Philippe Gilbert wins stage 12 of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana

Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing) claimed his first victory in the rainbow stripes of world road race champion by winning stage 12 of the 2013 Vuelta a Espana.

The Belgian, who began a dramatic turnaround to a hitherto winless campaign at the Vuelta 12 months ago, passed Team Sky’s Edvald Boasson Hagen in sight of the line at the climax of today’s 164km stage to Tarragona.

Gilbert, who will defend his world road race title this month, described his victory as “like a dream”.

Philippe Gilbert ended his barren campaign in the rainbow stripes of world road race champion with victory in Tarragona

“When you start sprinting early, it’s never easy because it’s 20 seconds to the line – a long time,” he said.

“It’s also where I am the strongest. I knew if I went full gas, I could make it. I passed him [Boasson Hagen] and it happened. It was like a dream. It was amazing.”

Like the centenary Tour de France in July, even the so-called transitional stages of this 58th edition of the Spanish national tour, intended to offer respite between the numerous mountain stages, have been keenly contested.

An early break continuing Cedric Pineau (FDJ), Romain Zingle (Cofidis), and Caja Rural’s Fabricio Ferrari jumped clear of the peloton, gaining an advantage that peaked at the seven minute mark.

Keen not to squander the chance of victory offered by one of the few flat finishes of the race, the sprinters’ squads paid early attention, and as the group scaled the only climb of the stage – the third category Alto del Collet – the lead of the breakaway had fallen to 4.30.

The pressure continued until the gap was finally bridged with just under 20km to go.

World time trial champion, Tony Martin, perhaps smarting after defeat to arch rival, Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Leopard), in yesterday’s race of truth attempted a similar break to his super human effort on stage six, but was soon hauled back.

The twisting, technical finish saw the sprinters’ teams continue to set the tempo in a bid to set up a bunch kick for the line, but Gilbert diligently remained at the front.

Boasson Hagen, however, almost ruined Gilbert’s day, as Zdenek Stybar had on stage seven. The Norwegian jumped clear with just half-a-kilometre remaining and quickly established a visible gap.

Gilbert would not be denied, however. Having fought a relentless, but ultimately unsuccessful campaign during his year in the rainbow stripes, Fast Phil showed immense determination to overhaul Boasson Hagen and claim the victory.

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) remained at the head of the general classification after regaining the lead of the race yesterday. Ireland’s Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) reduced his deficit to the Italian by two seconds after gaining a time bonus. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) held station at 46 seconds back.

Tomorrow’s 169km thirteenth stage from Valls to Castelldefels will take the riders back into the mountains, and see them tackle the formidable first category ascent of the Alto del Rat Penat.

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Vuelta a Espana 2013: stage 12 – result

1) Philippe Gilbert (BEL) – BMC Racing – 4.03.44
2) Edvald Boasson Hagen (NOR) – Team Sky  – ST
3) Maximiliano Richeze (ARG) – Lampre-Merida
4) Luca Paolini (ITA) – Katusha
5) Gianni Meersman (BEL) – Omega Pharma-QuickStep
6) Francesco Lasca (ITA) – Caja Rural
7) Steve Chainel (FRA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale
8) Reinardt Van Rensburg (RSA) – Argos-Shimano
9) Anthony Roux (FRA) – FDJ
10) Zak Dempster (AUS) – NetApp-Endura

General classification

1) Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) – Astana – 45.26.06
2) Nicolas Roche (IRL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +31″
3) Alejandro Valverde (ESP) – Movistar +46″
4) Christopher Horner (USA) – Radioshack-Leopard
5) Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha +2.33
6) Domenico Pozzovivo (ITA) – Ag2r-La Mondiale +2.44
7) Ivan Basso (ITA) – Cannondale Pro Cycling +2.52
8) Thibaut Pinot (FRA) – FDJ +3.35
9) Rafal Majka (POL) – Saxo-Tinkoff +3.46
10) Daniel Moreno (ESP) – Katusha

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