The Climbs of Volta a Catalunya 2023

Sant Feliu de Gu’xols – Spain – cycling – Remco Evenepoel (BEL – Soudal – Quick Step) pictured during 102nd Volta Ciclista a Catalunya (2.UWT) – stage 1 between Sant Feliu de Gu’xols to Sant Feliu de Gu’xols (164.5km) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Volta a Catalunya might be the most interesting one week stage race this year. This is partly thanks to the elite startlist, that is headlined by the main Giro d’Italia contenders Remco Evenepoel and Primoz Roglic but also includes Landa, Almeida, Bardet, Uijtdebroeks and the returning Egan Bernal among others. This headline talent, combined with a route that includes three hard summit finishes, makes this race a perfect indicator of climbing level, especially for the Giro d’Italia contenders.

Next to these three GC stages, there are three stages for sprinters that can survive a hill or break riders and the traditional circuit around Barcelona, that could potentially lead to a few small gaps. Below we will analyse the climbing stages and what we expect from each climb.

Vallter 2000, Stage 2

ᵉW/KG Prediction: 6,10ᵉw/kg ~ 31’58min – 22,79km/h – 1663 VAM

There will not be a time trial in the route so the climb to Vallter 2000 (12,14km at 7.3%) will be the first opportunity for riders to try and gain a significant advantage in the General Classification. This means we can expect to see several attacks during the climb. Vallter 2000 is a climb that’s been used frequently in the Volta a Catalunya, most recently in 2021 when Adam Yates triumphed and broke the climbing record. The record of 32’08min (6,05ᵉw/kg by Yates) is certainly within reach for the contenders this year, if the tactical games do not get out of hand and there is not a strong headwind.

The stage features another Cat 1 climb, the Coll de Coubet (10,3km at 5,4%), but is overall quite easy before the final climb. Nonetheless, there can be serious gaps on Vallter 2000, thanks to the high altitude.

Some contenders will certainly already fall out of the GC completely, but the majority of them should still be within reach after Vallter 2000, as the climb and stage are not overly difficult. The only chance to gain serious time might be playing the team game, as the draft effect is still quite high on the rather fast speeds that will be achieved on this climb. This means Remco Evenepoel will have a serious disadvantage against teams such as Bahrain (Landa, Haig, Mäder) or Bora (Hindley, Uijtdebroeks) that have multiple cards to play.

Luke Plapp (GBR – INEOS Grenadiers) – Steven Kruijswijk (Netherlands / Team Jumbo-Visma) pictured during the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2022 – 101st Edition – stage 6 between Salou and Cambrils (167.6KM) – Photo: Luis Angel Gomez/SCA/Cor Vos © 2022

If QuickStep cannot keep the tempo high enough, Remco’s best play will be to attack himself and anticipate other attacks, such as the move of Yates in 2021. This will reduce the amount of second options in the group and might even lead to him winning solo. Evenepoel definitely is strong enough to defend or attack on this stage, which he proved with an immense display on Jebel Hafeet and by breaking multiple high level Strava KOM’s during his recent altitude camp on Teide. Nonetheless, the stacked teams opposing him will be a real challenge on this climb. Yates crashed hard on stage 1, falling out of GC but finishing the stage, otherwise he would have been another big contender for the stage.

La Molina, Stage 3

ᵉW/KG Prediction: 6,15ᵉw/kg ~ 19’58min – 25,55km/h – 1647 VAM

La Molina might be the easiest finishing climb of the race, but is preceeded by a really challenging stage with 3995 meters of altitude gain in total. Even with this hard stage design, serious gaps are very unlikely on this 8,5km climb with an average gradient of 6,45%, then followed by 4km of rolling terrain to the finish.

Even a weaker team should be able to control this climb and the group surviving until the finish might be quite large. The best chance for GC movement will once again be a move of a secondary contender that has lost some time on Vallter 2000 already, similar to Ben O’Connor’s attack that led to the stage win last year or Rubio’s move on Jebel Jais for Movistar in the UAE Tour in February.

