The Catalan round has already prepared all the details to kick off its 103rd edition, which will start this March 18 with a demanding seven-stage route between Sant Feliu de Guíxols and Barcelona.

The double winner of the Tour de France, Tadej Pogacar, leads a stellar participation with names like Sepp Kuss, Geraint Thomas or Simon Yates who will fight for the triumph of the UCI World Tour event in a week of high expectations, full of novelties and expected returns and with three high altitude finishes as the main sporting attraction.

In the third oldest of the world elite after the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia, there will also be 10 Colombians. The long list is made up of Esteban Chaves (EF Education EasyPost), Sergio Higuita (Bora-Hansgrohe), Jesús David Peña (Team Jayco AlUla), Egan Bernal and Brandon Rivera (Ineos Grenadiers), Santiago Umba and Harold Tejada (Astana Qazaqstan), Iván Ramiro Sosa, Einer Rubio and Nairo Quintana with Movistar Team.

Once again this year, the Volta a Catalunya will have a truly luxury participation, with at least six grand tour winners among the participants. The main attraction among the 175 cyclists who will start on Monday, March 18 from Sant Feliu de Guíxols is undoubtedly the presence of the Slovenian Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates), one of the most charismatic riders of his generation, who makes his debut in the Catalan race looking to take over from his compatriot Primoz Roglic, winner of the last edition.

Pogacar’s letter of introduction speaks for itself: double winner of the Tour de France (2020 and 2021, and runner-up in the following two editions), winner of Monuments such as Il Lombardia, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and Tour of Flanders, as well as numerous top-level international races that have earned him a professional record of sixty victories at just 25 years of age.

Accompanied by such important names as the Catalan Marc Soler or the Portuguese Joao Almeida, two riders who know what it is like to climb the final podium of a Volta a Catalunya, he and his team UAE Team Emirates aspire to be a reference of the race.

However, the list of contenders will be long. The first of them is surely Sepp Kuss (Team Visma-Lease en Bike), the last winner of the Vuelta a España and a cyclist highly valued for his links with Catalonia, who will also have a strong team in which the young Cian Uijtdebroeks stands out.

The Volta a Catalunya 2024 will also feature two more Tour de France winners such as Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers), two cyclists who also already know what it’s like to climb the podium of the Volta a Catalunya in 2019 and 2021, respectively.

The list of participants of the 103rd Volta a Catalunya also includes other grand tour winners such as the British Simon Yates (Team Jayco-AlUla), winner of a Vuelta a España, or Nairo Quintana (Movistar Team), winner of a Giro d’Italia and a Vuelta a España.

Two Colombians like Quintana himself (2016) and Sergio Higuita (Bora-hansgrohe), winner in 2022, will be the two former winners of the Volta a Catalunya who will be back at the start in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, where there will be other contenders such as the Basque climber Mikel Landa (Soudal-Quick Step), the Russian Alexander Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) or the promising Lenny Martínez (Groupama-FDJ), among others.

The three high altitude finishes are back

The 103rd edition of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya has one more year with a demanding and attractive route with a special protagonism of long-awaited returns. For the second consecutive year, the race will have three high altitude finishes: the Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat de Catalunya mountain resorts of Vallter and Port Ainé and the high altitude finish at Queralt, in Berga, something exceptional that the Volta had not experienced for more than two decades until the last 2023.

A route with a high prominence for the high mountains, with 23 scoring ports along the route, four of them of special category: the arrivals to Vallter and Port Ainé, the Port del Cantó and the Coll de Pradell, one of the great attractions of the stage in Bergadà, the penultimate stage of the competition, which will be the first time in competition in the Volta.

The first stone will be laid for the third consecutive year in Sant Feliu de Guíxols, which will experience the arrival and departure of a first stage of 173.9 kilometers of route and three scoring ports through the massif of Les Gavarres before an explosive finish where Michael Matthews and Primož Roglič have won in the last two years.

The second stage will already lead to the first finish at altitude, in a day of 186.5 kilometers starting in Mataró and finishing at altitude in the mountain resort of Vallter, in Setcases (Vall de Camprodon). The cycling ceiling of Catalonia, where last year the Italian Giulio Ciccone managed to beat Primož Roglič and Remco Evenepoel, is all a special category port that will be hardened by the previous climb to the Coll de Coubet, 1st category.

The third stage, which will start from Sant Joan de les Abadesses 50 years after its last visit and will finish in the Pallars Sobirà mountain resort of Port Ainé after 176.7 kilometers in which the cyclists will have to face two endless passes such as Port de Toses, 1st category, and Port del Cantó, one of the four special category passes of the edition as the same arrival to Port Ainé, will still be a high mountain challenge of more entity.

The gradient will relax in the fourth stage, which will start from Sort, the capital of Pallars Sobirà, and will finish in the city of Lleida 11 years after its last visit. There will be 169 kilometers of route with a single scoring port and a very flat final part prepared for a sprint finish in the capital of Segrià, where great names in the history of cycling such as Mario Cipollini, Laurent Jalabert, Maurizio Fondriest or Miquel Poblet have won.

The fifth stage will link two unprecedented venues such as Altafulla, in the heart of the Costa Daurada, and Viladecans The Style Outlets. There will be 167.3 kilometers of route that can bring surprises in some of the most leg-breaking roads of the Penedès and Baix Llobregat with two second category passes on the route, the Coll de les Ventoses and the Alt de la Creu d’Aragall, the latter crowned less than 30 kilometers from the finish line.

Everything will be ready to live in the sixth stage one of the most anticipated and most decisive stages: a day without rest of 154.7 kilometers starting from the city of Berga, which was not a protagonist of the Volta since 1959, and arrival at altitude in the sanctuary of Queralt, which will discover all the cycling potential of Berguedà. It will be a stage of real mountain with five mountain passes, among which will highlight the premiere in competition of the Coll de Pradell, a special category, feared for its length and its impossible ramps.

After this challenge, the race will close once again with a magical final stage with Barcelona as the protagonist. From the capital of Catalonia will leave the cyclists of the Volta in this seventh stage, which after crossing the interior of the Baix Llobregat will return to Barcelona to live an incomparable end of party both for sporting incentive and public with six passes through the ‘Alt del Castell de Montjuïc’, 2nd category, which can finish deciding the winner of the Volta a Catalunya 2024 if it has not already done so in the previous six stages.

So, all the ingredients are ready to live a 103rd historic edition of the Volta a Catalunya, which will bring together again for a week the best cyclists in the world on Catalan roads.

Source: Revista Mundo Ciclístico