Volta a Catalunya is underway! Anyone watching? You should be!
The list of contenders for this year’s Volta a Catalunya includes defending Tour de France Champion Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Fabio Aru, Dan Martin, Rigaberto Uran, Tejay Van Garderen, Joaquim Rodriguez, Ritchie Porte and Tom Dumoulin just to name a few.
This is arguably the strongest field in the Volta’s history, with all the big names bar NIbali racing in the lead up towards Le Tour! It will also be the last time we’ll see Alberto Contador at the Volta, as he is set to retire at the end of the 2016 season.
It is my opinion, whoever wins the 2016 Volta a Catalunya will also win the 2016 Tour de France. Yes, it’s a bold statement but one I will stand by, providing all contenders race in July.
Team Sky have dominated the Tour de France over the previous four years and look to do so for the next decade. The only chink in the SKY armor is the loss of Ritchie Porte. Porte was Chris Froome’s right hand lieutenant, and is arguably one of the strongest all round cyclists in the pro peloton. During the 2013/15 Tour de France, Porte continuously brought back attacks from the likes of Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana to help Chris Froome seal the overall tour victories. This year he will be fighting for his own victory and for Team BMC.
The million dollar question: Without Ritchie Porte, how will Sky fare?
Team Sky’s ability to control their rivals will be affected greatly, as they will now have to control Porte’s attacks, as well as the attacks from Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador. Not only does losing Ritchie decrease the control Team SKY can assert on a race but it leaves them vulnerable, to what extent we’ll have to wait and see! It’s going to be an interesting race from an analysis point of view and one we at Mummu Cycling can’t wait to watch unfold.
The decisive challenges will come on the stage 3 summit finish in La Molina, the Pyrenean ski station where Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) won in 2015, and Friday’s lengthy final ascent to Ainé, where Dan Martin (Etixx-Quick Step) took a spectacular lone victory in the 2013 race – CyclingNews.
It is on these summits we can expect the magic to happen!
Chris Froome will look to crush the confidence out of all his rivals on the first long climb of the Volta but without Porte, he will be in unfamiliar territory. Ritchie who was able to follow Alberto Contador’s attacks at the recent Paris-Nice is in good form and we can expect two pronged attacks from BMC duo Porte and Van Garderen. While the long range kamakzi style attacks will come from Alberto Contador, in various attempts to dislodge Chris Froome and other contenders. We can expect a very exciting week of racing!
Back to my statement: Will the winner of the Volta win the Le Tour? Possibly.
Fortunately for viewers and contenders alike, there are two thousand other variables that I have blissfully chosen to ignore, to show the importance of the Volta a Catalunya in the lead up to the Tour de France.
The race won’t decide Le Tour but it will give us a few very good indicators:
- It will give us a very clear indication of who will be in contention come July.
- It will show some of the tactics we can expect from team BMC with the use of both Tejay and Ritchie.
- It will also give us an indication as to who is the world’s current strongest climber.
The riders will be nervous and they would know the importance of Volta as a springboard for Le Tour. I believe Alberto Contador stands the most to lose or gain from the race. He’s previously stated he wants to finish his career at the top of his game and this does not involve another loss to Chris Froome. The historical rivalry between Contador and Froome will be remembered throughout history, so sit back and enjoy it while it lasts.