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Two mid-race summit finishes likely to decide overall
The Volta a Catalunya, Spain’s oldest stage race, has released its route for the 2014 edition , with a very similar format to 2013: no individual or team time trial, but with two tough mid-race summit finishes in the Pyrenees likely to decide the overall outcome.
Just as last year, when it was won by Ireland’s Dan Martin (Garmin-Sharp), the seven-stage Volta kicks off with a rolling trek on the hills around the coastal resort of Calella and finishes with multiple laps of a hilly circuit inside the Montjuic Park in Barcelona.
The mountain climbing appears to be slightly easier than last year, with stage three’s first summit finish at La Molina (Alp) ski resort coming after a long, steady 12 kilometre climb.
Stage four to Valter 2000-Setcases - tackled on stage three last year - could be a very different story: preceded as it is by five climbs and culminating with the difficult 12 kilometre ascent to the Pyrenean ski resort. Last year the Valter 2000-Setcases ascent saw some spectacular attacks by Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who won the stage, whilst the climb was also witness to some of Sir Bradley Wiggins strongest mountain riding of the entire season. (The Sky rider finally finished fifth overall).
The 2014 Volta will also feature a special intermediate sprint in honour of 1950s and 60s Catalan great Miguel Poblet, who died last year. Half a century on, Poblet remains the record holder for stage wins in the Volta - 33 - and was twice the outright winner.
Whilst the race participation has yet to be finalised, local star Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), who finished second last year and won the race outright in 2010, has confirmed he will be taking part.
Monday March 24: Stage one: Calella - Calella: 165 kilometres
Tuesday March 25: Stage two: Mataró - Girona 171.2 kilometres
Wednesday March 26: Stage three: Banyoles - La Molina (Alp) 162.9 kilometres
Thursday March 27: Stage four: Alp - Valter 2000-Setcases 166.4 kilometres
Friday March 28: Stage five: Llanars - Vall de Camprodon 222.2 kilometres
Saturday March 29: Stage six: El Vendrell - Vilanova i la Geltru 163.9 kilometres
Sunday March 30: Stage seven: Barcelona (Montjuic) - Barcelona (Montjuic) 120 kilometres.