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.