Hello there and welcome along for the individual time trial on stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya. We've had a small opening-day sort out and we've got the Pyrenean stages to come, but today we have a test against the clock that is sure to influence the overall complexion of this race.
A beautiful sunny day in Banyoles, where we have a circuit-based course of 18.5km.
The first rider will be setting off at 13:41 local time, so in just under 10 minutes.
The first rider will be Qhubeka-Assos' Karel Vacek. The riders are setting off in reverse order of the general classification and, while Jan Bakelants (Intermarché) was dead last after yesterday's opening stage, he suffered a knee injury in a crash and will not continue in the race.
Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal), wearing the leader's jersey after winning the opening stage, will be the last rider down the ramp at 16:35.
A rarity in the Volta
This is the first ‘standard’ medium-length ITT in the race since Chris Boardman won on a similarly flat 18.5-kilometre circuit round the nearby city of Girona, way back in 1998. Since then, there’s been a mountain time trial - all uphill - in 2007 and a prologue as recently as 2010, but no other individual chronos at all in the last decade.
Today's course is a rolling 18.5km loop, starting and finishing in Banyoles.
"It’s mostly rolling terrain, although there’s a nasty little climb about three kilometres from the finish, which will ensure the teams have to think hard about the best strategy and equipment for the course," Roberto Benet from the Volta’s technical department told us ahead of the race.
🚴♂️ Etapa 2️⃣🚩 @CCPlaEstany🏁 @CCPlaEstany🔛 18,5 kms ➡️ Contrarellotge individual🏆 #VoltaCatalunya100 pic.twitter.com/vP2U66x2CbMarch 23, 2021
Vacek rolls down the ramp and stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya is underway.
There aren't too many big names among the early starters, although Josef Cerny (Deceuninck-QuickStep) could be one to watch in a few minutes. Yesterday's stage saw a number of riders lose time, so anyone going off early is already out of GC contention.
As for the pure TT specialists, we have Rémi Cavagna (Deceuninck-QuickStep) at 14:13 and Rohan Dennis at 15:04, while the GC hopefuls will follow on after that.
Before we get too far along, now's the chance to re-cap on yesterday. We have a stage report, photo gallery, and the full results and standings right here.
We have an intermediate checkpoint after 9km and with 9.5km to go. Vacek passes through in 12:48 but he's soon bettered by 25 seconds by his teammate Connor Brown.
Marc Hirschi is here in his first race for UAE Team Emirates. His departure from Sunweb remains shrouded in mystery - due to an NDA signed by both parties - and the Swiss rider has now addressed recent speculation that has sprung up between the cracks.
"As soon as a rider succeeds, people think doping is behind it. I’m learning to live with that," he has told L'Equipe.
Cerny, as expected, is speedy through the checkpoint - 48 seconds quicker than Brown. Tony Gallopin (AG2R) and Wout Poels (Bahrain Victorious) have also gone through, 26 and 36 seconds down, respectively.
Vacek was the first rider to the finish but he's soon usurped by Gallopin. Cerny looks set to give us the first proper benchmark.
Cerny comes to the line and stops the clock on 23:05. That's 50 seconds faster than Gallopin, who has the second best time so far.
Here was the current leader, Czech champion Josef Cerny, out on his ride.
We'll see how long his lead lasts today, but Cerny is a rider who seems to be on an upward curve as he nears his 28th birthday. He raced with the old CCC Sprandi team for a few years, then dropped to Continental level in 2017, before hitting the WorldTour when CCC took over the old BMC Racing set-up in 2019.
He had a really strong 2020, with stage wins at the Giro d'Italia and Poitou-Charentes, a second Czech national TT title, plus 2nd overall at Vuelta a Murcia. His Giro win was a road stage but in the three time trials he placed 6th, 5th, 6th. That earned him a place at Deceuninck-QuickStep and, after a string of one-day races to start the season, here he is.
We mentioned Cavagna a littler earlier. The Frenchman has just gone through the checkpoint six seconds up on Cerny's time.
Cavagna hits the line...
22:32 - that's 33 seconds quicker then Cerny.
