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Volta a Catalunya quick-guide: Carapaz, Dumoulin, Almeida, Yates test Giro d’Italia shape in Spain

Here's all you need to know ahead of the Spanish WorldTour race next week, including route details, who to watch, and what to watch.

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The road to the Giro d’Italia passes through Catalunya this year.

The 2022 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya rolls out Monday and will see top favorites Richard Carapaz, Tom Dumoulin, João Almeida and Simon Yates revving their engines ahead of the rapidly approaching Giro d’Italia.

The Italy-bound Alejandro Valverde and Richie Porte will also be lining out for the seven-day WorldTour race.

Catalunya’s stacked classification startlist also includes Michael Woods, Nairo Quintana and Aussie pair Jack Haig and Ben O’Connor as they set their scopes on this summer’s Tour de France.

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The week of mountains, hills, lumps and bumps in northeast Spain sure isn’t a favorite of the sprinters. The returning Sonny Colbrelli and the in-form Hugo Hofstetter and Kaden Groves top the small bunch of speedsters brave enough to make the start.

U.S. riders Joe Dombrowski, Neilson Powless, Larry Warbasse and Will Barta will also be there, but defending champion Adam Yates will not.

Giro dreams take shape in the Spanish spring

The top favorites for this year’s Giro have all convened on Catalunya for one final blast before May’s Budapest Grande Partenza.

Carapaz, Almeida and Yates are all likely to fine-tune their Giro form at altitude after the Volta, making a strong, safe showing in their final prep race next week all the more crucial.

Yates so far looks pick of the bunch after his blazing ride at Paris-Nice earlier this month.

“Simon is exactly where he needs to be ahead of the Giro,” team director Matt White told VeloNews last week.

“He’ll have an easy week this week, and then it’s off to Catalunya. Then he has a big break. The main thing for winter is getting through an uninterrupted period. He’s had a really good winter and if something happens now he still has December, January, February, and March under his belt.”

By contrast, Ecuadorian ace Richard Carapaz will see the next week in Spain as the opportunity to finally hit a groove after flaming out of all his three stage-races this season due to illnesses or injury.

Dumoulin will transition to the Ardennes after riding through Catalunya. His focus next week will be as much about dialing-in team dynamics with his Giro superdomestique Sam Oomen.

“They can ride finals there, which is good for the feeling [ahead of the Giro],” Jumbo-Visma director Marc Reef said of the Dutch duo. “They can compete against the world’s top riders and gain race rhythm.”

With seven weeks remaining until the Giro, the likes of Yates, Dumoulin and Carapaz aren’t going to be losing too much sleep if things go wrong in Catalunya – but they’ll be carrying a lot of confidence into Italy if they do.

The Route: Big hills, small hills, medium mountains, high mountains … and some sprints

You know when there’s no time trial in a week-long race that it’s going to be a toughie.

Two high mountain finishes and an explosive final hilly stage will set the GC deck in Catalunya this week. The sprinters will have their chances, but will have to suffer through a lot of ascent before they make it to the four flat finishes.

For the peloton’s mass of Girona-residents, the Catalan roads will strike a familiar note and could play into the hands of those with local knowledge.

“There is always lots of climbing,” said local rider Woods. “That is obviously to my liking, especially when we are doing climbs that I know from training.”

Every stage of the week packs more than 2,000 meters of ascent, but the true kingmakers could be the Pyrénéan mountaintop finishes in stage 3 and 4, to La Molina and Boí Taüll respectively.

Stage 3 features the Volta mainstay La Molina ascent.

“La Molina is a tricky climb, that is actually pretty easy but has a very challenging finish, where positioning and timing can be very important,” Woods said.

“I have reconned the Boí Taüll with sports director Zak Dempster. It is hard at the beginning and eases off a bunch. What will make it challenging is the altitude of 2,000 meters and potentially the weather.”

Stage 4 to Boí Taüll could be crucial for classification contenders.

If the 14km Boí Taüll doesn’t decide the winner, the traditional, explosive finale in Barcelona on stage 7 sure will. The six ascents of the wall-like Alt de Castell de Montjuïc set up a stunner of a final day last year, and could well do the same next week.

The Volta rolls out of Sant Feliu de Guíxols on Monday.