For a week, the Catalan roads saw only them. Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and Remco Evenepoel (Soudal-Quick Step) have privatized the 2023 edition of the Tour of Catalonia. As a symbol, the two delivered a last mano to mano, Sunday, March 26, in the streets of Barcelona. And if the Belgian prodigy (23), world champion since the fall, raised his arms during the final stage, his Slovenian opponent resisted each of his attacks, and kept the thin gap until the end separating the two men on Sunday morning (6s in the final table). In great shape for several weeks, the leader of the Jumbo-Visma won the race, leaving the final stage to his rival.

With two victories each over the seven stages contested, and places of honor, Roglic and Evenepoel offered a famous taste of the next Tour of Italy. Winners between them of the last four Tours of Spain (last year for the Belgian, the three before for the Slovenian), the two riders will line up in a little over a month at the start of the Giro (from May 6 to 28), auguring a new duel.

“We expected his attacks. The seven days were difficult, but I had the legs. I am happy to add my name to the list of winners of this historic race,” said the Slovenian, who won the Volta, one of the oldest stage races, for the first time – it was the 102nd edition. Already winner the previous week of Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy, Primoz Roglic had seized the leader’s jersey from the first stage, ahead of Evenepoel, never to let go.

The two heavyweights never left each other on the steep roads of the Catalan hinterland, the young Belgian winning the third stage ahead of Roglic and the Slovenian the fourth, the most difficult, ahead of Evenepoel. Each time in a pocket handkerchief.

Despite his numerous attacks and two stage victories, the young Belgian world champion never managed to unclamp the Slovenian veteran (33 years old). “I knew it would be difficult but you had to try. It was a good battle. I’m very happy with my week,” assured the Flemish, whose goal before the start of the race was to “work well in view of the Giro”.

After Paris-Nice, whose chiefs’ fight between Tadej Pogacar – ultimately winner – and Jonas Vingegaard prefigured the next Tour de France, the Volta Catalunya in turn served as an aperitif for the Evenepoel-Roglic duel. And if the rest of the peloton hardly seemed to exist for a week – third in the general classification, the Portuguese Joao Almeida (UAE-Emirates) finished more than 2 minutes away – the two men, big favorites for the next Giro, intend to resume their mano à mano on Italian roads.