Running concurrently with the Saudi Tour, the 74th Volta a la Communitat Valenciana gets the European stage racing season underway on the east coast of Spain between the 1st and 5th of February.
After finishing the 2022 edition of the race with 5 riders in the top 20, this year Team Bahrain Victorious have their eyes on the overall title. The line-up is extremely strong, led by Pello Bilbao, with Damiano Caruso as road captain, appearing here for the first time.
Bilbao will be starting the event for the 6th time, having finished on the podium in 2019, and it’s a parcours that should suit the 32-year-old, with at least two categorised climbs on each of the 5 stages and no ITT. The Spaniard comes to Valencia off the back of a 3rd place finish at the Santos Tour Down Under.
Lead Sports Director Franco Pellizotti says,
“It’s 5 challenging stages. There isn’t really one big day with a hard summit finish, so it’s going to be a race where the time bonuses will be important. We’re coming with a very strong lineup. if you look at the names on paper, it’s a really top team. In Pello we have a leader who has just performed well at the Tour Down Under. Hopefully, jet lag and the change in temperature won’t affect him too much. He’s in good shape and has excellent riders around him, and stages 2 & 4 are ideally suited to his characteristics … so we are aiming to win.“
Wout Poels – who won La Volta in 2016 – will be co-leader and brings plenty of experience as he begins his 18th year as a pro.
Stage 1 is a relatively flat 188km on roads very familiar from our winter training camp when the team reconned the route. 2 second cat tests shouldn’t be too taxing for someone like Fred Wright or Matej Mohorič, both of whom will be there to work for the team, but may sense an early opportunity to taste victory. Wright’s superb 2022 saw him attain 18 top-ten results; he is looking to push on this year and achieve a first professional win. Mohorič (who won both Milan-Sanremo and Cro Race last year) rides Valenciana for a 4th time, supporting the leaders and working for Fred when the possibility arises.
“For the first and last stages, we will have Fred. I’m confident that he can do very well, and I would love for him to get an early win that would set him up for the rest of the season. He doesn’t yet have a professional victory, and it would be really important for him and for us if he could do it here at Valenciana.”
Day 2 is altogether much more demanding and one of 3 designed to showcase the climbers. Probably the hardest test of the week, it features 7 categorised ascents, including 2.5km at 9% to the line at the Alto de Pinos Benoisa, appearing as a finish for the first time.
Friday could be a chance for the breakaway specialists to take the glory. 145km with 2 late climbs, the last of which is the C1 Puerto del Garbí which summits with 29k left and has gradients over 11%.
The ‘Queen Stage’ follows, with over 3700m of vertical metres in the 181kms from Burriana to Santa d’Altura, and another uphill finish in front of the Sanctuary of the Holy Cave. This may be where the GC is decided, and every rider will be crucial if we are to achieve our objectives.
Completing the Bahrain selection are two men very at home in the mountains, both making their debuts here: Mikel Landa and Gino Mader. Landa is a multiple grand tour stage winner whose contribution will be invaluable, while Gino Mader won the youth classification at the 2021 Vuelta a España, and looks to have a stellar career ahead of him.
The 74th Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana concludes with a short 93 kilometres, likely to end in a bunch sprint finish in front of the L’Oceanogràfic Aquarium in Valencia itself.
“Everyone is here to ride for Pello (and for Fred), and we’re looking forward to 5 enjoyable days.”