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Vuelta 2012: A La Bar!

Course Preview: A good Vuelta or a bad Vuelta? I needed to find out what the feelings are on this year’s Spanish Grand Tour and what better place than my local bar/office in the village. A bowl of almonds, a plate of meaty bits, some bread, a glass of coke with a coffee to follow and the Spanish sports papers to read, what more do I need? Just the comments from some people in the bar!

Last year I had a nice little train journey down to Alicante for La Vuelta a Espana 2011, this year if I wanted to go to the 2012 presentation in Pamplona it would have meant a twelve hour round trip by car, that just wasn’t an option, have you seen the price of fuel these days? So back to “Plan A” the plan of me buying the Spanish sports papers; Marca and (my favourite) AS, take them to my second office in the village; Bar Pol-Mar for some tapas and to see the general feeling on this year’s Vuelta route.

Not a meter south of Madrid in 2012.

At first glance, the first thing you notice is that the most southerly point of the race is the finish in Madrid, no Alicante, no Murcia, no Andalucнa; basically none of the regions that hosted the early stages of the 2011 Vuelta a Espaсa and the nearest stage to me finishes in Alcaсiz which is 385 kilometres away, a nine hour trip there and back. Looks like the TV and the couch will be working hard this year.

So to the course; As I’ve said, it’s all in the north of Spain, from the start in Pamplona with a 16.2 kilometre team time trial the race heads towards the coast staying in the Basque country, which you could say is the home-land of Spanish cycling, well the fans are crazy anyway! The first of the seven (official) summit finishes comes at the climb of the Arrate at the end of stage 3 outside Eibar, this will be the first shakeup, and the second comes the next day at the finish line in the Ski Station of Valdezcaray in the Rioja region.

Intrepid reporter, Al.

After a few “flat” stages, including some hard climbs which have not been given their true worth and will surprise some of the non-climbers, the route heads to Andorra and the finish up the Collada de la Gallina at 1,555 metres altitude. Stage 9 takes the race down from Andorra to finish in Barcelona to bring the first section of the race to an end with the first rest day.

“El Jefe” Javi of the Bar Pol-Mar.

For the middle section the race moves over to Ponteareas in Galicia for three flat stages and the individual time trial of 40 kilometres from Cambados to Pontevedra. The mountains start again on stage 14 as the race heads east again for the stage finish on the Puerto de Arcares at 1,661 metres; this comes after two 3rd Cat, one 2nd Cat and the 1st Cat Alto Folgueriras de Aigas. Stage 15 brings the Lagos de Cavadonga back to the race, many a Vuelta has been decided on that climb.

The next day will also be decisive with its 185 kilometre journey from Gijon to Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negro. The Cuitu Negro is a new climb to the race that will need surfacing before September and has ramps of 25% to its 1,850 meters altitude climbing for 32.4 kilometres to its summit. The second rest day will come as a relief before the last five days to Madrid.

La Vuelta returns to Bola del Mundo in 2012 – the scene of Nibali and Mosquera’s fantastic duel in 2010.

Three flat stages are followed by the penultimate day to the Bola del Mundo, this is where Vincenzo Nibali fought off Ezequiel Mosquera for the Vuelta 2010 overall victory. The concrete surfaced climb reaches over 2,250 metres for the summit finish, but the stage is murderous with three 1st Cat and a 2nd Cat climb before the race tackles the Bola. The last stage brings the race into town to finish under the eye of the Goddess Cibeles, a day for the sprinters.

What do the Riders Say?
After the route was announced in Pamplona’s Palacio de Congresos, most of the riders were pleased with the route, especially Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez who could see a victory on the horizon. He said of the start of the race; “you don’t want to lose the race in the first part and win it in the second!” The tough summit finishes will suit the explosive little rider as he commented “I like it!” Olympic champion Samuel Sбnchez could also see the advantages for Rodriguez “he will love this route because he can win this Vuelta.”

It comes as little surprise to find out that Joaquim Rodriguez really likes the route.

Lat year’s Vuelta winner; Juan Josй Cobo was also keen on the route, thinking that “It’s a pretty balanced Vuelta route.” He sees the three stages in Asturias as being the decisive days on the race saying; “The one who shows the strongest in those three stages shouldn’t have any problems on La Bola.” Meaning that by the time the race reaches the second last day, the race will be won.

Defending Vuelta champion, Juan Jose Cobo, doesn’t mind it either.

It looks like the time trial will not be important as it comes early in the second week. The Movistar manager Eusebio Unzuй pointed out that “the time trials will be incidental.” So it looks like a climber’s race.

A very nice young lady and the Vuelta…back page of AS.

What do the Papers Say?
AS has a very nice young lady on the back page, it seems Faren is keen on gymnastics to maintain her shape! Sorry, the Vuelta makes the back page also. Inside the run down on the course centres on the idea that Rodriguez will win with the headline: “La Vuelta de Purito”. They also think Alejandro Valverde could do something and ask Juan Josй Cobo if that could be a problem in the Movistar team? He is quite tranquil about it and said “The road will decide the dispute between the two in the General Classification.” He also pointed out that “I intend 100% to start the Tour and La Vuelta.” AS also tips the Euskaltel rider; Igor Antуn who should ride the Giro earlier in the year and come back for La Vuelta.

It didn’t take long for Alejandro Valverde to become a race favorite again.

In Marca there are no half naked girls, but they also go for Rodriguez on the front page with “Puro espectбculo”. They cite the stage to the new climb of the Cuitu Negro as being the most important (and toughest). Miguel Indurain comments that “I like this edition of La Vuelta, but it wouldn’t have suited me.” Igor Antуn also gets a mention as he said “it’s perfect for me with less time trial kilometres.”

An image of the Cuitu Negro ascent.

And the Word on the Streets?
I got into the bar as the morning rush was ending and the lunch service hadn’t started. Javi had seen the Vuelta course and thought it resembles the recent Giro d’Italia’s, which is true with all those summit finishes. His picks for the win? “The course is for Purito for sure, Valverde also, what about Nibali again?” Josemi, the veterinary from across the road, was in for coffee and toast to go was not impressed by the race being all in the north, “nothing near here!” the general feeling was that it will be a good race, but it should have some stages further south and near here!

So that’s the rundown on La Vuelta 2012 from just about every angle, I hope that helps?

More information on: www.lavuelta.com

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