USCR's Jamie Naragon Shares Her Vuelta Preview

Written by Jamie Naragon

On Saturday the best cyclists in the world will descend upon Spain for the third Grand Tour of the 2012 season, the 67th Vuelta a España. The 3-week long race will start in Pamplona on August 18th and will conclude in Madrid on September 9th. 

Vuelta logo

 

Some of the exciting returns to this year’s edition are the Bola del Mundo mountain top finish and a visit to the Navarre region—a site not used since 1994. In all the 21 stages will cover 3360kms. Of these, 11 stages will be largely flat, 8 will be mountain stages, a team trial will start the Vuelta and an individual time-trial will occur on Stage 11. Additionally, there will be 10 summit finishes.

Several towns will be new start locations such as Barakaldo, Tarazona, Cambados, Vilagarcía de Aurosa, Palas de Rei, La Robla, La Faisanera Golf-Segovia 21 and Cercedilla. And for the new finish towns we have Viana, Alcañiz-Motorland Aragón, Andorra-Collada de la Gallina, Sanxenxo, Dumbría-Mirador de Ézaro, Puerto de Ancares, Cuitu Negru-Valgrande-Pajares, Fuente Dé and La Lastrilla.

All 18 Pro-Tour teams will participate along with four teams selected as wild-cards: Andalucia, Caja Rural, Cofidis, and Argos-Shimano. Four leaders’ jerseys will be up for grabs: the red overall leader’s jersey, the white and blue polka dot KOM jersey, the green sprints jersey, and the white combination jersey (earned by having the lowest score when adding the numeral ranks of each cyclist in the other three jersey competitions). Last year, JJ Cobo won both the general classification and the combination jersey while Bauke Mollema won the points jersey. David Mouncoutie won the KOM prize. All three of these riders will return to defend their respective prizes; however, they will face steep competition in the last Grand Tour of the 2012 season.

There are a handful of riders who can give Cobo a challenge for overall victory:

Igor Anton Hernandez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) is a strong climber, like many of his teammates on the Basque squad. He finished 8th in the 2007 Vuelta in addition to having won 4 stages in the 6 Vueltas he has started.

Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Katusha) won the UCI World Tour in 2010, demonstrating his strong all-round skills, particularly once the road tips uphill. He has finished in the top-10 of the Vuelta on three separate occasions. Additionally, he won the Vuelta’s 2005 KOM classification as well as 4 individual stages in the Vuelta. This year, he has already won La Felche Wallonne, taken second overall in both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of the Basque Country, and was 6th in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto) has a fairly solid performance when it comes to Grand Tours, claiming 7th in the 2008 Giro, two 4ths in the Tour de France, and 8th in the 2011 Vuelta. This year, he was also third in the Volta a Catalunya and 5th overall in the Criterium du Dauphine.

Chris Froome (SKY) has really exploded in the cycling world since last year’s Vuelta where he finished second overall. After taking 3rd in the 2011 Tour of Beijing, Froome redirected his efforts towards assisting teammate Bradley Wiggins in his quest for the Tour de France’s Maillot Jaune. Towards this end, Froome himself showed that he is a fierce climber with very strong time trialing skills, taking 2nd overall in Paris just a month ago and bronze in the Olympic Time Trial just a few weeks ago. If he isn’t exhausted from these efforts, he could very easily challenge Cobo for the overall win.

Of course, everyone’s successes so far this season came with the absence of another very strong all-round contender….Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank). Contador has numerous Grand Tour wins to his name already, though a suspension for clenbuterol has kept him from recent competition. Regardless, Contador has spent much of his suspension building form for the Vuelta to come back and win, proving to all who doubt him that he is able to take victories cleanly. Will his work pay off?

Of course, one blink of an eye could change everything in a second. And if that happens, other dark horse contenders like Nicholas Roche (AG2R), Denis Menchov (Katusha), and Robert Gesink (Rabobank) could all sneak into the top-10.

In terms of the points jersey, Mollema’s potentially closest rivals will be Daniele Bennati (RadioShackNissanTrek), JJ Rojas Gil (Movistar) and Allan Davis (Orica-GreeEdge). The KOM jersey could go to anyone but Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) fought hard for it in the Tour de France, so maybe he will see victory in La Vuelta. And of course, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) will fight for a stage win at the very least.

It’s a wide open race for this year’s Spanish tour. The contest for overall win will be intense and hopefully suspenseful, making this an exciting three weeks of racing!

About the Vuelta a España 2012

Running from Saturday, August 18th to Sunday, September 9th 2012, the 67th Vuelta a España will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,300 kilometers (2,050 miles). These stages have the following profiles:

  • 6 flat stages
  • 13 mountain stages
  • 1 team time-trial stage
  • 1 individual time-trial stage

Distinctive aspects of the race

  • 6 summit finishes
  • 2 rest days
  • 16 km. team time-trial
  • 40 km. individual time-trial stage
  • 37 mountain passes and hills