Rodriguez climbs to second win
Joaquim Rodriguez demonstrated his climbing class once again as he extended his race lead at the Vuelta a Espana with a second stage win on stage 12.
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The Katusha rider attacked on the incredibly steep Mirador de Ezaro climb, dragging rival Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank) with him before kicking on again in the final metres.
The burst of speed saw 'Purito' take the win by eight seconds over his nearest rival, time bonifications over the stripe allowing him to push his overall lead back out to 13 seconds.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took third on the day to stay very much in touch while Team Sky's Chris Froome battled hard to fifth, crossing the line 23 seconds back on the red jersey.
With stretches of gradient well in excess of 20% the short final climb capped off a stage which, up to that point, had looked on paper like a profile made for a bunch sprint.
But once again a wall-like climb spiced up the overall standings, with Froome now 51 seconds back and Valverde 1:20 adrift as the second week of the race continues.
"When I saw Alberto follow my attack, I thought, 'be careful". I had slowed down a bit because I know the final section would be the hardest," Rodriguez said.
He added: "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. But I am going to stay ahead of him for as long as I can."
Picking up after Wednesday's time trial a 190.5km test put the peloton en route to Dumbria, but not before an intense fight to get into the break. Attack after attack fired clear, but with a number of teams and riders looking to feature there was a frantic pace early on.
A move did finally stick but not until after 75km of hard racing, Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-Quickstep), Amael Moinard (BMC Racing) and Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) able to build up a buffer of 7:32.
Katusha took up the mantle of pace setting as the gap slowly came down, with the speed picking up as the end of the stage neared.
A crash scattered the peloton with 30km to go, Xabier Zandio (Team Sky) going down and coming off worse - the Spaniard forced to abandon the race after a blow to the head and bleeding from the bridge of his nose. Despite wanting to continue, the team and rider came to the decision to climb off.
Movistar hit the front shortly after, stringing things out as teams looked to set up their GC contenders for the narrow summit finish where Rodriguez again proved his climbing class