Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has won the twelfth stage of the 2012 Vuelta a Espana.
The race leader’s stage victory, his second of the race, came at the end of a 190.5km stage from Vilagarcía de Arousa to Mirador de Ézaro, that ended with a 270 metre climb in the final two kilometres.
Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) was second, some eight seconds behind, while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) made it a Spanish one-two-three by finishing third, another five seconds behind Contador.
Britain’s Chris Froome (Team Sky) the fourth member of a closely-matched quartet that has battled for overall victory almost since the opening day, today finished fifth, 23 seconds behind the winner, and three seconds behind Rabobank’s Robert Gesink, who was fourth.
Before today, Rodriguez had not allowed himself to speak publicly about the prospect of winning, but did so after an impressive solo victory.
“I’m very happy to be still in red jersey and to improve the gap, but nothing is still decided: the competition is still long, with very hard stages, and everybody can have a bad day and drop, coming out of the fight for general classification. My shape is great, people support me a lot. I will try for sure to keep the jersey until Madrid, even if it will be difficult,” he said.
‘Purito’ shed all but his two illustrious countrymen on the brutal run to the finish, but with the line in sight, distanced his rivals to cross the line alone.
Britain’s Team Sky delivered another strong performance in support of Chris Froome, who was unable to maintain contact with the leaders on a gradient that peaked at 30 per cent.
Juan Antonio Flecha and British champion, Ian Stannard, put in an early turn at the foot of the climb, before the Columbian, Sergio Henao, drove a group in pursuit of Contador and Rodriguez.
The team recovered well from the loss of Xabio Zandio earlier in the stage and directeur sportif, Nicolas Portal, praised the efforts of his team leader.
“Froome held on well to limit his losses and he is still in the fight after these shorter, steep summit finishes.
“Tomorrow is a day to try and save energy if at all possible. We have three hard mountain stages coming up and a really tough block of climbing,” he said.
Vuelta a Espana stage twelve – result
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 4.24.32
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +8”
3) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +13”
4) Robert Gesink (NED) – Rabobank +20”
5) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +23”
6) Daniel Moreno Fernandez (SPA) – ST
7) Igor Anton (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +27”
8) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – AG2R-La Mondiale +31”
9) Przemyslaw Niemiec (POL) – Lampre-ISD +33”
10) Gorka Verdugo (SPA) – Euskaltel-Euskadi +36”
1) Joaquim Rodriguez (SPA) – Katusha – 44.50.35
2) Alberto Contador (SPA) – Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank +13”
3) Christopher Froome (GBR) – Team Sky +51”
4) Alejandro Valverde (SPA) – Movistar +1.20
5) Robert Gesink (NED) – Rabobank +2.59
6) Daniel Moreno (SPA) – Katusha +3.29
7) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – AG2R-La Mondiale +4.22
8) Andrew Talansky (USA) – Garmin-Sharp +5.17
9) Laurens Ten Dam (NED) – Rabobank +5.18
10) Bauke Mollema (NED) – Rabobank +6.01