EF Education First named its line-up for the third oldest stage race, the 99th Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, which starts on Monday, and Canadian Michael Woods will contest his fourth straight edition of the WorldTour’s seven-day competition in Spain. It’s the first time Woods has raced since Australia’s Herald Sun Tour where he was third.

In his racing recess, Woods signed a multi-year extension with the TieDyed Armada.

Last year, bad weather caused organizers to cut the summit finish and two other climbs in the queen stage. Nevertheless, Alejandro Valverde won his third title and second in a row.

The Course

As usual, the route is mountainous, with no time trials and only a couple of sprint stages. Ascents come straight away in Stage 1, with Stages 3 and 4 ending on summit finishes. Stage 3’s 14-km, 6.9 percent climb to Vallter 2000 was the summit finish cancelled last year. Stage 4 has two climbs of La Molina at its conclusion, with a couple of kilometres of descending after the final cresting before two more kilometres of climbing to the finish.

Stage 3: The mighty Vallter 2000 summit finish had to cancelled last year due to poor weather.

The last day in Barcelona is always challenging, as riders have eight climbs of Alt de Montjuic (2.2-km, 5.3 percent) to cap off the race.

The Contenders

Hopefully Woods will see his Volta a Catalunya GC trend heading the other way: since 2016 he’s been 18th, 37th and 79th. Woods is honing his form for the Ardennes Classics before the Giro d’Italia, 49-days away.

Among Valverde‘s rivals will be three Colombians: his teammate Nairo Quintana, Paris-Nice winner Egan Bernal, and Astana’s Angel Lopez. Other strong threats to the threepeat are Vuelta a España champion Simon Yates and Thibaut Pinot. Last year’s Vuelta surprise package Enric Mas (Spain/Deceuninck-Quick Step) has only the five-stage Volta ao Algarve under his belt this season. Chris Froome has only one more race day in than Mas; he was scheduled for the UAE Tour but February’s Tour of Colombia 2.1 pooped him out.

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