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30/08/12 - 11:55
Vilagarcía de Arousa - Mirador de Ézaro
Vuelta a España • Stage12

Vilagarcía de Arousa - Mirador de Ézaro

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Top five on GC: 1. Rodriguez, 2. Contador +13, 3. Froome +51, 4. Valverde +1:20, 5. 2:59.


What a finale that was! Contador finished eight seconds behing Rodriguez and five seconds ahead of third-place Valverde. Gesink crossed the line 20 seconds down, three seconds ahead of both Froome and Moreno.


Joaquim Rodriguez takes the win! Alberto Contador finishes eight seconds back. Alejandro Valverde is third and Robert Gesink takes fourth. Froome loses 22 seconds - plus the bonus seconds. All to be confirmed.


Rodriguez attacks! He distances Contador!


Contador, in the white combined jersey, leads Rodriguez, in red. Whoever wins the stage will be in the race lead tonight.


Froome is 22 seconds back apparently as Valverde digs in to return to the two leaders, Contador and Rodriguez.


It's coming back together - Valverde, Henao and Moreno are catching Contador and Rodriguez, who have passed Astarloza. No sight of Froome on this 20% section.


Rodriguez puts in a huge attack! Contador holds his wheel. They catch and pass Anton. But both Froome and Valverde couldn't match them for pace.


Anton catches de Weert and has just team-mate Astarloza in front. With the favourites, Moreno leads Rodriguez.


Astarloza is on a 16% section. Meanwhile, his Euskatel team-mate Igor Anton puts in a dig back with the main group.


Ian Stannard drives the peloton onto the final climb, with Froome tucked in right behind. Rabobank now edge forward as the pack thins out considerably.


This is viciously steep! Instantly, Astarloza pulls clear with de Weert behind. Moinard and Meyer have been blown apart.


The four leaders are onto the final climb of the day, the Cat.3 Mirador de Ezaro. Followed swiftly by the peloton!


BMC are starting to appear on the front: it didn't work out for Moinard so now it's time for Gilbert to have a go. A win today would be a huge morale boost for the Belgian ahead of the world championships. The gap is now just 40 seconds.


Now Team Sky are taking up the drive on the front of the peloton. This road is right down on the coast - it's very pretty. The gap is just 1:02. Get ready for fireworks.


Rabobank and RadioShack are taking up the pace setting on the front. Katusha are back on teh front too. The gap is 1:25. Meyer is taking a huge turn on the front of the leading group, before giving way to de Weert.


There's a bit of a headwind now. 1:55 with 9km to go. This is really quite fascinating.


We're down to two minutes now as the first group of stugglers are dropped off the back of the peloton owing to this fast pace. Vacansoleil and Saxo Bank are riding hard just behind Movistar.


The gap is down to 2:22 for the four leaders. It's going to be very close. They will need at least a minute starting the last climb, given the speed at which the favourites will devour the Mirador de Ezaro climb.


The green helmets and blue shirts of Movistar now front the peloton. A long tail has started to appear off the back of the pack - and on the front too. Sky have regrouped after that Zandio blow but are keeping well back for the time being.


The wind turbines above Dumbria can be seen tantalisingly close on the horizon. Movistar and Katusha are combining well on the front, reducing the gap to three minutes. The leaders are now in turn passed by the Zandio ambulance.


Mikel Astarloza is the best climber of the four escapees - however that means very little today. The final climb comes after 188km or riding and will be a whole different challenge. It will be whoever has the most left in the tank. The gap is 3:15 for the leaders.


Rabobank are also making their presence known on the front of the peloton, which is being overtaken by the ambulance carrying Zandio to hospital.


Lampre's Morris Possoni is receiving treatment to his nose - perhaps the Italian also went down in that crash involving Zandio and Bouhanni. The withdrawal of Zandio will be a blow to Chris Froome's hopes - the Spaniard would have been a real asset in the mountains.


