DUMBRIA, Spain (AFP) — Overall leader Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) won the 12th stage of the Vuelta a España on Thursday, a 190.5-kilometer course between Vilagarcia de Arousa to Dumbria.
Second overall Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) was second, ceding time at the finish and a 10-second time bonus to “Purito.”
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) finished third, 13 seconds behind the leader.
Rodríguez trailed right behind Contador at the start of the final climb, which featured pitches of more than 20-percent gradient, but attacked in the final 200 meters to cross the line ahead of his countryman.
“When I saw Alberto follow my attack, I thought, ‘be careful,’” said Rodríguez. “I had slowed down a bit because I know the final section would be the hardest.”
Rodríguez entered the stage one second clear of Contador and now sits 13 seconds ahead. Chris Froome (Sky),
the runner-up at this year’s Tour de France, is third, at 51 seconds.
“Today I lost a little bit of time but I am closer to the podium than before,” said Valverde, who is fourth in the overall standings, 1:20 in arrears.
Rodriguez said he was feeling good, despite his run through a fatiguing Giro d’Italia in May, where he finished second overall.
“I feel good, I recover quickly. A 13-second lead is very little over a rider like Alberto Contador, who on a good day leaves his rivals in the dust,” said Rodríguez. “But I am going to stay ahead of him for as long as I can.”
Froome tried but was not able to respond when Rodríguez and Contador broke away from the rest of the peloton at the start of the final ascent. The Sky rider lost ground, finishing the stage fifth. Froome’s teammate Xabier Zandio dropped out of the race after he was involved in a crash along with French champion Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat).
Zandio fell face-first onto the road and suffered a cut to his forehead. He was treated by a race doctor before being taken to hospital. Bouhanni’s injuries were not as serious and he was able to complete the stage.
Friday’s 13th stage takes the peloton on a 172.8km ride from Santiago de Compostela to Ferrol.