EFE · Road Competition · 03/21/2023
The three-time winner of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and the great referent of Spanish cycling in recent times, Murcia cyclist Alejandro Valverde, has left a void after his retirement in races such as the Catalan one, one of his favourites, which in this edition has seen how no Spanish cyclist is among the candidates for the final victory.
In addition, the three cyclists destined to fill his void are also not in this Tour of Catalonia, which began on Monday in the Costa Brava. Juan Ayuso (UAE Emirates), ranked fifth in 2022, and Carlos Rodrguez (Ineos Grenadiers) have not been able to participate due to physical problems, while Enric Mas (Movistar) did not have it on his calendar.
But this does not mean that there are no level names so that some Spanish cyclist can fight for a stage triumph in the high mountain that begins this Tuesday at the ski resort of Vallter (Girona) and even for try to get on the final podium.
One of them is that of Mikel Landa (Bahrain-Victorious), who has not run the Tour since 2017 and who last year was third overall in the Giro d’Italia.
“The stellar participation increases the level of demand for everyone. The route is very beautiful and I hope to have a good race”, explained Landa to the media after the check of signatures.
In addition, when asked which of the three top finishes of this Tour is the best, the cyclist from Murgia admits that the one he likes the most “is Lo Port”, the end of the fifth stage.
Landa returns to the Volta in a quieter start to the season than usual for the reason that he will not participate in the Giro this year. “I will be able to dedicate myself to other races that I like to compete in,” he said.
Another name to keep in mind from the Spanish driver is that of the Catalan Marc Soler (UAE Emirates), third in the 2017 Tour.
“My challenge is to give my best, to see where I can be and help my teammates,” he explained before starting the second stage in Matar (Barcelona).
His freedom in this Tour can be seen favored by the fall in the first stage of Adam Yates, one of the leaders of the UAE Emirates, which led him to arrive more than 10 minutes behind Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel.
“I see myself with legs to try to hold out as much as possible on today’s climb to Vallter and then see what happens”, said the one from Vilanova i la Geltr.
Carlos Verona is the leader of the ranks in this Tour of Movistar, which was the team of Alejandro Valverde. “We don’t have such a clear leader, but we have strong people,” considered the 30-year-old cyclist.
And, in this sense, he added: “It will be a surprise if Roglic or Evenepoel don’t win the Tour, but not by much. There is a lot of level in this Tour.”
And there are even more names that can bring joy to Spanish cycling on Catalan roads. David de la Cruz (Astan), who on Thursday enjoyed the arrival of the Tour in his hometown, Sabadell (Girona), explained “that in Vallter you will see the first differences” and that he hopes “to be in the front group and have options to make a good general”.
In any case, he admits that he is most attracted to the end of this Wednesday’s stage, at the ski resort of La Molina (Girona). “Vallter is a port that has always given me a lot of respect, it’s incredibly tough, much more than it looks on the profile,” he explained.
“I expect a quick climb to Vallter, the wind will be in my favor and Jumbo-Visma will set a high pace from the start,” he added.
Among the cyclists in the test, there are 10 Catalans who play at home. In addition to the already mentioned Marc Soler and David de la Creu, another is Marc Brustenga (Trek-Segafredo), from Santa Eullia de Ronana.
Brustenga studied and rehearsed yesterday’s uphill finish in Sant Feliu de Guxols (Girona), ideal for its characteristics. But he ended up in the second group, 10 seconds behind the first, caused by the cut that occurred 5 kilometers from the finish line due to a multiple.
“I’m doing well in this Tour, although last week I went to run some classics and I’m leaving,” he explained.
It is his second participation in the Tour of Catalonia. “You learn a lot from the first one and from my whole first year as a professional. I think I will enjoy this edition more,” said Brustenga.
It seems viewers will too. At least, this is the feeling after the dissimulation that Roglic and Evenepoel showed already on the first day.
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