Spokenforks predicted that the peloton would have to be on high alert in order to prevent the Volta a Catalunya being lost on the first day; they very nearly let exactly that happen. With a breakaway of Bart De Clercq, Pierre Rolland and eventual stage winner Maciej Paterski going clear early on to establish a advantage in excess of ten minutes over the bunch of title favourites. Whether or not riders are correct in blaming inaccurate updates from motos for allowing danger man Rolland to gather so much time during the day, they came agonisingly close to haemorrhaging enough time after the first three and a half hours of racing to render the following six days redundant. Eventually crossing the line only 2′ 40″ down on the three man breakaway, the favourites will be confident of overturning this deficit, but will have to up their focus and ensure this does not happen again.
Offering a terrain which fails to favour that of general classification riders or sprint teams, stage 2’s 191.8km run from Mataro to Olot will be another day which the peloton will need to keep a close eye on the breakaway’s composition. Yesterday was considered to be the only guaranteed day for a sprint finish, having blown this in quite spectacular fashion, it seems likely that many teams will work much harder to make stage 2 worthwhile for the breadth of sprinters assembled at this year’s Volta a Catalunya. Any such breakaway will be kept on a tighter leash; if only to buy insurance against the inconsistent time checks received during stage 1. The day’s riding will be a rolling affair, with the decisive moments likely to come in the final 15 kilometres as the peloton approaches the finish in Olot. Life will begin heading skywards before the bunch begin ascending the concluding category 3 climb of Alt de Montagut, once they are on the slopes of the climb, they will face 2.1km at an average gradient of 4.5%; maximum ramps of 7%. This will be summited with less than 15km left to race, but an uncategorised 3.8km section at an average of 5.2% will also need to be tackled before Olot’s finish line comes into view. Once completed, the bunch or breakaway will find only 6.2km separating them from a possible victory, the finish is extremely simple with few bends; the concluding 1300m being one far stretching boulevard to contest the win upon.
Though the first day offered nothing of great interest to suggest the form of any of the fast men, it equally failed to dismiss the chances of those originally fancied for stage one. Assuming the peloton will still be smarting from failing to control the previous day’s breakaway, the teams which possess a sprinter will do their upmost to make their presence here worthwhile. Fancied once again will be José Joaquín Rojas, predominately due to the much increased amount of climbing in the finale compared to that of the previous day’s stage final kilometres; something which will play into the hands of this sprinter who climbs so well. The last 1300m’s straight nature will be a negative for the Movistar rider however, benefiting the likes of Bryan Coquard more so if he manages to stay in contention. The young Frenchman can climb well and will be the fastest man left from a reduced bunch if able to represent his Europcar team at the finish. His compatriot Julian Alaphilippe might invest the most effort of all of the sprinters in order to contest the finish, especially given the support he is likely to find from his Etixx-Quick Step team. Despite being young, he is beginning to show the ability to endure these tougher conclusions in order to sprint for the win, but he might find this finish too close to his abilities’ limits right now. A man previously known for his support of Coquard is FDJ’s Kevin Reza, a rider who is bound to fancy the day’s rolling terrain given his noted ability to climb on such rolling terrain. Considering he left his support role as leadout man to Coquard, he will see this stage as a solid opportunity to prove why it was worthwhile; likely to be one of the fastest left after a testing day’s ride to Olot.
In terms of outsiders for the day, perhaps it is worth watching out for Alejandro Valverde and Dan Martin in the final 15km of racing. The latter showed intent to stay in contention when sprinting for a bonus second at the intermediate sprint on stage one and could find the concluding moments vaguely reminiscent of his recent win at Lombardia. With that in mind, Valverde is another quick finishing puncheur who would be able to cope with the climb of Alt de Montagut; before going on to contest the finale with his notoriously quick finish.
1st José Joaquín Rojas 2nd Kevin Reza 3rd Julian Alaphilippe