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Vuelta Stage 12: Rodriguez extends lead as he and Contador fight it out on final climb

Team Sky's Chris Froome loses more time and key team mate as Xabier Zandio crashes out...

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

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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