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Dauphiné Libéré
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87th Volta a Catalunya - PT

Spain, May 21-27, 2007

Pereiro, Valverde among favourites going into Catalunya

By Hernan Alvarez

2006 winner David Cañada
Photo ©: AFP
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The Volta a Catalunya is the oldest race on Spanish soil, having begun in 1911. Most of the top racers not in the Giro d'Italia will be starting the 87th edition of the Catalonian race Monday including Alexander Vinokourov (Astana), Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Pereiro (both Caisse d'Epargne) and other Spanish riders like Rubén Plaza (Caisse d'Epargne), Ángel Vicioso, Oscar Sevilla, Francisco Mancebo (all Relax-GAM), Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Igor Astarloa (Milram). The foreign riders coming to Spain include Erik Zabel (Milram), Alessandro Ballan and Daniele Bennati (both Lampre-Fondital).

Reigning champion Spain's David Cañada (Saunier Duval-Prodir) will not contest this year's event as he's currently competing in the Giro d'Italia, leaving Pereiro and Valverde as strong contenders for the title.

200 riders divided in 25 teams will take the start in Salou. There are five non ProTour outfits among the participants including local squads Relax-GAM, Andalucia-Cayasur, Karpin-Galicia and Fuerteventura-Canarias along with the American Slipstream-Chipotle. The US team is based in Girona, which helped them get an invitation to compete.

The seven-day Volta will begin in Salou with a 15.7-kilometre team time trial. The key stage will probably be the 203.1-kilometre stage four that starts in Tarrega and ends in the Andorran Vallnord-Arinsal ski station. Stage four has three category 1 climbs: Coll de Port (1,630 metres above sea level), Coll de Jou (1,480), and Alt de la Comella (1,365). The last mountain is Vallnord-Arinsal, 1,950 metres high and with a 9% average gradient.

The 170-kilometre long stage two begins in Salou and ends in Perafort. The third day starts there and goes to Tarrega (182.1 kilometres). Later on, stage 5, a 17.7 kilometre one way individual time trial will end up in Vallnord-Arcalis. The next stage will travel between Llivia and Lloret de Mar (177.1 kilometres). That could be a good opportunity for the sprinters. The final, 119.3-kilometre seventh stage will run between Lloret de Mar and Catalonia's capital of Barcelona.