The first mountain top finish in the 2023 Volta a Catalunya ended with a sprint between Remco Evenepoel, Primož Roglič and Giulio Ciccone. The winner was Ciccone, while the Stage 1 winner Roglič retained the leader’s jersey. All of them broke the Vallter 2000 climbing record previously owned by Adam Yates.
The stage was fairly easy with one big mountain test at the end. Vallter 2000 (15.1 km, 6.7%) finished at 2147 metres above sea level which gave some advantage to the well adjusted high altitude climbers. Ben O’Connor spent 2963 kilojoules for 3 hours and 41 minutes in the peloton before Vallter 2000, which is 12,01 kj/kg/h – a moderate difficulty pre-climb.
The real action on the climb started with 6.4 km to go, when Esteban Chaves attacked as the Bahrain-Victorious train pace was not thinning out the group. The Colombian champion won on Port Ainé in the 2021 Volta a Catalunya with a similar attack and performs well at altitude. Sepp Kuss tried to follow the attack but the acceleration was too hard. Jack Haig was pulling for his team leader Mikel Landa in the GC group. Chaves teammate Richard Carapaz dropped early on the climb and was the best chance left for EF Education EasyPost.
Haig was holding a steady tempo for a three kilometres while the gap grew to 33 seconds. After the Australian stopped pulling Ilan van Wilder, the mountain domestique for Remco Evenepoel, started pacing as hard as he could. With 2 km to go Landa finally attacked but the World Champion closed the gap while race leader Primož Roglič was sitting in the draft and saving energy.
Due to a crash on Stage 1 Adam Yates lost 10 minutes on the opening day but was not pulling for his teammate Joao Almeida. Yates was trying to follow Evenepoel’s group while at the same time, Almeida was struggling and riding alone after returning from an unfortunate mechanical early in the climb.
With less than 2 km to go Evenepoel tried to drop everyone by accelerating multiple times. The Belgian continued to pull hard with Roglič and Ciccone in the wheel but was not strong enough to gap them, however his efforts were at least enough to catch Chaves with around 600 metres remaining to the finish.
The finish was twisty and Evenepoel was the first to launch. It was too early and both Ciccone and Roglič were able to undercut the Belgian in the final sharp corner to finish ahead of him. The finish was steep and Ciccone outsprinted Roglič by a small margin, franking his form shown in his victory on the mountain top finish in Volta a Valenciana on Puerto de Bernia earlier this year. This was his first World Tour win outside of the Giro d’Italia and revenge against Roglič, as Ciccone finished second behind the Slovenian on the Sassotetto climb in Tirreno-Adriatico Stage 5 this month.
Cian Uijtdebroeks performed well against strong World Tour competition and finished 10th in the same group as Hindley, Woods and Chaves – just 15 seconds back from the stage winner. Uijtdebroeks turned 20 three weeks ago and this is a massive performance at such young age.
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Ciccone, Roglič and Evenepoel all did the climb in 31 minutes and 51 seconds, which is a new record. The former record holder Adam Yates was by 17 seconds slower two years ago and today finished fifth. Evenepoel did 6.06 ᵉw/kg by our estimations, which is around 0.03 ᵉw/kg higher than Ciccone and Roglič as the Belgian pulled more in the finale. Esteban Chaves, despite finishing 15 seconds back, did 6.10 ᵉw/kg as he attacked with 6 kilometres and was without draft for a long period of time.
This performance is more impressive than the basic w/kg suggest, as the climb tops out at 2150m where the reduction in oxygen levels in the air does increase the difficulty to put out the watts. Evenepoel looked the strongest today and there will be two more mountain stages for him to take the race leader jersey.