Cavagna's time will be tough to beat. He averaged 49.2km/h on a course that suited him well. He was second at the recent Paris-Nice time trial but had to break when he caught his minute-man, leaving him to wonder what might have been. Will today be his day?
Chris Froome is about to get underway. He told us ahead of the race that he wasn't going to win the overall title and he duly lost 8 minutes yesterday as Movistar decided to reduce the peloton. We'll see how he gets on today. In the meantime, here are his pre-race thoughts.
Tejay van Garderen (EF-Nippo) is third fastest so far at the checkpoint but it's still 21 seconds down on Cavagna.
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) sets off now. The Belgian is more than capable of a strong time here.
Peter Sagan finishes 2:40 down on Cavagna. He looked good at Milan-San Remo with a surprise 4th place but then his inability to keep pace on the opening day here was more in line with expectations after his comeback from COVID. Either way, he's missing E3 and Gent-Wevelgem this week to be here in a bid to reach his best shape for Flanders and Roubaix.
Van Garderen has finished and has the third best time so far - 49 seconds down on Cavagna.
Bob Jungels (AG2R) finishes 1:17 down on Cavagna's time. Another disappointing one for the Luxembourger, who lost time yesterday and had a rough one at Paris-Nice before this. There was a fair bit of hype surrounding his move from QuickStep to AG2R but so far it's not been happening for him.
Jonathan Castroviejo (Ineos Grenadiers) sets off now and is always capable of a good result.
Rohan Dennis has just started as well. It'll be interesting to see what he can manage. He was the best in the world in 2019 but hasn't won a race since, although he has shone in a domestique role at Ineos.
⏱️🇦🇺 Rohan Dennis (@INEOSGrenadiers) ja ha sortit!⏱️🇦🇺 Rohan Dennis (@INEOSGrenadiers) ya ha salido!⏱️🇦🇺 Rohan Dennis (@INEOSGrenadiers) is on the road!!Follow the stage live on the race center :https://t.co/GWfYZReHvH#VoltaCatalunya100 pic.twitter.com/wNnsVfHbnoMarch 23, 2021
24:32 for Froome. That's two minutes slower than Cavagna.
Louis Meintjes (Intermarché) is more than three minutes down. He also lost time yesterday and still looks way short of his performances of a few years ago.
Dennis looks to be going well. We don't have an intermediate time check for him but he has caught two riders already.
We're into the heart of the field, and the riders who finished in the main peloton yesterday.
De Gendt comes to the line. 23:28 for the Belgian - 56 seconds down on Cavagna and fifth fastest so far.
Dennis negotiates that late hill and the subsequent descent, where he has to come off the pedals to get through a couple of corners. It's back on the gas for the final kilometre, and it's going to be close with Cavagna!
Dennis into the lead!
The Australian stops the clock on 22:27. That's five seconds up on Cavagna.
We're still awaiting final confirmation on Dennis' time. It appears he had issues with his timing chip as he hasn't appeared on the live results at the checkpoint or the finish.
Confirmed: Dennis clocks 22:27 - an average speed of 49.4km/h. He's in the hotseat.
The GC contenders are starting to come thick and fast now. Simon Yates (BikeExchange) sets off, and his time trialling has improved immeasurably compared to the early years of his career. Fellow Brit Hugh Carthy (EF-Nippo) is about to start, too, and he had a really strong TT at last year's Vuelta. Lotto Soudal up-and-comer Harm Vanhoucke is also about to start, and we all know about Richie Porte (Ineos).
23:34 for Marc Soler (Movistar)
Castroviejo finishes and takes 5th place so far, one second behind Van Garderen.
23:46 for George Bennett (Jumbo-Visma) - 11th fastest so far.
Here's a shot of Dennis out on his ride a little earlier
Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates) is about to start. He was 4th in the Paris-Nice TT but had to abandon that race after a crash. It'll be interesting to see how he fares today and this week.
David de la Cruz (UAE) matches George Bennett with 23:46.
Bennett's teammate Sepp Kuss comes to the finish. 23:50. That's good enough for 14th place, 1:23 down on Dennis.
