By Antonio J. Salmerón
The 87th edition of La Volta a Catalunya, scheduled for May 21 to 27, will be contested by several favourites including Caisse d'Epargne leaders Alejandro Valverde, now ranked number one in the UCI Pro Tour and Oscar Pereiro. The two will take on Astana's Alexandre Vinokourov.
The Spanish ProTour race was officially presented in Barcelona, where it will conclude. 200 riders from 25 squads will take part, including other top racers Spaniards Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel), Igor Astarloa (Milram), Angel Vicioso, Paco Mancebo and Oscar Sevilla (Relax), German Erik Zabel (Milram), and Italian Daniele Bennati (Lampre).
Four pro Spanish squads including Andalucía Cayasur, Relax Gam, Fuerteventura-Canarias, and Karpin-Galicia and American Team Slipstream have been invited by organizers.
The race opens with a team time trial in Salou, where the second stage also starts. Another highlight is the tough 203.1km fourth stage with its three first category climbs including the Coll de Port (1,630 m), the Coll de Jou (1,480 m), and the Alt of Comella (1,365 m) and a finish at the Vallnord-Arinsal skiing station (1,950 m). The race also includes an individual time trial and several other road stages.