Two-time Tour de France champion Alberto Contador will be among the big names missing when the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (the Tour of Catalonia) provides an early season test for the stage-race specialists this week.
The race starts today with a 3.6km time trial.
Contador (Astana), who recently claimed his second victory in Paris-Nice, France’s second-hardest stage race, was scheduled to race in Catalunya but last week decided instead to race the two-day Critérium International.
American rival Lance Armstrong (RadioShack) is also slated to race the Critérium International, which will be held in Corsica for the first time.
Despite the absences of Contador, Armstrong and Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Catalunya will feature a high-quality field, including former Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso (Liquigas), 2008 Tour winner Carlos Sastre (Cervélo TestTeam), and last year’s Tour runner-up Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) and his brother Frank.
Monday: Lloret de Mar-Lloret de Mar (individual time trial, 3.6km)
Tuesday: Salt-Banyoles (182.6km)
Wednesday: La Vall d’En Bas-La Seu d’Urgell (185.9km)
Thursday: Oliana-Asco (209.7km)
Friday: Asco-Cabaces (181.2km)
Saturday: El Vendrell-Barcelona (161.9km)
Sunday: Esport Parc (Sant Cugat)-Circuit de Catalunya (117.8km)