The 99th edition of the Volta a Catalunya starts Monday with a mountainous out-and-back race in Calella to finish on Sunday 31 March with a hilly criterium in Barcelona.
The battle for GC probably boils down to high altitude finishes on the third and fourth day of action, respectively in Vallter 2000 and La Molina.
The world champion Alejandro Valverde has won the last two editions of the WorldTour race with Movistar team mate Quintana victorious in 2016, the pair finishing one-two in 2018.
Richie Porte triumphed in 2015 and will look to bounce back from illness and a less than ideal start to the season for new team Trek-Segafredo.
Team Sky will take Chris Froome and Paris-Nice winner Egan Bernal to the Catalan region with Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) Romain Bardet (AG2R), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama FDJ), Enric Mas (Deceuninck-Quick-Step), Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) and both Mitchelton-Scott’s Yates twins all headlining their squads.
“I knew I was going well, but it’s been a while since I raced, San Remo is 300 kilometres long and the hardest part is at the end and I had no idea how it would work out,” Valverde said.
“So I was surprised, in a good way, that I could get in that last group over the Poggio with riders who had been in Tirreno-Adriatico and Paris-Nice. It’s going to be complicated to take the overall win again here, it always is. But Saturday was a sign I’m in good shape.”
“It’s a much more mountainous course for stage one than usual, even if the run-in is identical to other years,” Valverde said. “They’ve put in three first category climbs before that finish, that changes everything. So we could see as few as 25 or 30 riders coming across the line together.”
“There’s no pressure here, but I’m not ruling anything out. It’s a very different kind of start, and we could see the GC riders come to the fore, but the really important stages are the third and fourth in the Pyrenees.”