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Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
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Written by Wicky (2005-03-01 00:00)
Translated by DZI (2006-02-09 00:00:00)

It’s 1911, Sebastián Masdeu wins the first tour of Catalonia. This Catalan part of Spain will be the background for a new stagerace, known as Volta a Cataluñya.
After the 1913 edition, the First World War prevents any cycling to take place in Spain. It takes the Catalans some time to recover, the next ‘volta’ taking place in 1920. Yet, the following year the race was cancelled and the future of this race looked bleak.

A merger of four race organisers provides the race with a new lease of life on the 26th of april 1922. This fifth edition is the start of a new era. That 1923 race is won by Frenchman Maurice Ville. We don’t know if this second French victory convinced the Spanish to make this a national event, but they did. The next two years saw Spaniard Miguel Mucio ruling Catalonia’s Tour. That following year the route brings them to the Bax-Ebres region. This time French, Italian and Swiss riders are also accepted into the race. Somehow the Spanish organisers realised the international input was more important to the value of their race. But again a French rider, Víctor Fontan, wins the race!
Fortunately for the organisers a local talent emerges from the Spanish ranks. Mariano Cañardo wins in 1928, and will ride to victory on many occasion. Cañardo actually wins the ‘Volta’ seven times, the last one in 1939, after a two year pause because of the Spanish Civil War (1937 – 1938).

Together with all the Wars in that period, the Tour of Catalonia also had their own sporting struggle because of the Italian Giro. Logically the bulk of riders, including the big Italian names Coppi, Bartali and Magni, opted for that Italian race. So mostly they were left with riders that didn’t stand a chance in the Giro. Fortunately some French, Swiss riders and the odd Belgian participated in the race. Still, it remained a Spanish dominated race through the Catalonian mountains.

This all changed in the late sixties. More people started to ride their bikes and discovered they could compete with the existing elite riders. Winners from Belgium, Italy, France and the Netherlands can suddenly be found on the leaderboard. Obviously Eddy Merckx is the greatest champion this race has ever known. But no-one would ever beat the seven time winner Cañardo on Catalonia’s palmares, not even one of the greatest Spanish champions. Miguel Induráin did win this race three times, but will be remembered mostly by his presence in a certain French race! Maybe the near future will provide us with another great champion in the Volta a Cataluñya.

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