As every year since 2008, David Moncoutié has raced the Vuelta a España with one goal in mind: to finish the race as the event's best climber. The leader of the French Cofidis team has four Vuelta mountains jerseys on his palmarès, and is preparing to seal off his career with a fifth title. But the route of this year's race, as well as the physical problems he's suffered since his crash at the Tour de France, could mean the 2012 blue-spotted white jersey may be his most difficult one to conquer yet.
This year's race totals 10 summit finishes, compared to six in 2011. "It's a very mountainous parcours, especially in the stage finishes," Moncoutié told Velochrono. "It's not really an advantage in view of the mountains jersey. We'll have to see if the leaders will leave a bit of time on the breakaways, because I don't think I can rival Contador or Rodriguez on a summit finish! Clearly, this year's race is different in respect to the higher amount of summit finishes."
What's more, the Frenchman has been suffering from lower back pain since he crashed out of the Tour de France on stage 12. Following one week of recovery after his abandon, he started training again and decided to race the Tour de l'Ain as a preparation for the Vuelta. "I felt better every day, even if I still feel pain in my lower back when I'm on the bike. It's annoying, especially in the descents. It's a little of a handicap," he admitted. But Moncoutié is still focused on his goal.
"This year, it will be more difficult than the other years... But I want to keep this objective in my head to finish off my last race as well as possible."
The 37-year-old, who has raced for Cofidis since 1997 and never changed teams even once during his career, seems finally decided to hang up his bike at the end of the season. Even though he has talked about retirement for several years now and always continued on, 2012 may well be his final year in the pro peloton.
"I've come to this Vuelta feeling that it is my last race this year, and the last of my career. Even if it hasn't been said officially, it's in my head... [The decision to retire] is ripe. I feel a little less strong, and I've said that I'm going to stop so many times that I'll have to quit the bike at one point! I'm at this Vuelta to have fun, to show the team jersey and with the idea that these are my last three weeks," he concluded.