The Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, beginning 2nd February, is the second race in Spain after the season openers on the island of Mallorca.
The five-day stage race often attracts some of the biggest names in general classification riding, eager to hone their form for the bigger goals later in the year. No surprise to see that the 2022 edition will see Remco Evenepoel, Tao Geoghegan-Hart, Vincenzo Nibali and Alejandro Valverde racing for overall GC victory.
The 73rd running of this race sees a largely very hilly race alongside a few mountaintop finishes. But there are chances for some of the sprinters too.
Stage one: Les Alqueries to Torralba del Pinar (166.7km) 2nd February
Stage one throws all the riders into the deep end right away with a hilltop finish in Torralba del Pinar, not to mention the hilly run up to it with three category twos.
The general classification could be thrown wide open after this stage with the talent that is on display.
Stage two: Bétera to Torrent (172.1km) 3rd February
While the hilly terrain does continue, the most serious ascents come much earlier in the stage and should be dealt with by the sprinters who will be hoping for a mad dash to the line.
There would be a good possibility for a breakaway to try and pull out an uncatchable gap on the climbs with the sprinters’ teams likely to be eager on an easy day to save their legs.
Stage three: Alicante to Antenas del Maigmó (155.1km) 4th February
The queen stage of the race comes slap bang in the middle with a brutal test that sees the race tackle six categorised climbs including a summit finish on the Alto Antenas de Maigmó Tibi.
But that isn’t all. To add to the difficulty, there will be a section of gravel road with the race technical director, Paco Benítez, saying “the great novelty will be the section of an unpaved dirt road just 2 kilometers from the finish line, with a gradient of 10% on average. We expect an epic ending to be remembered for a long time.”
Stage four: Orihuela to Torrevieja (193.1km) 5th February
The fourth day of the race will be back in the favour of the sprinters with an exceptionally flat stage for the race. There will be just the one categorised climb throughout the entire stage.
It will still need plenty of concentration by the GC riders though as they only have one more day of racing after this.
Stage five: Paterna to Valencia (92km) 6th February
Finally, the race heads into the region’s capital of Valencia where the riders have a very short stage to deal with. Just 92km left to decide who wins the race overall.
The sprinters will, once again, be licking their lips at the chance to take a stage victory at one of the more prestigious early season races.
There are quite a few star names that will be wanting to be in good form for this early test of the legs.
One of the biggest names is 22-year-old Remco Evenepoel who comes with a very strong Quick-Step AlphaVinyl team to support him and hunt for stage wins.
Another big name is former world champion and three-time winner of the race, Alejandro Valverde — who last won here four years ago. However, the win before that was eight years ago, so is there a pattern forming?
Movistar also has star climber Enric Mas down to ride alongside Valverde in an aggressive looking team that will likely light up the race.
British hopefuls will want a good display from 2020 Giro d’Italia victor Tao Geoghegan-Hart, but Ineos Grenadiers could also choose to go for Pavel Sivakov or the young Spanish talent of Carlos Rodriguez.
Speaking of young Spanish stars, UAE Team Emirates’ Juan Ayuso has been putting in astonishing numbers on his training rides with Tadej Pogačar. The 19-year-old could prove to be the break-out star of the year.
Vincenzo Nibali returns to Astana with his first race back with the Kazakhstani team.
Pello Bilbao, Jakob Fuglsang, Aleksandr Vlasov, Wilco Kelderman, Giulio Ciccone and Lucas Hamilton are just some of the other names to watch for.
There is an unusually high amount of sprint chances at the race in 2022 so it has attracted some headline names with Fabio Jakobsen taking the start.
Not to mention Giacomo Nizzolo, Elia Viviani, Kaden Groves, Matt Walls, Matteo Moschetti, Alexander Kristoff and Cees Bol in a jam-packed list of talent.
For the overall title we think Movistar will get it right and take the title with Enric Mas.
Poor tactics saw Mas lose out to a very strong Stefan Küng in 2021 thanks to a time trial on the final day. But this time there is no test against the clock but the queen stage should suit the Mallorcan perfectly.
Stage wise, Movistar can be creative. It would be foolish not to have let Valverde loose on the first stage. Maybe the 41-year-old can hold onto the jersey himself if he takes it on from the gun?
But who will be the main challengers? Well, Evenepoel has to be up there and will likely be a number of people’s favourite for the overall. Vlasov has also shown in Mallorca that he has good form in his new Bora-Hansgrohe colours.
We think Ayuso will come close to a stage win on stage 3, but the talent on the startlist won’t make it easy for him.
The sprint stages are surely going to be dominated by the fastest sprinter in the world right now — Fabio Jakobsen. Complete with star leadout man Michael Mørkøv.