Movistar are finally coming forward to lend a hand to Katusha in the chase. Valverde is the kind of rider who could do something on the final climb today - although it's looking like the break will stay clear unless the peloton can react fast.


It looks increasingly likely that this break will stay out. The gap is 4:25 and shows no signs of coming down fast. /// TheOldFellow: three digits above 43 = 46. It's really not that hard maths.


Zandio looks a bit dazed. He's receiving treatment to a deep cut on his nose and forehead. He gets up on his feet and moves towards his bike amid much applause from the fans on the size of the road. The race doctor is talking to him intently though - and after much discussion Zandio climbs into the back of an ambulance and not back onto his bike. He will be the seventh rider to pull out of the Vuelta.


CRASH: Sky's Xabier Zandio and FDJ's Nacer Bouhanni collide with some road furniture. The French national champion lands on his hip but is back up pretty quickly, but Zandio appears to have face-planted and needs attention to his nose.


Result of the second intermediate sprint (uncontested) at Muros: 1. Moinard, 2. Astarloza, 3. De Weert, 4. Meyer. The pack pass through at 4:20.


A reminder of the four leaders: Australian Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), Frenchman Amael Moinard (BMC), Spaniard Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) and Belgian Kevin de Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). They still have 4:30 over the pack as they pass through the town of Serres. Not far until the second intermediate sprint.


BMC's Klaas Lodewych is doing some thigh stretches on the back of the peloton. It's good cycling weather today - warm, sunny and no wind. "If it were windy conditions it would be a real killer of a day," asserts Eurosport guru Sean Kelly.


The break is working quite well and it's not a given that they will be reeled in. You see, those bonus seconds potentially make the final Cat.3 climb very important - take those away and it's more a game of cat-and-mouse. Katusha may actually be happy to let these four riders take the sting out of the tail end of the stage - even if that means giving up on a potential stage win for Purito Rodriguez.


The gap is fairly stable: 4:40 at the moment as Katusha continue to drive the pace. They will be aware that should Contador finish in the top three today and ahead of Rodriguez, he will take the red jersey. Just one slender second separates the two on GC.


The four leaders are onto a road that hugs the coastline now. The gap is 4:50 as Katusha lead the chase on the front of the peloton, ahead of Team Sky. Although Chris Froome didn't shine in yesterday's ITT by his standards, the Brit is still just 16 seconds down on GC. It's really so very well poised at the top - three riders within 16 seconds, the Big Four all within a minute.


The average speed for the third hour of racing was 43.2 km/h - which is three digits below the average speed for the first two hours, tellingly. It was a very fast and frantic start for those who have just tuned in, with break after break reeled against a strong headwind.


Who do you think will win today's stage? Will this break stay out until the end or will the teams combine to reel the four leaders in, allowing the public to witness a ding-dong battle between the likes of Rodriguez, Gilbert, Contador and Valverde? Online readers, have your say below....


The gap is coming down steadily: 5:38 at the latest check. The likes of Katusha, Movistar, BMC and Saxo Bank will not want these four riders to stay out ahead - given they all possibly have a hand to play in today's challenging finish. That said, BMC have a man in the break - which takes the pressure off them...


Results of the first intermediate sprint: 1. Astarloza (4pts, 6 bonus seconds), 2. Meyer (2pts, 4secs), 3. Moinard (1pt, 2secs), 4. De Weert (nada, ziltch).


After 125km in the saddle and multiple thwarted breakaway attempts, the break that did get away is now approaching the first intermediate sprint at Noia. The gap is 6:10.


Today's finish on the Ezaro Lookout above the Atlantic coast and the town of Dumbria, should be a real thrill. It's a 2km climb with a maximum gradient of 20% (although people talk of 30% at places) being used for the very first time. "A journalist from Pontevedra told me about Mirador de Ezaro in October and as soon as I took a look at it for myself I fell in love with it immediately. It's going to be a real spectacle," said Vuelta race director Javier Guillen.


The lead has dropped slightly to 6:30 as Katusha continue setting the tempo on the front of the pack.


