Tour of Spain 2012 route is a hidden gem
Three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador of Spain stripped of his titles. AP Photo/Christophe Ena
It’s the final Grand Tour of the year, the Vuelta a Espana, or Tour of Spain, and it can be a bit of a yawn, but not this year. We’ve already had articles about the favourites, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.
The 2012 Vuelta isn’t a consolation prize for either of them.
Froome could be the best Grand Tour rider in the world at the moment, but he still needs to prove it.
And Contador was the best but he needs to re-establish himself at the top.
Then there’s Joachim Rodriguez. He narrowly lost the Tour of Italy this year and the Vuelta route is made for him.
And that’s the X factor that makes the 2012 Vuelta so interesting.
Grand Tours are going through a period of change.
The Tour of Italy is getting harder, the Tour de France is trying new things, although this year’s route didn’t really work…Apart from the fact that we won, sorry I’m British, at last.
They also seem to be responding to each other’s routes, so in the wake of a boring Tour the Vuelta organisers have scattered mountains galore around their race.
There are ten uphill finishes, eight mountain stages with 36 categorized climbs, one team time trial, one individual time trial and no prologue.
They’ve also gone for short stages to encourage attacks, and for spectacular climbs; from steep hill-tops where the race finishes, to brutal long climbs.
And the whole thing builds over there weeks to a wicked end.
Stage three has the first hill-top finish. Then next day there are serious mountains with a finish at 1550 metres at the Valdezacaray ski station.
There are three easier days before a mountain-top finish in Andorra right in the heart of the Pyrenees.
Then the race gets hard.
The only individual time trial, just 39 kilometres, comes two days after the first rest day.
After that, it’s mountains almost all the way.
The day after the time trial is officially a ‘plain’ stage, but it finishes outside a hotel that’s perched on top of a huge lump of rock.
The road winding up to it averages 13 percent and has stretches of 28 percent gradient.
Stage 15 is a big day in the Picos de Europa mountains, finishing with a long hard climb to Lagos de Covadonga.
Stage 16 is more of the same but with a new climb to round off called Cuitu Negro.
It’s so wild, remote and steep that the top 2.5 kilometres were only a goat track and have had a concrete surface laid just for the Vuelta. There is plenty of 25 percent on that one too.
Even the penultimate stage is tough, and it could be the toughest of the whole race.
It finishes on Bola del Mundo, a mountain you can see from Madrid that’s 2247 metres high, so as well as being steep, the last section is another climb where a special concrete road was laid for the Vuelta’s first visit a couple of years ago.
There’s altitude for the riders to contend with on this one too.
With Froome and Contador being such gifted climbers and both being motivated, and with Rodriquez have a special flare for super-steep climbs, they’ve got the route to have a real go at each other.
Defensive riding won’t work in the Vuelta, and it could throw up a lot of surprises.
I can’t see how it’s going to be anything short of fascinating.
Here’s the full route:-
Stage Type Date Start and Finish Distance
1 Teams time-trial Saturday 18 August Pamplona and 16,5 km
2 Plain Sunday 19 August Pamplona and Viana 181,4 km
3 Mountains Monday 20 August Faustino V and Eibar (Arrate) 155,3 km
4 Mountains Tuesday 21 August Barakaldo and Estación de Valdezcaray 160,6 km
5 Plain Wednesday 22 August Logroño and Logroño 168,0 km
6 Plain Thursday 23 August Tarazona and Jaca 175,4 km
7 Plain Friday 24 August Huesca and Alcañiz. Motorland Aragón 164,2 km
8 Mountains Saturday 25 August Lleida and Andorra. Collada de la Gallina 174,7 km
9 Plain Sunday 26 August Andorra and Barcelona 196,3 km
Rest Day Monday 27 August
10 Plain Tuesday 28 August Ponteareas and Sanxenxo 190,0 km
11 Time-trial Wednesday 29 August Cambados and Pontevedra 39,4 km
12 Plain Thursday 30 August Vilagarcía de Arousa and Mirador de Ézaro 190,5 km
13 Plain Friday 31 August Santiago de Compostela and Ferrol 172,8 km
14 Mountains Saturday 1 September Palas de Rei and Puerto de Ancares 149,2 km
15 Mountains Sunday 2 September La Robla and Lagos de Covadonga 186,5 km
16 Mountains Monday 3 September Gijón and Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negru 183,5 km
Rest Day Tuesday 4 September
17 Plain Wednesday – 5 September Santander and Fuente Dé 187,3 km
18 Plain Thursday 6 September Aguilar de Campoo and Valladolid 204,5 km
19 Plain Friday 7 September Peñafiel and La Lastrilla 178,4 km
20 Mountains Saturday 8 September La Faisanera Golf. and Bola del Mundo 170,7 km
21 Plain Sunday 9 September Cercedilla and Madrid 115,0 km