Spanish newspaper MARCA claimed on Tuesday that it has had access to the Vuelta a Espana 2012 route, a day before the official presentation in Pamplona. And if confirmed, it looks to be at least as hard as the 2011 Vuelta, as well as featuring a return to the Pyrenees and the Bola de Oro summit finish near Madrid, both missing last year.

The route will apparently feature seven mountain-top finishes as well as three stages which end with steep, short uphill climbs like those where Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) claimed two stages in 2011.

Pamplona starts the Vuelta 2012 with a team time trial, with two summit finishes on stage three, in the Basque Country at Arrate, often used in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and stage four. The first big test will come in Andorra at Santuario de Canolich on stage eight.

The real challenge, though, will be the second week, with some tough stages in the hilly region of Galicia, followed by three summit finishes in Ancares, Lagos de Covadonga and the previously unused Cuitu Negro climb.

It has to be emphasised that the starts and finishes have yet to be confirmed, and important details like the length of each stage (in particular the time trials, in all probability like in 2011 limited to one long individual race against the clock and an opening team time trial) as well as the actual course in the mountain stages are missing.

If the route is similar to the one below, however, the combination of an individual time trial and three tough mountain top finishes in as many days in the second week – including one on the Lagos de Covadonga – mean that the classification could be all but decided before the final few days when the race heads towards Madrid and the last mountain-top finish at Bola de Oro on stage 20.

Another eyecatching feature is a 1,200 kilometre transfer at the end of the first week, from Barcelona to Galicia.

Cycling Weekly will be at the official 2012 Vuelta a Espana presentation on Wednesday to bring you all the details and riders’ reactions as well as the official confirmation of the route.

Vuelta a Espana 2012 ‘leaked’ route
Week one

Saturday 18 August. Stage one: Pamplona – Pamplona, team time trial
Sunday 19 August. Stage 2: Pamplona – Viana
Monday 20 August. Stage 3. Oion – Arrate (Eibar). Summit finish
Tuesday 21 August. Stage 4: Baracaldo – Valdezcaray. Summit finish
Wednesday 22 August. Stage 5: Logroño – Logroño
Thursday 23 August. Stage 6: Zaragoza (Tarazona) – El Fuerte del Rapitán (Jaca)
Friday 24 August. Stage 7: Jaca – Motorland (Alcañiz)
Saturday 25 August. Stage 8: Lleida – Santuario Canolich (Coll de la Gallina). Summit finish
Sunday 26 August. Stage 9. Andorra – Barcelona

Week two
Monday 27 August. Rest day and Transfer Barcelona – Ponteareas
Tuesday 28 August. Stage 10: Ponteareas – Sanxenxo
Wednesday 29 August. Stage 11: Cambados – Pontevedra, individual time trial
Thursday 30 August. Stage 12: Vilagarcía – Mirador de Ezaro (A Coruña)
Friday 31 August. Stage 12: Santiago de Compostela – Ferrol
Saturday 1 September. Stage 14: Lugo – Los Ancares. Summit finish
Sunday 2 September. Stage 15: La Robla – Lagos de Covadonga. Summit finish
Monday 3 September. Stage 16: Gijón (Villa de Jovellanos) – Cuitu Negro. Summit finish

Week three
Tuesday 4 September. Rest day
Wednesday 5 September. Stage 17: Santander – Fuente Dé
Thursday 6 September. Stage 18: Aguilar de Campoo – Valladolid
Friday 7 September. Stage 19: Peñafiel – La Lastrilla
Saturday 8 September. Stage 20: La Faisanera Golf – Bola del Mundo. Summit finish
Sunday 9 September. Stage 21: Cercedilla – Madrid

Related links

Tour de France 2012: Route details

Giro d’Italia 2012 route details