Adam Yates (Ineos) sets off now. He hasn't made quite the same TT improvements as his twin brother, but he's one of a number of cards for Ineos at this race and will be going all-in here.
Lucas Hamilton (BikeExchange) stops the clock for the 15th fastest time so far. His teammate Yates is coming up to the late climb.
Steven Kruijswijk, yet another option for Jumbo-Visma, sets off now. He's one of the stronger time trialists among the GC riders.
Simon Yates hauls himself to the top of that little climb and now starts the descent into the final kilometre. The clock's on 22 minutes.
23:32 for Urán - that's 10th fastest so far.
Here comes Simon Yates. He's safely through the final corners ans he stops the clock on 23:37.
That's a few seconds slower than Urán and it's 1:10 slower than Dennis. 12th place so far for Yates.
Not many GC riders getting close to Dennis so far. The Australian lost two minutes yesterday so won't be riding into possible GC contention.
Here comes Carthy. The timing cut out but it looked like he was around his teammate Urán's time and knocking on the door of the top 10 as it stands. A strong ride, either way.
Geraint Thomas sets off now. He has a great track record in short time trials but how's his form?
Porte third fastest so far!
Thomas' teammate hits the line and stops the clock on 23:01. That's 34 seconds down on his other teammate, Dennis, but a fair way up on a fair few GC contenders so far.
It looks like Dennis and Cavagna are in a league of their own here, but Porte has put himself as best of the rest so far.
As I write that, Joao Almeida (Deceuninck-QuickStep) sets off. He's a GC contender with a hell of a TT on him.
Stefan De Bod (Astana) produces a great ride to take fifth place so far, 38 seconds down on Dennis' benchmark.
Almeida's teammate James Knox clocks 23:36 - a strong time for a pure climber.
Here comes McNulty. It's fast!
22:55 for McNulty!
That's third fastest so far - 28 seconds behind Dennis but six seconds up on Porte.
For reference, McNulty has put 42 seconds into Simon Yates
23:17 for Fausto Masnada. Into the provisional top-10 he goes. Deceuninck-QuickStep are having a good day here.
23:20 for Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe). That's 7th fastest so far and another strong one from a GC contender.
Now for Adam Yates. Wow. This is fast.
23:02 for Adam Yates, which puts him fifth fastest so far - 35 seconds down on his teammate Dennis and one second behind his other teammate Porte. It's also more than half a minute quicker than his twin brother. Ineos another team having a top day.
Here comes Kruijswijk....
23:02 - same time as Yates.
Clément Champoussin, AG2R's up-and-coming GC rider, clocks 23:58.
Correction: 23 minutes flat for Kruijswijk. 4th fastest so far.
Michael Woods (Israel) finishes with 24:10 - 38th so far.
Woods' teammate Dan Martin only goes a few seconds faster with 23:57. They've lost a fair bit of time compared to the other GC contenders.
Thomas is into the final kilometre and Dennis' time has already sailed past
23:14 for Thomas.
That's 47 seconds down on Dennis, not to mention more than 10 seconds down on his teammates Porte and Yates. He's 8th fastest so far.
Richard Carapaz overcooks a corner but gets back up to speed. Yes, that's another potential Ineos leader.
Here comes Almeida to the finish. It's looking strong.
It is strong!
22:54 for Almeida, who tops McNulty to go third fastest so far and fastest when it comes to the GC riders.
Jai Hindley, who lost the Giro d'Italia in a final-day TT last year, hits the line and stops the clock on 24:20. Not a great result for the Australian.
Carapaz hits the top of the late climb. He's not looking as good as his teammates but it's looking solid enough.
Hirschi finishes and falls outside the top 30 so far.
Carapaz comes to the line now.
23:47 for the Ecuadorian. That's 25th fastest so far, but a fair way behind Ineos' other leaders.
24:23 for Giulio Ciccone. Another disappointing one.
We're out of yesterday's peloton now and into the late four-up break. This is the top of the GC and our final starters:
Lennard Kamna (Bora-Hansgrohe)
Remy Rochas (Cofidis)
Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana)
Andreas Kron (Lotto Soudal)
23:46 for Enric Mas. That's disappointing, too. His Movistar teammate Marc Soler fared better with 23:34.
