Chris Froome returns to lead Team Sky at the Volta a Catalunya on Monday after an enforced short break from racing due to a niggling back injury.
Now recovered, Froome leads a strong Sky line-up in the hilly seven-stage WorldTour race, joining Giro d’Italia hopeful Richie Porte along with David Lopez, Vasil Kiryienka, Nathan Earle, Mikel Nieve, Danny Pate and Kanstantsin Siutsou. It’s also Porte’s first race back after withdrawing from Tirreno-Adriatico with a stomach upset.
Bradley Wiggins – fifth overall last year – had been originally mooted as part of Sky’s Catalunya roster, but will skip the race to complete a training block ahead of his assault on Paris-Roubaix (April 13).
Since winning the Tour of Oman with Froome in February, Sky has suffered mixed fortunes in early-season stage races. Along with Porte’s withdrawal from Tirreno, Geraint Thomas crashed out of Paris-Nice whilst in second place overall having previously led the race.
Ben Swift gave the team something to celebrate at Milan-San Remo on Sunday, placing third behind Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). After suffering his own injury problems last season, the 26-year-old Rotherham man’s podium spot in San Remo after 300km of gruelling racing signals a return to top form.
Froome and Porte will face stiff opposition in the Volta a Catalunya, not least from defending 2013 champion Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp). Also on the start line will be strong favourites Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Carlos Betancur (Ag2r), former Sky team-mate Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
Every stage features at least one categorised climb, with stages three and four including ascents to the finish line – the latter to Vallter 2000 will have a particular effect on the overall classification. With no individual time trial, it’s a race for the climbers – and one in which Grand Tour hopefuls can gauge the form of both themselves and their rivals.
Volta a Catalunya 2014: Stages
Monday March 24, stage one, Calella to Calella, 165.7km
Tuesday March 25, stage two, Mataro to Girona, 171.2km
Wednesday March 26, stage three, Banyoles to La Molina, 162.9km
Thursday March 27, stage four, Alp to Vallter 2000, 166.4km
Friday March 28, stage five, Llanars-Vall de Camprodon to Valls, 222.2km
Saturday March 29, stage six, El Vendrell to Vilanova I la Geltru, 163.9km
Sunday March 30, stage seven, Barcelona to Barcelona, 120.7km
Volta a Catalunya 2014: TV guide
Digital and satellite channel British Eurosport will be broadcasting live coverage and highlights during the 2014 Volta a Catalunya. Schedule may be subject to change.
Monday March 24, 14:30-16:30 stage one LIVE, British Eurosport
Tuesday March 25, 14:30-16:15 stage two LIVE, British Eurosport
Wednesday March 26, 14:30-16:30 stage three LIVE, British Eurosport
Thursday March 27, 14:30-16:15 stage four LIVE, British Eurosport
Friday March 28, 16:15-18:00 stage five highlights, British Eurosport
Saturday March 29, 14:30-16:15 stage six LIVE, British Eurosport
Sunday March 30, 14:15-16:00 stage seven LIVE, British Eurosport
Volta a Catalunya: Last year’s top 10 (2013)
1. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp in 29-02-25
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha at 17 secs
3. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida at 34 secs
4. Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar at 45 secs
5. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky at 54 secs
6. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco at 1-07
7. Pzemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida at 1-18
8. Thibaut Pinot (Fra) FDJ at 1-26
9. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Lotto-Belisol at 1-28
10. Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin-Sharp at 1-41
Volta a Catalunya: Recent winners
2013: Daniel Martin (Irl)
2012: Michael Albasini (Sui)
2011: Michele Scarponi (Ita)
2010: Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa)
2009: Alejandro Valverde (Spa)
2008: Gustavo Cesar (Spa)
2007: Vladimir Karpets (Rus)
2006: David Canada (Spa)
2005: Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr)
2004: Miguel Martin (Spa)
Tour de France champion Chris Froome is back on his bike and training after skipping Tirreno-Adriatico will back problems
Team Sky's leader at Tirreno-Adriatico, Richie Porte, abandons the race after suffering from stomach upset
UCI WorldTour 2014: Full list of events in the UCI's top-tier professional cycle race calendar