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Key summit finish canceled in Volta a Catalunya over possible avalanches

Race organisers announced late Tuesday that the 2018 Volta a Catalunya's toughest stage on Wednesday will no longer tackle the final, 12-kilometre Vallter 2000 ascent due to a risk of snow.

Rather than the three first category climbs, the Bracons, Port d'Oix and Rocabruna and the Vallter 2000 final ascent in a 199km stage, the new stage 3 will be much shorter at 153km. It will have just one first category climb mid-stage - the Bracons - and a second category, the Port de Collabos, 13 kilometres from the new finish in the town of Camprodon.

The new finish will also be 1,000 metres above sea level, rather than the 2,000 metres previously planned, making for a much easier stage. At the moment there are no plans to change stage 4, which has a summit finish in Alp-La Molina in the Pyrenees.

A 'crisis committee' meeting held after stage 2, which included team and riders representatives as well as the race doctor, the president of the commissaires and the race president, agreed on the change, which could have a massive knock-on effect on the battle for the general classification in this year's Volta. At the moment last year's winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) holds a narrow lead after taking stage 2.

Although temperatures well below freezing were forecast for the Vallter summit finish on Wednesday, race director Ruben Peris argued that "This change isn't so much because it's expected to snow, because in fact it's likely that it will be sunny."

However, it has snowed heavily early this week in parts of Catalunya in an exceptionally cold spring, and as Peris said "There is a risk of avalanches" - of snow - "on the climb," hence the change.

"It's not a plan B that we've suddenly come up with because we knew that it could snow on the Rocabruna climb. So we've decided not to take any risks, avoiding the Rocabruna as well, and the stage will finish in Camprodon."

"For stage 4's route, right now, at 7pm on Tuesday, the information we have is that it'll be OK, and the weather will be good. In principle, we're not changing anything. But we'll wait until Wednesday to make a definitive decision."

This is far from the first time that the Volta has had to change its route because of bad weather in the Pyrenees. The most notorious recent case was in 2012, when a stage to Port Ainé summit finish was partly cancelled because of snow, with the route reduced by 50 kilometres - controversially, after racing had begun. Only last year the early part of stage 3 from Llivia to Igualada was cancelled because of snow in the Pyrenees, and the stage was reduced from 199 kilometres to 131 kilometres.

However, the rest of the day's racing could be completed. This time round, with the race heading into the Pyrenees rather than out of them, organisers have opted to take no risk.

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.