By Antonio J. Salmerón
Something more than a thousand kilometres, more than one hundred of which are passed among the nearly two dozen rated climbs and just four measly clicks of individual time trial: that is, in numbers, the Volta a Catalunya 2008, which begins Monday and runs through May 25. Together with the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and the Clásica de San Sebastian, it is one of just three Spanish races included by UCI in the ProTour circuit, and a major goal for Caisse d'Epargne rider Luis Leon Sanchez..
"I have looked at the route, and it is good for me, but there are less kilometres in time trial. So I will be alright, because I am just coming off a break after riding the Ardennes Classics finishing in Liège".
Sanchez will lead the Caisse d'Epargne team in the Catalan race, "but I will be not contesting for the overall because I have started training only one week ago, although I have felt better sensations than expected. Now I have to suffer to reach the Tour as well as possible," the Spaniard told Cyclingnews. After the Volta a Catalunya, Sanchez will take in the Basque Bizikleta and the national time trial championship before arriving at the Tour. "I do not have a program so loaded as could be expected because I made a good first half season, and I do not need so much competition to reach the peak of form", he concluded.
Volta a Catalunya in brief:
After disputing the 3.7 kilometre individual time trial in Lloret de Mar, the Volta a Catalunya will be directed to Riudellots de la Selva, where it will end with the second stage in Banyoles after 167.8 kilometres.
The riders will head over three categorized climbs before arriving on the final circuit of 10 kilometres in Banyoles, for three laps. The third stage is one of the toughest for this edition, with 191.9 kms and two category one climbs as well as the Pedraforca climb (hors categorie) and Josa's Kadi, which crests 52 kilometres from the finish line, located in La Seu d'Urgell.
The longest stage of the Volta will be contested between La Seu d'Urgell and Ascó, over 217.2 kilometres, with the Coll de Paumeres climb (category two) only 20 kilometers from the finish. This climb is 8.6 kilometres long and reaches a maximum of 9% grade.
In the fifth stage, the undulates continuously, with ascents to Falset and La Bataille, both third category. The next day, between El Vendrell and Pallejà (163.9 kilometres), has three third category climbs, the Alt dels Cassots, L'Ordal and Castellbisbal, the latter of which will be ascended four times as it is part of the final circuit.
Finally, a stage of 122 kilometres between Pallejà and Barcelona will begin with a new ascent to L'Castellbisbal and Ordal, in addition to the Alt de la Maladona.