Nah, it's that Unipublic noted that the mountains were producing smaller gaps.
So rather than make the mountain stages harder, to produce larger gaps, they decided to live with the smaller gaps, but do it on more stages.
Worse, fortunate circumstances regarding Valverde crashing out of GC contention at the Tour and Contador's ban led to all three of the top Spanish cyclists being at the Vuelta last year, the Sky ambush on Valverde in La Rioja and the race was successful, so they've decided that the template works and will continue to move in that direction. But remove even two of the three amigos, and look how paper thin the race starts to look. Take them all out and you're left with Gorka Verdugo and Tomasz Marczyński in the top 10, and Laurens Ten Dam in 5th.
They may be creating classic duels "on the mountain (singular)" but not "in the mountains (plural)" because they are all too often failing to make any more than the last climb meaningful.
Worse yet, they're actively trying to reduce difficulty in the rest of the stage to that end. And they are, all too often, choosing only mid-length climbs (Arrate, Gallina), easy climbs (Valdezcaray) or occasional real challenge climbs, but with all the hardest gradients at the very end thus ensuring most of the activity will only come in that last few kilometres (Cuitu Negru, Bola del Mundo). These climbs are all perfectly useful up to a point; Arrate and Valdezcaray used as they were last year were absolutely fine as part of an otherwise balanced route
. The early mountaintop or two that opens up small gaps between contenders and separates the GC men from the boys like Arrate did is ideal, as it also ensures less jostling for position in upcoming flat stages with sprinters, leading to the many crashes we see at, say, the Tour, where the GC status quo isn't usually really organised until a week in.
As for gaps between mountains, here are a few ideas from the Race Design Thread:
Mont Caro x2
Karabieta - Ixua - Oiz - Urkiola - Bikotx-gane
Alisas - La Sía - Picón Blanco
Colladiella - Cobertoria - Cruz de Linares - Maravía - San Lorenzo
Honduras - Tornavacas - Tremedal - La Covatilla
(compare to the anæmic 2011 stage
to La Covatilla and the much better 2006 stage
(all of the above from Another Dutch Guy)
Calar Alto - Venta Luisa - Velefique
Monachil - El Dornajo
(El Dornajo is rumoured to be a finish in 2013, so hopefully at least Monachil will precede it. This is only a small taster of what could
be done with the area around Sierra Nevada).
La Sía - Lunada - Caracol - Estranguada
San Lorenzo - Cobertoria W - Cobertoria E - Ermita de Alba
(not sure how feasible an Ermita de Alba finish is, though I'm sure it's steep enough for Guillén to want to find a way. Even if it isn't, because of descending through Cobertoria N via Alto del Cordal, the double Cobertoria climb is feasible - they usually descend the side they would be climbing to the finish here)
Cabra Montés - Las Sabinas - Alguacil
(again, something new to do with Sierra Nevada)
Conjuros - Haza del Lino x2
(you'll notice Haza del Lino a lot in fantasy routes. How it's never been in the Vuelta is beyond me, and most other fans)
Fonte da Cova - Llana de las Ovejas
(with a small downhill finish to El Morredero, this again is a common double act in Vuelta designs, especially as Ponferrada (which would be at the base of the full length descent) and El Morredero both pay for the Vuelta comparatively frequently but a stage with serious climbs like this gets left off the agenda)
Port del Comte - Banyères - Cantò - Eviny - Port-Ainé
(those ones thanks to Descender)
García - Velefique - Calar Alto
Somiedo - Farrapona - Cobertoria - Cordal - la Vara - Monte Naranco
Jaizkibel - Erlaitz/Castillo del Inglés - Santa Ageda - Mandubia - Lizarrusti - San Miguel de Áralar
(concreted and over 8%, I wouldn't be surprised to see San Miguel in the Vuelta soon. Unfortunately I'd expect a flat stage first, or if we're lucky something like Descender suggested with Etxauri and Lizarraga first)
Miserat - Tollos - Tudons - Benimantell - Font de Partagas
(again, not sure that Font de Partagas could realistically host the race but it's steep enough and gimmicky enough that I'm sure Guillén would think about it if he could)
Tablones - Canseco - Haza del Lino - Conjuros
(those are mine. I also had a couple of other brutal mountain stages of connecting climbs but they were in Las Canarias so I won't include them)
Lagunas de Neila - las Viniegras - Urbión
Not sure what all of these climbs are without a map, but Fumanya-Pradell is tough enough on its own
Again, not sure what all of thse are without a map but there's lots of them back to back
Almendra - Calar Alto - Velefique - Calar Alto
(thanks to roundabout for those ones)
That's without looking at the options done for Catalunya by Craig, País Vasco by myself or any of the other areas of the country.
should be able to while away quite some time realising just how incredible the Vuelta COULD be.