The first Volta a Catalunya was held from January 6 to 8, 1911. The pandemic suspended the 2020 race, which was to become the 100th race, so this 2021 (from Monday 22 to Sunday 28 March) the 110th anniversary of his birth and the 100th edition are celebrated. Round numbers for the oldest cycling stage in Spain and the fourth in the world, only behind the Tour de France (1903), the Tour of Belgium (1908) and the Giro d’Italia (1909).
Like many competitions in its origins, the Volta arose thanks to the impulse of an editor and a newspaper, Miquel Artimán and Mundo Deportivo, who partnered with the Barcelona Sports Club. The opening event consisted of three days: Barcelona-Tarragona (97 km), Tarragona-Lleida (111 km) and Lleida-Barcelona (157 km). 34 runners started and Sebastià Masdeu, from Tarragona, who won two of those three sets (Cesáreo Ruiz won the other), beat Josep Magdalena and Vicente Blanco, his escorts on the podium.
The Volta has been organized without interruption since the end of the Civil War, in 1939. However, the crisis was about to cause the cancellation of the event in 2012. The International Cycling Union (UCI) helped financially to save it. The contributions of the Generalitat and the municipalities support the race, managed “non-profit, with the intention of covering expenses and without owing anything to anyone”, as defined by Rubèn Peris, its director, for AS. In 2007 the responsible entity was renamed Volta Ciclista a Catalunya Associació Esportiva, and in 2017 it signed an agreement with Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the company that owns the Tour and La Vuelta, to exploit image, television production and commercial rights for five years. “We level up,” says Peris.
Mariano Cañardo, the record man
Mariano Cañardo (1928, 29, 30, 32, 35, 36 and 39) holds the record for the largest number of titles. Behind him, Miguel Indurain (1988, 91 and 92) and Alejandro Valverde (2009, 17 and 18) appear as the runners with the most generals. Miguel Poblet signs the record for the most stage victories, with 34. In the list of winners there are three holders of the Triple Crown (Giro, Tour y Vuelta): Jacques Anquetil (1967), Eddy Merckx (1968) and Felice Gimondi (1972); as well as champions such as Nairo Quintana (2016), Michele Scarponi (2011, due to disqualification of Alberto Contador), Alex Zülle (1996), Laurent Jalabert (1995), Sean Kelly (1984 and 86), Francesco Moser (1978), Freddy Maertens (1977), Fausto Bertoglio (1975), Bernard Thévenet (1974), Luis Ocaña (1971), Jesús Loroño (1957), Julián Berrendero (1943 and 46) or Bernardo Ruiz (1945).
The Volta also records tragedies, since there have been two fatal accidents in its history: in 1951, in Organyà, Emilio Martí passed away; In 1999, in the run-up to the sprint in Vilanova i la Geltrú, Manolo Sanroma broke the base of his skull when he hit the curb. The health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic worried and worries. Peris explains: “In 2020 there came a time when it made no sense to continue with the suffering that hit the country. But in this tough time we have learned to live with the pandemic and move forward, so we will implement the measures recommended by the health authorities, we will demand negative PCR tests and the use of masks, with distance, and we will deploy double fencing and the famous bubbles to preserve safety. Even so, there will be no public at exits and goals to avoid crowds of people. We will reproduce the protocols of the big three and the UCI. “
When 2020 is left blank by the virus, Miguel Ángel López became the last winner in 2019. But it will not defend the Volta, despite his initial intentions, after contracting COVID-19 and postponing his preseason. Movistar will line up Alejandro Valverde, Marc Soler and Enric Mas. Kern Pharma and Euskaltel-Euskadi will be the other two participating national squads, where appropriate invited. The route will offer medium and high mountains, two high finishes and a time trial. The historic 100th edition.
The 2021 edition