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Miguel Indurain (right) congratulates 2011 Vuelta winner Juan Jose Cobo
Five-time Tour de France winner on novel edition of race
Miguel Indurain has admitted that he would not have been capable of winning the 2012 Vuelta a España, such is the amount of climbing packed into the race’s three weeks. The five-time Tour de France winner was speaking at the Vuelta route presentation in Pamplona on Wednesday.
“With so many tough mountain stages, I would have been stuffed from the start,” Indurain said, according to Reuters. “It wouldn't have been possible for me to win this race, there are too many summit finishes and there’s very little time trialling.”
While Indurain’s time trialling ability carried him to seven Grand Tour victories in the 1990s, he recognised that the Spanish riders of today struggle against the watch. The home nation's contingent will appreciate the welter of short, sharp summit finishes that dot the race.
“This kind of route is exactly what the fans want, and the climbing specialists will have a great chance to win the race," said Indurain.
The race will feature seven summit finishes, beginning in the Basque Country on stage 3 to Monte Arrate. The Vuelta will visit the Pyrenees at the end of week one, but it is likely that a troika of mountain top finishes in the final part of the race will decide the winner of the red jersey.
After visiting Lagos de Covadonga and Cuitu Negro on consecutive days, the grand finale will come on the penultimate stage with a finish atop the fearsome Bola del Mundo.
Notably, the longest stage of the Vuelta is just 194km in length, but while distances are down, Indurain noted that “they’ve maintained the level of difficulty of the stages.”
Hailing from Villava, on the outskirts of Pamplona, Indurain grew up riding on the roads featured on the opening two days of the race. He warned that teams would have to be well-drilled ahead of the technical opening team time trial in the streets of the city.
“It'll be very hot in August, and some sections are technical so the riders will have to be careful,” he said. “But nowhere near as dangerous as running with the bulls in July.”
All told, Indurain believes a rather novel Vuelta is in store, with the finish in Madrid, the southernmost point of the race. “It’s going to be different, because it’s all in the north, and it’ll be quite a nervous race because there are a lot of summit finishes,” he said.