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LEON, Spain (VN) — If 10 summit finales seemed like a lot in last year’s wildly successful Vuelta a España, expect even more fireworks for 2013.
There’s still more than a week to go before the route presentation for the 2013 Vuelta, set for January 12 in Galicia in northwest Spain, but there’s plenty of buzz about how the season’s third grand tour might look.
According to Spanish media reports, the race could include up to 13 summit finales this year in its run from August 24 to September 15.
The route is expected to be a mix of longer, steeper climbs — including stops in Andorra and an expected return to the fearsome Angliru summit — as well as a string of the short, but steep hilltop finishes that have become a staple of the Vuelta over the past few years.
Following the line of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” Vuelta organizers look to be picking up where they left off with the popular and entertaining 2012 edition.
Vuelta director Javier Guillén, speaking in the wake of last year’s successful edition, said the race would continue its quest to find new roads and climbs, and bring the race into the heart of rural Spain.
“We are very content with how the Vuelta is developing. We had a real battle for three weeks and something seemed to happen every day,” Guillén said. “That’s not easy to achieve in a grand tour, but it’s something we want to build on for the future. The idea is to bring a spectacle to the fans every day.”
The 2013 edition will see the entire breadth of the Iberian peninsula once again become a protagonist in the race route.
In 2012, the course stayed entirely in the northern half of Spain, with Madrid on the final day being its southern-most point.
For this year, AS reported that the Vuelta will include some long transfers as it sweeps up and around the entire peninsula.
Already confirmed are four stages in the green, hilly country of Galicia. Tucked in the northwest corner of Spain, Galicia boasts a series of narrow roads and short but punchy climbs ideal to spice up the first few days of racing.
The regional daily, La Voz de Galicia, reported that Sansxexo will play host to the opening team time trial on a demanding route between 20km and 30km.
To make things even more interesting for television, the race will start from a floating platform used to harvest mussels that will be tied up alongside a dock on one of the narrow inlets called rias.
The third stage will finish up Monte Lobeira, a short 1.6km summit with very steep ramps, similar to the 2012 Vuelta’s stage-12 finish on the intense climb up the Mirador de Ézaro, high above the rocky coast.
After exiting Galicia, the route is expected to bang across Castilla y León, with a likely stage over the hilly circuit set to be used in the 2014 road world championships in Bierzo.
From there, the route pushes south across Extremadura and into Andalucía. From there, it sweeps along the Mediterranean coast toward Catalunya.
The Barcelona daily El Periódico has reported that two stages will be featured in Catalunya as well as a climbing stage in Andorra, with a possible return to the Collado de Gallina climb featured in 2012.
Aragon and Castilla y León will play host to stages before the explosive final climbing stages in the Cantabrian Mountains. Though not as high as the Pyrénées or the Sierra Nevada, the tortuously steep roads in Cantabria and Asturias have become the emblematic climbs of the Vuelta.
A return to the Angliru for the sixth time in Vuelta history is also likely on the books, with media reports suggesting the fearsome climb will feature in the Vuelta’s penultimate stage. Juanjo Cobo took control of the 2011 Vuelta with his stage win up the Angliru the last time the climb was featured in the race.
Madrid will once again play host to the Vuelta’s final stage on the Paseo de la Castellana, where John Degenkolb won a fifth stage to close out his impressive Vuelta run in 2012.
The names to expect in Spain
Just like the 2012 edition, just one individual time trial will follow the opening team time trial. That means the climbers will be front and center in the fight for the Vuelta’s red leader’s jersey.
Which riders show up for the Vuelta is always interesting to watch.
Defending champion Alberto Contador has said that he will focus completely on the 2013 Tour de France, but is leaving the door open for a Vuelta defense.
Joaquim Rodríguez, whose future with Katusha is anything but certain after it was denied a WorldTour license, said he would not define his racing calendar until he sees the official Vuelta route. Determined to win a grand tour, the Vuelta would be ideal for his characteristics, but he also has aspirations for the Tour podium.
Sky’s Bradley Wiggins is already committed toward the Giro d’Italia and the Tour, so a Vuelta start is highly unlikely. Chris Froome, who was second overall in 2011, is betting everything on the Tour and has been evasive about his Vuelta intentions.
Vicenzo Nibali has already confirmed that a run at the Giro would be his top priority over the Tour with his move to Astana for 2013, so a start at the Vuelta could be in the cards for the attacking Italian.
Many top GC riders typically wait to see how the Tour shakes out before deciding to race the Vuelta. Alejandro Valverde wasn’t planning on racing the 2012 Vuelta, yet nearly beat Contador after deciding to start at the final hour. A controversial crash in the first week handicapped Valverde’s chances in France and he turned his focus on his home-country tour.
Many riders use the Vuelta as a tune-up for the world championships, this year on a demanding parcours in Italy, so plenty of top riders will likely be at the start line in Galicia, whether they’re fighting for the GC or just honing their form.