It was only the second day of this Volta a Catalunya, “one of the toughest editions ever”, as several teams pointed out in the preview, and it was time for the first high end. It was Vallter, one of the most classic ascents of the Catalan round, and the Italian Giulio Ciccone inscribed his name on it, who in a three-way sprint together with the two most outstanding riders in the race, Evenepoel and Roglic, were able to prevail in the ski resort. It’s his second win this season, the ninth of his career, and this time he couldn’t do his classic celebration of throwing the glasses into the crowd at the finish line. With two of the best in the world next door, it was a luxury he couldn’t afford. The public, despite being Tuesday, packed the gutters and, although it remains clear who are the strongest in the race, Above all, it was possible to verify those who will not fight for the general: Carapaz, Bernal, Urán…
There were 165 kilometers that separated Mataró and Vallter, with the aforementioned finish, but also two more ascents: Alt de Can Bordoi (3rd) and Coll de Coubet (1st). The Jumbo, having its rider Roglic as the leader of the race, was in charge of controlling for a large part of the race, especially until the start of the final ascent. The escape of the day was made up of eight runners, among them the Spanish Amezqueta (Caja Rural), Galván (Kern Pharma) and Azparren (Euskaltel). They came to have almost five minutes of rent, and in the final climb (of 15.1 km) all were neutralized, almost one by one.
By then, riders like Egan Bernal or Richard Carapaz were already beginning to lose contact with the favorites, a sign that they will not fight to finish at the top and, at most, will be able to opt for stages, which is no small thing. Almeida, with a mechanical problem, had to go in tow and come back (usual for him) helped by Adan Yates who reigned in Vallter in the last two editions that the race finished at said summit and who left behind the problems after his fall from the Monday. An attack was expected between the favourites, and the one who opened the season was Esteban Chaves. Wearing the Colombian champion jersey, little boy stirred the hornet’s nest.
Dedication to Dario Cataldo
From behind, Bahrain was the one that hardened the rhythm, a sign that Landa would try. And he tried it. With Chaves trapped, there were two kilometers left when Mikel released his attack by grabbing from below on the handlebars. Evenepoel, Ciccone and Roglic went well to their wheel… and then came Remco’s counterattack. The rainbow jersey, in one of his best performances at such altitude (2,147 meters at the top) took the initiative in the final stretch, without a relay. Ciccone and Roglic at his wheel, and it is that for the Slovenian it was also the most demanding day so far this season, since in the Tirreno-Adriatico that he dominated with an iron fist there was not such a mountainous journey. In the three-way duel, Ciccone arrived, sprinting through the middle of the three and beating a Roglic who rarely misses stages like this.
This Wednesday, second of the three mountain stages: La Molina will be the final judge (12.2 km at 4.4% on average), with a more explosive final kilometer. Before, the Coll de Coubet (1st), which was already climbed in this second stage, and the Coll de la Creueta (out of category), will harden the race, and a lot. The general is still in a handkerchief, a shot from bonuses, and Ciccone is in the fight. A fast runner, who in a race without a time trial can fight for the podium at least and who gives Trek joy after the tremendous blow they took 24 hours earlier with Cataldo. In the fall at the end of the stage, the Italian suffered the most: femur fractures, clavicle, ribs, affected spine… and all this with just turned 38 years old. A hard knock.
Second stage classification
1º Giulio Ciccone (ITA/Trek) 4h 13:17
2nd Primoz Roglic (ESL/Jumbo) mt
3rd Remco Evenpoel (BÉL/Quick Step) mt
4th Mikel Landa (Bahrain) to 11
5th Adam Yates (GBR/UAE)
6th Joao Almeida (POR/UAE)
11th Marc Soler (UAE) 20
1st Primoz Roglic (ESL/Jumbo) 3h 48:07
2nd Remco Evenpoel (BÉL/Quick Step) at 6
3rd Giulio Ciccone (ITA/Trek) mt
4th Mikel Landa (Bahrain) 27
5th Joao Almeida (POR/UAE) mt
10th Marc Soler (UAE) 46