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Volta a Catalunya 2022 favours climbers with multiple Pyrenean stages

MANRESA SPAIN MARCH 26 James Knox of United Kingdom and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Rmi Cavagna of France and Team Deceuninck QuickStep Marc Soler Gimenez of Spain and Movistar Team David De La Cruz Melgarejo of Spain and UAE Team Emirates Thymen Arensman of Netherlands and Team DSM Ide Schelling of Netherlands and Team BORA Hansgrohe Attila Valter of Hungary and Team Groupama FDJ Matej Mohoric of Slovenia and Team Bahrain Victorious Bob Jungels of Luxembourg and Ag2R Citroen Team Omer Goldstein of Israel and Team Israel StartUp Nation during the 100th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2021 Stage 5 a 2015km stage from La Pobla De Segur to Manresa 220m Breakaway Port de Montserrat 635m Mountains Landscape VoltaCatalunya100 on March 26 2021 in Manresa Spain Photo by David RamosGetty Images
Stage 5 of Volta a Catalunya 20221 (Image credit: Getty Images Sport)

Grand Tour specialists heading to the Volta a Catalunya this March are set for some daunting mountain challenges and a host of extremely punchy hilly stages to test their climbing form.

Publication of the 2022 Volta route this week has confirmed there will be no time trial, unlike in 2021, with two summit finishes deep in the Pyrenees likely to decide the race's overall winner instead.

The strikingly irregular final ascent to La Molina on stage three has become a familiar feature of Volta a Catalunya routes of recent years. Then 24 hours later, another Pyrenean ski station at Boi Taull is back on the route for the first time in two decades and will act as the final and hardest single challenge on the 2022 race's Queen stage.

The overall leaders' biggest obstacle afterwards will most likely be the traditional, extremely punchy, stage 7 through Montjuic Park in Barcelona on the final Sunday.

The 2022 Volta kicks off on Monday March 21 with a new start town of San Feliu de Guixols, with stage 1 comprising a hilly out-and-back circuit through the Gavarres sierras, where the sprinters' teams will have a major battle to keep the breakaways under control. 

Then after a similarly hilly run into France, with stage 2 finishing in the northern Catalan city of Perpignan, stage 3 takes the Volta back towards the Pyrenees and its toughest climbing challenges.

Weather permitting – as the risk of snowfalls altering routes is always a concern in the Volta when it heads into the high mountains in late March – three first-category climbs on stage 3 will likely spark the Volta's first major GC battle. 

Still, the Boí Taüll ascent on stage 4 is by far the hardest of all the Pyrenean climbs, and much more likely to see the overall favourites make definitive race-winning moves. At 14 kilometres long, and steepest at the bottom before giving way to a mostly steady gradient of around 5 to 7 per cent, Boí Taüll featured regularly on the Volta route in the 1990s. Its last appearance in the Catalan race dates from 2002 when it was the summit of a mountain time trial.

A long grind southwards to the coastal town of Vilanova i la Geltrú on stage 5, likely to end in a bunch sprint, and a hilly day for the breakaways on Saturday in southern Catalonia, then follow.

However, stage 7's multiple ascents to Montjuïc castle on a short, very technical circuit tackled six times almost invariably see the overall leader come under fire for one last time and this year will likely provide the usual dramatic and entertaining final showdown for the 101st edition of the Volta a Catalunya.

Star names pencilled in to be present for the Volta this year include last year's winner Adam Yates and his Ineos Grenadiers teammate Richard Carapaz (Ineos-Grenadiers), Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma) and, for one last time before his retirement, the three-time Volta champion Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

2022 Volta a Catalunya stages

  • Monday March 21: stage 1, Sant Feliu de Guíxols - Sant Feliu de Guíxols, 172.2 km
  • Tuesday March 22: stage 2, L'Escala - Perpignan, 202.4km
  • Wednesday March 23: stage 3, Perpignan - La Molina, 161.1km
  • Thursday March 24: stage 4, La Seu d'Urgell - Boi Taull, 166.7 km
  • Friday March 25: stage 5, La Pobla de Segur - Vilanova i la Geltrú, 206.3 km
  • Saturday March 26: stage 6, Salou - Cambrils, 167.6km
  • Sunday March 27: stage 7, Barcelona - Barcelona, 138.6 km

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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.