Vuelta 2012 steps up a gear

Stalwart climbers rejoice as race route includes 10 high-altitude finishes

The 2012 Vuelta a España is set to be the most grueling of this generation, and will pass through some of the most iconic landscapes on the Iberian peninsula, taking in no fewer than 10 stage finishes at altitude.

Climbs on Arrate, Valdezcaray, Fuerte del Rapitán, Coll de la Gallina, Mirador de Ézaro, Puerto de Ancares, Lagos de Covadonga, Cuitu Negru, Fuente Dé, La Bola del Mundo... evocative names in Spanish geography that speak to some of poetry - the precipitous Rapitán, the mysterious Ancares - and others etched more recently into the minds of fans of cycling that speak of the basic truth of what the sport represents for Spaniards; the mountain, and the cyclists as the only humans capable of challenging the laws of gravity through the strength in their legs.

The 2012 Vuelta is scheduled to begin on August 18, a month after the Tour de France ends. The first stage will be a team time-trial through the streets of Pamplona, ending on the 852-meter stretch that hosts the annual Sanfermines bull runs.

The race will cover 3,293 kilometers over 21 stages, 12 of which will be flat with seven ending on mountain summits. There will be two time-trials, one team and one individual (with a steep climb included), six finishes at grade I mountain passes and four more at so-called hard slopes. The Vuelta will pass through 39 mountain passes in all.

At the presentation of the race in Pamplona last Wednesday were five-time champion Miguel Indurain, outside whose house in the Navarre city the first stage will end, double winner Denis Menchov, current holder Juanjo Cobo, and some of the favorites for this year's edition: Purito Rodríguez, Igor Antón, Samuel Sánchez. Ernesto Valverde and, possibly, Alberto Contador, who still awaits a decision by the Court of Arbitration for Sport over a positive clenbuterol sample at last year's Tour.

Sánchez, after examining the route, was categorical: "It's a Vuelta for Purito, a race with explosive finishes. He can fill his boots with stage wins and even the overall victory. The Pajares stage, after San Lorenzo and La Cobertoria, will be the blue-ribbon stage. They've asphalted the road up to the ski station, which you have to reach in a chair lift."

Rodríguez, who won two stages last year, took up the gauntlet. "It's incredible. Even in the time-trial, which I never enjoy, they've put in a climb. I like the course a lot. The three stages that will make the difference are consecutive: Ancares, Lagos and Pajares-Cuitu Negru, which has 25-percent gradients. Samu [Sánchez] skis there. He says it's as hard as hell."

Also content with the route, but cautious, was Cobo, who last week was unveiled as a new member of Movistar Team. "The Fuente Dé stage passes near my house, I know it well. I am confident I'll be there; it will be a great experience. I'll keep my fingers crossed and hope I can be like last year. I'll try to be among the best."

Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo

¿Quieres añadir otro usuario a tu suscripción?

Si continúas leyendo en este dispositivo, no se podrá leer en el otro.

¿Por qué estás viendo esto?


Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo y solo puedes acceder a EL PAÍS desde un dispositivo a la vez.

Si quieres compartir tu cuenta, cambia tu suscripción a la modalidad Premium, así podrás añadir otro usuario. Cada uno accederá con su propia cuenta de email, lo que os permitirá personalizar vuestra experiencia en EL PAÍS.

En el caso de no saber quién está usando tu cuenta, te recomendamos cambiar tu contraseña aquí.

Si decides continuar compartiendo tu cuenta, este mensaje se mostrará en tu dispositivo y en el de la otra persona que está usando tu cuenta de forma indefinida, afectando a tu experiencia de lectura. Puedes consultar aquí los términos y condiciones de la suscripción digital.

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS