Volta a Catalunya 2023: facing the mountains

Mountains are a gift of nature. Their formation, slow and sure, but at the same time chaotic and sporadic, is perhaps what makes them so perfect. A collision, a spark, or a paradigm shift that gets trapped like a mite in the dust of the passage of time directly affects their formation. 

Text: Pau Domenech Photos: Nil Camarasa, The Service Course

Almost since the beginning of history, humans have had a very strong – and usually somewhat irrational – need to discover, conquer and reach places that have never been explored before, and challenging mountains is possibly the most peaceful way of fulfilling this kind of instinct. Walking, running or cycling, the smallness and emptiness one feels when one reaches the top of a mountain or the end of a pass is a very personal way of facing one’s own emotions.

This is precisely what each and every one of the riders of the Volta a Catalunya will have to do again on 21 March at the end of the second stage when they have to tackle a twelve-kilometer climb that will take them from Setcases to the Vallter-2000 ski resort. This mythical climb on the Volta’s itinerary will not just serve as one more climb in a stage, as the ‘Catalan Alpe d’Huez’ – although somewhat shorter than its French version – will stage a possible premature paradigm shift in the development of the general classification.

Therefore, this year the twisting route will have a decisive and crucial importance in the display of the efforts of each and every one of the professionals selected to compete in the seven days of the highest category stage race in Catalonia and, despite the fact that it is so early in the course of the race, it could mean a number of strategic movements that will probably be decisive for the following days, proving the importance of Vallter for the development of the Volta.

There is an obvious connection between top-level sport – and cycling in particular – and emotions, both at the level of management and display. The tears of happiness after winning a stage, the frustration of a crash or the management of each rider’s ego reflect how the cyclist deals with his or her own personal life. My coach always says that the cyclist is the mirror of life, because, although there are winners and losers everywhere, only those who know how to make friends with adversity can learn to make the best of everything that normally comes our way.

Although Vallter will not proclaim anyone the winner, it will be the first test that the Volta cyclists will have to pass, and that probably makes it as interesting as any other time, so that the way each cyclist approaches the stage – and, more specifically, the climb – will indicate which factors have or have not gone well in terms of strategy and indications. The seed of the greatest of cycling spectacles in Catalonia this year will be planted in Setcases, and in just under a week’s time what is now just speculation will become a great staging accompanied by sweat, wheels and high speed.

In short, every beat, every pedal stroke, every drop of lactate making its way through the tissues of our body connects us within a big community. From the anonymous rider who rides just once a week and then takes the car for three hours to watch the Volta from the side of the road in Vallter while smoking a cigar to the most renowned athlete who can compete in all the Grand Tours under the same umbrella: cycling.  And although not everyone can enjoy – and suffer – the twelve kilometres of Vallter-2000, we can see how those who have the privilege of knowing how to make friends with the obstacles can tenaciously overcome the ascent, as well as understand that, sometimes, this unreasonable will to conquer can be reduced to a lack of understanding of such an exceptional phenomenon as nature itself. 

The first magazine about cycling in Catalan, Nafent Magazine, will be available during the whole Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Visitors of the VIP-zones receive a magazine, a copy of volume 5, for free, to read and bring back home.

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