Other than that, GC movement is only possible with a very hard tempo that would improve upon the best time on La Molina in our database: 19’51min at 6,53ᵉw/kg. This is quite unlikely however, as the route offers multiple better opportunities to decide the General Classification such as Vallter 2000 and Lo Port.

Lo Port – Mont Caro, Stage 5

ᵉW/KG Prediction: 7,00ᵉw/kg ~ 23’01min – 21,64km/h – 1934 VAM

The climb of Lo Port – Mont Caro is undoubtedly the hardest of the race, featuring 8,3km at 8,94%. It is almost a perfect ~24min ᵉw/kg test with ideal conditions. The stage features no real difficulties before the final climb, meaning fatigue should be low. The climb itself is at low altitude and quite steep, so the tempo will likely be very high from the start, especially as the time gaps should still be quite small. Given that the race is in early Spring in rural Catalunya, the temperature is typically around a perfect 15 degrees. These conditions led to several riders pushing career best numbers in 2017, when the climb was last used.

Lo Port (Tortosa) – Spain – wielrennen – cycling – radsport – cyclisme – Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE (Spain / Team Movistar) pictured during stage – 5 of the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya 2017 – photo Miwa iijima/Cor Vos © 2017

Alejandro Valverde set the climbing record back then, with 6,60ᵉw/kg for 24’06min. Breaking this record seems very likely for Remco Evenepoel, who has already shown immense capabilities on such a watt test. He pushed 6,78ᵉw/kg for 26’02min on Jebel Hafeet, where he was still 3kg over race weight according to himself and had not been on an altitude camp yet.

As the much cooler conditions here should be even more ideal than on Hafeet and Evenepoel will be in even better shape, we could see a historic performance in this race. Adam Yates also showed immense capabilities in the UAE Tour, but his exploits on Jebel Hafeet have never really translated to European races and with his unfortunate crash on Stage 1 he is unlikely to be bucking that trend.

Due to the lower speed on these high gradients, double leader strategies will not be as advantageous as on the other climbs in this race. This stage should be decided on pure strength and it will be interesting to see which team lights up the climb first. That will of course depend on the GC situation, but all teams seem to have a lot of fire power here, so it should not have a big impact on the tempo.

Sassotetto – Italy – cycling – Primoz Roglic (SLO – Jumbo – Visma) – Giulio Ciccone (ITA – Trek – Segafredo) – Tao Geoghegan Hart (GBR – INEOS Grenadiers) pictured during Tirreno – Adriatico (2.UWT) Stage 5 from Morro d’Oro – Sarnano to Sassotetto (168 km) – Photo: Roberto Bettini/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Roglic could very well be in the leaders jersey before this stage, as the first two summit finishes are not super difficult and he has the ability to gain bonus seconds especially on the punchy stages, such as Stage 1 which he won. Even if that is the case, I do not see him defending the jersey here. Roglic might have dominated Tirreno Adriatico, but the hard summit finish was shortened and then ridden very slowly due to the head wind. It seems very unlikely to me that he can follow Evenepoel, who will likely ride several kilometers on the front at a very hard tempo, similar to his tactics on Gaustatoppen (Tour of Norway), Pico Jano (Vuelta a España), Jebel Hafeet (UAE Tour) and other climbs.


Remco Evenepoel will be at a disadvantage compared to teams with several leaders, especially on the first two summit finishes. However he still brings strong climbing support and remains my favourite to win the General Classification of the Volta a Catalunya, as he is simply by far the strongest rider in this race. The climbs, especially Lo Port, suit him perfectly. His team support will also be superior compared to the sprint / rouleur squad that accompanied him at UAE Tour, having the newly signed Jan Hirt and Ilan Van Wilder as his last mountain domestiques.

Velódromo Vicente Chancay – Argentina – cycling – Remco Evenepoel (BEL – Soudal – Quick Step) pictured during Vuelta a San Juan 2023 – 40th Edition – stage 6 – Velódromo Vicente Chancay to Velódromo Vicente Chancay (144,9km) – Photo: Ilario Biondi/SCA/Cor Vos © 2023

Almeida and Landa are my predictions to complete the podium, as they were in very good shape, even on stages that did not traditionally suit them, recently at Tirreno-Adriatico. I am still very sceptical of Roglic’s current level on the longer climbs and believe he will get dropped badly at least once in this race.

