Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Stage 1 Preview
Since 2012 Calella has welcomed the finish of the opening stage in Catalunya. In 2012 and 2016 the stage was conquered by the breakaway and it features similarly hilly routes as this year which automatically leads to believe that this is a stage suited to that type of racing.
The route is hard, with three 1st category climbs, but the last one comes with around 55 kilometers to go so there's the question over what sprinters will resist the climbs. The GC teams surely won't be looking for any gaps unless there are strong crosswinds, so a breakaway or a reduced bunch sprint are the likely scenarios to look at.
There will be a south-western breeze throughout the day, which should become a slight headwind on the way back to Calella, with it coming from the side in the final sea-front kilometers.
Who can we expect to see?
3Km at 6%, 17.5Km at 5.4%, 3.9Km at 7.3%, 6.6Km at 4.9% and 3Km at 4.3%. It's no flat route with 3000 meters of elevation change, it'll be a game of how the climbs will be ridden. Eyeing a possible stage win and GC lead there will be lots of riders trying out their luck, so I think it'll be a hard race to control, and perhaps a really hard day out.
On paper the stage would suit the likes of Michael Matthews and Ryan Gibbons. The climbing is hard enough to wear out (or distance) Greipel/Bauhaus/Hodeg, and even with a high pace over them I believe their teams will back them up in case they themselves are found in trouble.
But the real question is if the eventual breakaway can be controled. If a strong one gets away in a terrain with so much climbing it won't be easy for a team to fully control the race, as the overall teams certainly won't get involved in the chasing unless there's a serious thread in the front group.
In case of a very attacked race there are some fast riders who can definetely climb, Alejandro Valverde must be the first name mentioned, Daryl Impey and Patrick Bevin are also two names that must be taken into consideration. Other than those it's likely that we could see an attack in the final kilometers succeed, as if the race truly is attacked the peloton won't be as numerous by that time.
⭐ Valverde, Bevin, Hodeg, McCarthy, Hofstetter
My bet for tomorrow is a breakaway win, but who is hard to tell. But in case it doesn't Ryan Gibbons is my call, he's a strong sprinter and can climb well, a less messy sprint which can be the case can eliminate any leadout or positioning issues he may have, his team will be completely focused in him tomorrow surely and it's about time he gets a big win.
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