Why the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya is such a big deal

Men tackle historic Spanish stage race from March 22 - 28

6 months ago by Rebecca Bland

After its cancellation in 2020, the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya is back bigger than ever with its hundredth edition in 2021. It’s among the oldest cycling races in the world (even older than La Vuelta) and will take place over 1,095.5km and seven stages. If you’re watching from the sofa at home, you can expect plenty of gorgeous terrain in the most northeastern territory in Spain. Expect high Pyrenean mountains and an action-packed week of top-tier WorldTour racing as the season gets fully underway in Europe. 

Rally Cycling’s men’s team secured themselves an invite to this year’s race, something that experienced rider Joey Rosskopf says will be key for the team’s exposure in the WorldTour.

“It’s really important for all of us to keep showing what we can do on the world stage, at WorldTour races whenever we get the chance.“

No American has ever won the overall victory – but could this be the year? With Rosskopf primarily based in Girona, Spain, his local knowledge will be vital during the race.

It’s one of the only races we do all year where I’m familiar with the roads beforehand. I’ve been living in Girona for a few years, so this is as close as it gets to a home race for me. Maybe my wife can come out, maybe I can see a couple of friends on the sidelines. That’s gonna be really nice.”

The race will begin on Monday, March 22, and go through Sunday, March 28. TV coverage will be available through NBC Sports (USA), Flobikes (Canada), or the GCN+ app (for those of you not able to watch from the road outside Joey’s house) so you can stay on top of the action. 

With some of cycling’s biggest names taking to the start line including Chris Froome and Peter Sagan along with Rally Cycling alumni Sepp Kuss, Brandon McNulty, and Michael Woods, you can bet that this is going to be a hard-fought race with an incredibly difficult route. 

“The Volta always has a super-hard parcours, it’s a climbing heavy race,” says Rosskopf. “There will be deep climbing talent in terms of the riders other teams bring but that’s okay, we’ve got the talent to do something special. It’s definitely a race you want to show up super-prepared for.”

No doubt the Rally Cycling men’s team are raring to go after their recent training camp in Castellón, just an hour drive from the Catalan border, as well as a few early season races to test the legs. 

With all stages bar the individual time trial and stage 6 from Tarragona to Mataró featuring tough climbs and challenging mountains, including the 1,955m high Port Ainé and the 2,150m high ascent to Vallter, this is going to be a test of teamwork as well as who’s got the legs to thrive, something the team will take in their stride. 

Land of the legends

Previous winners of this race include cycling’s eternal cool man, Jacques Antequil in 1967, the ‘cannibal’ Eddy Merckx in 1968, and Spanish legend Luis Ocaña in 1971. Although the standout legend of the Volta a Catalunya is Mariano Cañardo, or the ‘the Catalan of Olite’. A Spanish rider born in Olite in 1906, he went on to win a record seven(!) Volta a Catalunya titles between 1928 and 1939 and most likely would have won more if his career hadn’t been dampened by World War II. In the early 1990s, ‘Big Mig’ Miguel Indurain won the race three times, cementing his status as a celebrated Spanish rider of the era. The caliber of these riders alone should tell you how much of a staple to the European calendar this race is, and why it still attracts such big names. 

With the world still relatively shut down due to the ongoing pandemic, Rally Cycling is incredibly grateful that the organizers have managed to put on the race, and following the necessary safety protocols, keeping the show going for the fans, and the riders. Make sure you tune in from March 22 to see the boys in orange showing the WorldTour how it’s done. 

To get its fans amped about watching Rally Cycling in action at the Volta, the team has put together a trivia quiz! You can find the answers at the bottom of the page, below the team roster.

Volta a Quizalunya

  • Which North American rider came third overall in the 2014 edition?
    Tejay van Garderen
    Svein Tuft
    George Hincapie
    Jonas Carney
  • Which Barcelona climb is typically featured a number of times on the final stage?  🏖️🚠⛰️🏰
    Montjuïc
    Sagrada Familia
    Barceloneta
  • What is “Correfoc”?
    A traditional Catalan spirit, kinda like brandy 🥃
    A traditional fire-run celebration where Catalans dress as devils 👹
    A Catalan cuss word 🤬
  • Which of these is NOT the nickname of a past Volta Catalunya winner?
    Eagle of Toledo 🦅 
    The Cannibal  🍴
    Catalan of Oliete 🎗️
    El Diablo 😈

Stage by stage

3/22 Stage 1 | Calella – Calella (178.4k) Medium mountains
The opening stage sees the riders take in three categorized climbs and a downhill/flatter finish. Good for the sprinters if they can hang on over the hills!

3/23 Stage 2 (ITT) | Banyoles – Banyoles (18.5k) Relatively flat time trial
A time trial is somewhat of a novelty for the 100th edition of the Volta a Catalunya. This is an ideal stage for the TT specialists, although the stage isn’t expected to be decisive with the overall as it’s relatively short.

3/24 Stage 3 | Canal Olimpic de Catalunya – Vallter 2000 (203.1k) Mountainous
A summit finish on the 11.1km long Vallter 2000 makes today a difficult stage, with multiple smaller crests before the final ascent. One for the pure climbers. 

3/25 Stage 4 | Ripoll – Port Ainé (166.5k) Mountainous
A second summit finish in two stages makes hard work for the riders as they ascend Port de Toses after only 30km, and climb a further categorized climb before the final rise to Port Ainé HC. 

3/26 Stage 5 | La Pobla de Segur – Manresa (201.1k) Medium mountains
Giving the riders a bit of a break from the last two stages but still including two categorized climbs, those in search of a stage victory will still need to ascend the Port du Montserrat before a fast descent to the line. 

3/27 Stage 6 | Tarragona – Mataró (193.8k) Hilly
With only two category three climbs in today’s stage, a sprint is the expected outcome as the riders race towards Mataró

3/28 Stage 7 | Barcelona – Barcelona (133k) Medium mountains
After an 85km route around the Catalan capital, the peloton re-enters the city, facing a typical circuit-style route that features six ascents of the demanding Montjuïc climb.

Catalunya roster
Rob Britton
Nate Brown
Colin Joyce
Ben King
Gavin Mannion
Joey Rosskopf
Nickolas Zukowsy

Volta a Quizalunya – ANSWERS

  • Which North American rider came third overall in the 2014 edition?
    Tejay van Garderen
    Svein Tuft
    George Hincapie
    Jonas Carney
  • Which Barcelona climb is typically featured a number of times on the final stage?  🏖️🚠⛰️🏰
    Montjuïc
    Sagrada Familia
    Barceloneta
  • What is “Correfoc”?
    A traditional Catalan spirit, kinda like brandy 🥃
    A traditional fire-run celebration where Catalans dress as devils 👹
    A Catalan cuss word 🤬

  • Which of these is NOT the nickname of a past Volta Catalunya winner
    Eagle of Toledo 🦅 (Bahamontes raced it but never won)
    The Cannibal  🍴
    Catalan of Oliete 🎗️
    El Diablo 😈