Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana: 5 riders to watch

Jai Hindley, Jonathan Milan, Pavel Sivakov and Matej Mohorič all starting their season in Spain, as Aleksandr Vlasov looks to carry Mallorca form into first stage race

Clock14:49, Tuesday 30th January 2024
The startlist for the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana is certainly star-studded

© UAE Team Emirates/Fizza (top left), Sprint Cycling Agency (centre), Ross Bell (top right), Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images (rest)

The startlist for the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana is certainly star-studded

It may only be January, but the road cycling season is already well underway, with the Santos Tour Down Under kicking off the WorldTour calendar in Australia, the Middle Eastern block getting underway at the AlUla Tour, and various one-day races in Spain and France launching the European season.

This week, European racing ramps up a notch with the first big stage race in the form of the 2.Pro Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, a five-day race around the Valencia region in Spain. Though it’s not a WorldTour race, Valenciana often attracts some big names, as climbers, puncheurs and sprinters alike welcome the chance to get some stage racing in their legs ahead of the Classics or bigger goals.

The route for this year’s race features something for everyone, with two hilly stages, two possible sprint opportunities, and one climb-packed day with a steep uphill finish to really test the climbers.

Stages 3 and 5 are the days that look good for the sprinters, featuring flat finishes sufficiently far away from any climbs for them to cause any problems to the fast men. Stages 1 and 2 could play out in a few different ways, depending on how they’re raced. They both finish on the flat, but both feature a not-insignificant climb within the final 20km, so it’s a question of what size group makes it to the finish. They could finish in small sprints, or one rider could take advantage of the final climb and go away over the top.

Even if things break up earlier on, though, stage 4 is where things will really be decided. Saturday’s stage packs in over 3,600m of climbing, and finishes on a steep, 2km uphill into Moraira. There are ‘only’ five categorised climbs on the profile, but the day is up and down all day, with some particularly stinging ramps heading into the finish. A good ride here after a consistent week could seal the overall title.

With a challenging set of stages ahead, and many riders making their debut, it’s hard to predict who is on what form coming into the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana, but here are five riders you should keep an eye on in Spain.

Which of these five riders will impress the most at the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana?

Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe)

As the only former Grand Tour winner on the start list, and a key piece in Bora-Hansgrohe’s big plans in 2024, many eyes will be on Jai Hindley as he gets his season underway in Spain. With the arrival of Primož Roglič in the off-season, former Giro d’Italia winner Hindley has seen his role at Bora-Hansgrohe change slightly, with his Grand Tour plans more likely to be in support of Roglič rather than chasing his own sophomore title in 2024. As a result, these smaller races will become even more important for Hindley, as they’re the places where he’ll be able to collect wins for himself before his attentions turn elsewhere later in the season.

Read more:

Because Valenciana will be Hindley’s first race of the year, it’s impossible to say where his racing form is, but the strong team Bora are sending to the race all point to a serious tilt at the GC, whether that’s with Hindley or one of his teammates.

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-Hansgrohe)

Whilst Hindley is something of an unknown coming into this race, his teammate Aleksandr Vlasov certainly isn’t, having been racing and repeatedly almost winning in the Challenge Mallorca race series. Vlasov was one of the most consistent finishers in Mallorca, picking up two second-place finishes and one third. Despite his frustration at not winning, his performances point towards a rider in good form, and the medium climbing in Valencia should suit his capabilities.

Read more: Vlasov vents after Trofeo Serra Tramuntana downhill finish

More to the point, Vlasov is a former winner here, having taken the title in 2022, so it’s clear that early-season racing in general and this race, in particular, are fertile grounds for the 27-year-old who, like Hindley, will be looking to make the most of his own leadership chances before Roglič comes into the fold. As well as Hindley and Vlasov, Bora have yet another option in Lennard Kämna, and a strong support team that should see the squad well in the mix for the race lead, it’s just a question of whose shoulders the burden will fall on.

Jonathan Milan (Lidl-Trek)

As the first race of the year for many, the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana is also the first time we’ll see riders racing for their new teams. Headlining the list of most anticipated debuts is that of Jonathan Milan, and the talented Italian sprinter will be donning Lidl-Trek colours for the first time in a race this week.

With only a couple of chances for the sprinters, it’s an interesting choice for Milan, especially as most of his rivals have headed to the sprint-friendly Middle Eastern races, but one that points to his wider goals this season. With his new team, Milan has expressed his aims to become more of a Classics rider than a pure sprinter, and is getting stuck in with a full Classics this season.

Read more:

In that light, it makes sense for the Italian to get some tougher racing in the legs in Valencia, and with many of the sprinters elsewhere, his chances of picking up a maiden victory on one of the flatter finishes look high.

Pavel Sivakov (UAE Team Emirates)

Another rider making their debut for their new team, and a genuine threat for the overall, is Pavel Sivakov. The Frenchman moved to UAE Team Emirates from Ineos Grenadiers over the off-season, and is expected to find more leadership chances in races like this at his new team. The 26-year-old finished 2023 on strong form in the Italian Classics and will be hoping to pick up where he left off in Spain.

Read more:

Though he’s struggled for opportunities in recent seasons, Sivakov is a former winner of stage races like the Vuelta a Burgos and the Tour of the Alps, so getting back to winning ways in a race like this is certainly an achievable goal. With Brandon McNulty - a rider to watch in his own right - by his side and the support of his UAE Team Emirates squad, Sivakov should be a top competitor in his first race in new colours.

Matej Mohorič (Bahrain Victorious)

We haven’t seen Matej Mohorič race yet in 2024, and in fact we haven’t seen him race at all since his rainbow jersey-winning ride at the UCI Gravel World Championships in October. As that title proves, Mohorič is one of the most exciting riders in the peloton, and as a result, his season debut is highly anticipated.

The Slovenian isn’t a pure climber by any stretch, but this course is suited well to his abilities, and he should especially be looking at stages 1 and 2 where the descent to the line should be key. Mohorič is one of the most skilful - and daring - descenders in the peloton, and a rider who can absolutely make a difference on a stage where other teams may be expecting a straightforward day.

Read more:

The Bahrain Victorious rider can put together a GC bid, though he’s traditionally done this in overall flatter races, but even if Mohorič isn’t going for the final victory, you should expect to see him getting stuck in on the punchy days in Valencia. When he gets going, Mohorič is often unstoppable, so most of the peloton will be looking at him this week, too.

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