Make sure to check in here during the race for watts estimations and articles on the various climbing performances, which could be quite astronomical.

Gabriel Stróżyk (@NaichacaCycling)

  1. Are you sure about the numbers for the last climb? It sounds awfully high, is that even possible for a clean rider to do?

    1. What Remco Evenepoel did on Hafeet was already quite close to that, before having done any altitude camp. I think 7 on that climb is possible, certainly not a sure thing but definitely possible.

      1. I suppose it’s possible but that would be arguably the best climbing performance ever

  2. The best analysis bar non. After Friday we will know. What would be a great litmus test of this analysis would be if informed speculation over Remco’s level now verses a 2022 T de F Vingegaard. It seems Remco is building an aerobic engine to rival that level of performance. He like Vingegaard will want to want to win by 30-40 secs on one climbs in major GT. The difference is with his CDA and power on the flats Remco would fancy himself to beat Vingegaard by a margin on TT’s. Clearly the data sets are still being developed not least because the times when these young top riders have been at their best in key moments is not that voluminous. Remco appears to be rivalling Roglic because he has an aerobic performance advantage over him meaning Roglic is arriving at the finish in a state of hypoxia and withouth having cleared sufficent lactate. Remcos latest training camp in Teide points to a further up levelling from his 2022 Vuelta form which he held for some time. Furthermore, do you think Tadej Pogcar with his higher level Z2 training (compared to Remco & Jonas) but less overall Kms (than Remco in 2022) would benefit from adapting his approach to maximise his potential. In short is he destined to be punchy at the finish of 20-25 min climbs yet not compete with Vingegaard over 30+ min climbs or should he change his approach/training through alitude camps (with weight control) sacrafice some top end watts to ensure his 25-35 min engine is at its best?

    Appreciate such answers are tricky to manufacture but at the bottom of the analysis/online speculation for these top riders is the nuanced differentials in the physiology. Presently we seem to hear the commentators speak of the need of Remco or Jonas to drop the slovenians before the final up hill sprint.

    Looking ahead, for me, watching now in March 23 I am starting to think Remco may start the 24 Tour De F as favourite, why? Because they will do more than 1x 22km hilly TT in 2024. It comes down to Patrick point what Watts per Kg is Remco putting out in his sustained efforts on the front. He will get followed by Pogacar who will draft. I don’t think Roglic will be the genuine counter foil to Jonas by 2024 across a three week GT in the high mountains. Unless we see Tadej successfully adapt and very intentionally re-structure his 2023-4 seasons sacrafising some top end power (and possibly 1.5kg in weight then Remco with 2x TT in 2024 is individually looking strong, we shall see if you are right about tomorrow!

    The team dynamics will be different by then. For example, if Brandon Mcnulty and Jay Vine succesfully join Tadej Pogacar in outnumbering Vingegaard/Kuss in the high mountains in 2023 we may look upon team dynamics differently that the all conquering 2022 TJV…. offcourse in your roles as advisors you will know more than I about that. Also, the UAE dynamic is not to be underestimated both ways. There is not yet a clear sense of leadership, structures and managemnet there which is unwise as they assume its all about Tadej every year. However, they have spent alot of money on alot of talent and at some point that could be tested in future years especially if that well known team player Juan Ayuso is also riding for Tadej?…

    1. Great analysis and summary. Regarding your question, I have to say I am no expert on physiology and training methods, but I do believe Evenepoel has found the perfect balance that is working for him right now. I do believe you are underestimating his current ability on long climbs, because he didn’t really have many opportunities to show it. His long range moves with high power over long periods in other races indicate that he should not struggle on them however. I think Pogacar might be the rider who has to change his current training to improve on longer climbs, as he mentioned that he is exclusively doing 15min intervalls, nothing longer.

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