Rochas is in the white and orange of best young rider. That's only on loan from Kron, who's only a couple of minutes away now as Sanchez starts his ride.
Kron sets off now in the leader's white and green skinsuit. That's everyone out on course.
24:02 for Nairo Quintana.
Almeida looks like he'll be the new overall leader - unless one of the last four can pull something special out. The Portuguese rider started the day 26 seconds down on Kron, 22 seconds down on Sanchez, 20 seconds down on Rochas, and 16 seconds down on Kamna.
McNulty is set to miss out on the overall lead by a fraction of a second.
His time was 22:55.67, while Almeida's was 22:54.99.
Valverde comes to the line and stops the clock on 23:41, which is 23rd fastest so far.
Mohoric finishes 1:12 down on Dennis' benchmark. Just five to come home now. Dennis is getting excited in the hotseat.
Dion Smith (BikeExchange) doesn't trouble the leaderboard.
Here comes Kamna, and he's a fair way down, so Almeida is surely going into the overall lead.
23:32 for Kamna, which is 19th fastest so far. The German can certainly climb and is still in the GC mix.
Sanchez reaches the top of the climb. It looks like a decent time.
Rochas comes to the finish now. 24:31, which is good enough for 80th place.
Sanchez comes to the line now, and it certainly is decent. 23:20 for the Spaniard, which puts him into 11th place.
Kron is the last rider out on course and he's already gone well over 23 minutes. So that's the win for Dennis and the leader's jersey for Almeida.
24:28 for Kron, who sprints to the line and brings the stage to a conclusion.
Rohan Dennis (Ineos Grenadiers) wins stage 2 of the Volta a Catalunya
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Rohan Dennis (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers||0:22:27|
|2||Rémi Cavagna (Fra) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:05|
|3||João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:28|
|4||Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates||0:00:28|
|5||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:33|
|6||Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:34|
|7||Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:35|
|8||Josef Cerny (Cze) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:38|
|9||Stefan De Bod (RSA) Astana-Premier Tech||0:00:38|
|10||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:47|
Let's hear from Dennis
"Relieved," is his overwhelming emotion. "It's been a long time between drinks. If I'm completely honest with you, it's been a tough little road but it's really great to be back on the top step. It's amazing - the team has always supported me and and believed that I can be back on that top step. It's just amazing to be back.
"It means a lot," he adds. "It's my first victory with Ineos Grenadiers and my first victory since Yorkshire Worlds. Look, it's been a pretty tough year and a half of second or third places, or even out of the top 10 sometimes. It's not been easy with all these young guys, so I'm making most of this win. I train on these roads a lot and I had a lot of friends out there to cheer me on, so it's great to do it in front of them."
Here's Dennis on what was his winning ride
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||João Almeida (Por) Deceuninck-QuickStep||4:43:26|
|2||Brandon McNulty (USA) UAE Team Emirates|
|3||Luis Leon Sanchez||0:00:03|
|4||Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) Jumbo-Visma||0:00:05|
|5||Richie Porte (Aus) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:06|
|6||Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:07|
|7||Stefan De Bod (RSA) Astana-Premier Tech||0:00:10|
|8||Geraint Thomas (GBr) Ineos Grenadiers||0:00:19|
|9||Fausto Masnada (Ita) Deceuninck-QuickStep||0:00:20|
|10||Lennard Kämna (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe||0:00:21|
Here's Almeida in the leader's jersey
The Volta has rarely used individual TT's and this one has carved out some significant gaps among the overall contenders. Almeida is only a second up on McNulty, with Kruijswijk, Adam Yates and Richie Porte all within 10 seconds.
Thomas and Kelderman aren't too far back but it's 38 seconds to Urán in 15th, 39 to Soler, and 42 to Yates, 51 to Mas, 52 to Carapaz, 1:02 to Dan Martin, 1:07 to Quintana, 1:15 to Woods, 1:25 to Hindley, and 1:28 to Ciccone.
Full results still pending from the organisers.
Here's our report page
It's another big day tomorrow as we head for our first summit finish at Vallter 2000. We'll have full live coverage of that one as well.
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