.
Movistar’s co-leaders of Valverde and Sosa could cause some tactical fireworks. Still, they also have to deal with big names such as Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) and, of course, Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic).
Alejandro Valverde (Image: Getty)
Valverde has had his usual consistent start to the season with three victories and multiple top tens already for the 41-year-old. His second place in Strade Bianche proves his form is as strong as ever. Sosa hasn’t had the same success with his new team just yet. The Colombian climber hasn’t pulled off a win so far. At the same time, he looks to have some good form with 5th overall at the Gran Camiño.
Richard Carapaz (Image: Getty)
Olympic champion, Carapaz, has already returned to racing in Europe after a very successful spell back in his homeland of Ecuador. There he took the national time trial title and came second in the road race a few months ago. Unfortunately, the races of Etoile de Bessèges and Tour de la Provence this season both ended with DNFs, so the Ineos rider will be hoping to improve things in Catalunya.
UAE Team Emirates' new signing João Almeida will hope to have a full leadership role at the race. This move will almost certainly see him get more support in the mountains, especially after his very solid display to 5th overall at the UAE Tour.
Nairo Quintana (Image: Getty)
One rider who always seems to perform in the early part of the season since joining Arkéa-Samsic is Nairo Quintana. The 32-year-old has once again dominated races with an overall victory at the Tour de la Provence, plus a complete sweep in the GC, points, and mountains classifications at the Tour des Alpes Maritimes et du Var.
Sergio Higuita (Image: Getty)
Other riders to take note of include another Ineos rider in Carlos Rodriguez as well as Ben O’Connor (AG2R-Citroen), British rider Simon Yates (BikeExchange-Jayco), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Jack Haig (Bahrain Victorious) and Colombian champion Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe).
Only two fast men are down to ride at the moment, and they are Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain Victorious) and Hugo Hofstetter (Arkéa-Samsic). However, more will likely follow once the route is announced.
It is fair to say there are a few stand-out names on the list for the GC fight at this prestigious race. However, we have a feeling that the favourite and likely winner, will be UAE Team Emirates’ João Almeida.
The Portuguese time trial champion heads towards this race after looking exceptionally strong supporting Tadej Pogačar at the recent UAE Tour.
Away from the overall win, there's the likely annual stage win for Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal). The Belgian has won a stage in the last three editions.
Also, the presence of the Danish/Norwegian team Uno-X Pro Cycling means we get a chance to see the very talented Norwegian Tobias Halland Johannessen at the race.