Joaquin Rodriguez and Alberto Contador, separated by just one second in the overall standings of the 2012 Vuelta this morning, joined battle on a brutal final climb in Stage 12 at Mirador de Azaro this afternoon, race leader Rodriguez managing to distance his rival on the final bend to extend his lead at the top of the overall standings. Team Sky's Chris Froome, who lost time and second place overall to Contador in yesterday's individual time trial, finished a little more than 20 seconds behind Rodriguez and has also lost a key team mate after Xabier Zandio was involved in a crash. He now lies 51 seconds off the race lead.
Froome had been towards the front of the bunch as it hit the short but tough final ascent, which had ramps of up to 30 per cent, but it was Euskaltel-Euskadi's Igor Anton who launched himself off the front of the group, hoping that he might gain assistance from team mate Mikel Astarloza, a member of the day's break, who was further up the climb.
An initial attack from Katusha rider Rodriguez and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank's Contador that quickly reeled in Anton after he had passed under the flamme rouge was checked by the group behind including fourth-placed Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, with Froome towards the back of that bunch, but the second time they went the competition had no response.
Four breakaway riders - Astarloza, Orica-GreenEdge's Cameron Meyer, Amael Moinard of BMC Racing and Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Kevin de Weert - had a lead of around 2 minutes as they headed into the closing 10 kilometres, but with that final climb looming and the members of the group starting to tire, it looked unlikely that the winner was going to come from that quartet, and so it proved.
The breakaway, which at one point had an advantage of around 7 minutes, had got off the front of the peloton with 75 kilometres of the 190km stage from Vilagarcia de Arousa, with headwinds along much of the route making it impossible for earlier attacks to split and the peloton vigilant against allowing splits to form as the route of the stage zig-zagged first inland then back onto the Galician coast.
Zandio's Vuelta meanwhile finished as a result of a crash around 33 kilometres out in which he and FDJ-BigMat's FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni were brought down apparently after colliding with some street furniture. The French champion was up quickly, but the Team Sky rider, who landed face-first, was taken away in an ambulance after being checked over by the race doctor.
Vuelta Stage 12 Result 1 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT 4h 24' 32'' 2 CONTADOR, Alberto STB + 8'' 3 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV + 13'' 4 GESINK, Robert RAB + 20'' 5 FROOME, Christopher SKY + 23'' 6 MORENO, Daniel KAT + 23'' 7 ANTON, Igor EUS + 27'' 8 ROCHE, Nicolas ALM + 31'' 9 NIEMIEC, Przemyslaw LAM + 33'' 10 VERDUGO, Gorka EUS + 36'' 11 HENAO, Sergio Luis SKY + 36'' 12 NOCENTINI, Rinaldo ALM + 36'' 13 TIRALONGO, Paolo AST + 39'' 14 MOLLEMA, Bauke RAB + 39'' 15 CAPECCHI, Eros LIQ + 39'' 16 INTXAUSTI, Beñat MOV + 43'' 17 TEN DAM, Laurens RAB + 44'' 18 MONFORT, Maxime RNT + 47'' 19 CUNEGO, Damiano LAM + 52'' 20 ANACONA, Winner LAM + 52'' Last man home on Stage 12 191 VAN LEIJEN, Joost LTB + 33' 37'' General Classification after Stage 12 1 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT 44h 50' 35'' 2 CONTADOR, Alberto STB + 13'' 3 FROOME, Christopher SKY + 51'' 4 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV + 1' 20'' 5 GESINK, Robert RAB + 2' 59'' 6 MORENO, Daniel KAT + 3' 29'' 7 ROCHE, Nicolas ALM + 4' 22'' 8 TALANSKY, Andrew GRS + 5' 17'' 9 TEN DAM, Laurens RAB + 5' 18'' 10 MOLLEMA, Bauke RAB + 6' 01'' Points Classification after Stage 12 1 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT 119 2 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV 106 3 DEGENKOLB, John ARG 103 4 CONTADOR, Alberto STB 86 5 FROOME, Christopher SKY 79 Mountains Classification after Stage 12 1 VALVERDE, Alejandro MOV 22 2 RODRIGUEZ, Joaquin KAT 20 3 CLARKE, Simon OGE 16 4 CONTADOR, Alberto STB 12 5 LIGTHART, Pim VCD 11
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.