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Vuelta route unveiled next week

The route for the 2012 Vuelta a España will be revealed next week in Pamplona, Spain, in what should see another climb-heavy route for the season’s final grand tour.

Many of the details of the Spanish tour (August 18-September 9) have already been leaked in various Spanish media.

The latest “scoop” is that bustling port city of Barcelona in Spain’s Catalunya region will host the ninth stage of the Spanish tour, starting in Andorra and ending in the Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys, using the same finishing straight that was featured in the 2009 Tour de France.

The stage would be the first time the Vuelta has returned to Barcelona in 13 years.

The 67th Vuelta will start in Pamplona with urban-setting time trial stage that will trace part of the route used in the “running of the bulls” in the city’s San Fermínes festival made famous by Ernest Hemingway.

The route looks to return to the Pyrénées for its first substantial stages since 2008. The mountains were overlooked entirely in 2009 and 2011 and only one stage to Andorra was featured in 2010.

Further hints of where the route might go were revealed by radio in Spain’s northwest province of Galicia. According to Radio Gallega, Galicia is set to host stages 10-13, including an individual time trial in Pontevedra.

That means that the Vuelta will stay in northern Spain perhaps for much of its entirety. The peloton will likely transfer from Catalunya after the stage to Barcelona for the quartet of stages in Galicia before heading toward Asturias.

How far the course traces south remains to be seen, but hints of a major battle in Spain’s northern mountains were already revealed by the Spanish daily AS last week.

According to the report, sections of a service road at the Valgrande-Pajares ski area in the Cantabrian mountains will be paved later this summer to create the new mountain-top finish.

The climb will be up the Cuitu Negro, with a section of new road at 2.8km with ramps as steep as 25 percent. The finale will come as part of a “queen stage” in stage 16 that will also include the brutally steep climbs over the San Lorenzo and Cobertoria summits, AS reported.

The paper reported that it will be part of a three-mountain-run across Asturias that will also include stages up Ancares and Lagos de Covadonga.

The Vuelta is also expected to return to the Basque Country in what was a successful return to the region after a three-decade absence.

The finale will once again be in central Madrid, finishing with a short road stage and sprint.

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