The lead is up to 7:10 for the escapees, who also include Amael Moinard (30-year-old Frenchman who won a stage of Paris-Nice in 2010) and Kevin de Weert, a 30-year-old Belgian riding his eighth Vuelta.


Cameron Meyer has already been involved in a break in this year's Vuelta: the Australian was the last rider to be reeled in on last week's stage to Andorra. He was passed by the 'Big Four' of Contador, Froome, Valverde and Rodriguez inside the final 2km on the final climb of the day. Meyer, 24, is a former track specialist and world champion, and won the Tour Down Under in 2011.


The best-placed rider in this breakaway is Mikel Astarloza of Euskatel, who is currently 13:29 behind Joaquim Rodriguez on GC. The 32-year-old Spaniard is riding his fifth Vuelta and is still in search of a stage win.


The four leaders now have 5:04 over the peloton, which has clearly sat up in its chase. They'll have a breather while their lunches go down and then, no doubt, Katusha will start leading the chase. They want their man Rodriguez to take the win today on a finish that is tailor-made to his strengths.


Puncture for Luis Angel Mate of Cofidis. The temperature is now 24 degrees Celsius so pretty fresh compared to last week's 40-degree temperatures.


The average speed for the second hour of racing was 46.1km/h which goes to show just how fiercely fought the first half of today's stage has been. Andre Cardoso (Caja Rural) and Dani Moreno (Katusha) both need mechanical assistance and drop back to their team cars off the back of the peloton.


Our four leaders - Australian Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), Frenchman Amael Moinard (BMC), Spaniard Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) and Belgian Kevin de Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) - pass through the feeding zone with a lead of 2:15 over the pack.


The lead of the four escapees increases to 45 seconds - finally, this could be the one that sticks.


Vacansoleil are now driving the pace of the peloton in pursuit of the leading quartet, who still only have 20 seconds over the pack. The Dutch team have been active today but missed out on the latest in a long line of hitherto failed breaks.


The four-man group was being pursued by a chasing group of around 20 riders that was reeled back into the peloton. The leaders have just 15 seconds to play with at the moment.


BREAK: Four riders now off the front - Australian Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge), Frenchman Amael Moinard (BMC), Spaniard Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel) and Belgian Kevin de Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).


Once again, the breakaway attempt is thwarted, allowing Martijn Keizer (Vacansoleil) the chance to have his three minutes in the limelight. The Dutchman is reeled in pretty easily too. Meanwhile, yesterday's ITT winner Frederik Kessiakoff needs mechanical assistance so drops back to his Astana team car.


Steve Cummings of BMC is trying to bridge the gap to the three leaders. It's still touch-and-go and the gap is minimal.


Flecha and Vaugrenard have been joined by David Moncoutie of Cofidis. They have eight seconds over the peloton, which is being driven along by Movistar.


It seems like everyone's having a go at breaking away today: the latest duo to try and edge ahead are Benoit Vaugrenard (FDJ) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky).


TIME BONUSES: A reminder that there are time bonuses for all the road stages on the Vuelta both at the intermediate sprints and at the finish. For both intermediate sprint in the stage, there are 6-4-2 seconds available for the first three riders. At the finish, the bonus seconds are 12-8-4.


Yet another Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider, Niki Tepstra, has a go at breaking clear but is foiled by the peloton.


Pauwels is first to falter, but noth Duque and Gerdemann soon follow. The bunch is back as one. This is really frenetic stuff - and very similar to the start of the stage on the Tour to Pau, won by Pierrick Fedrigo.


RadioShack are clearly very keen to get a rider out in front today - after attempts by Irizar and Rast, Linus Gerdemann is the latest to have a pop. He's joined by Leonardo Duque of Cofidis and Serge Pauwels of Omega Pharma-Quick Step, another team that has been very active so far today.


Despite the strong headwind and the undulating terrain, the peloton has zipped along at a speed of 45kmh for the first hour of racing today - that explains just why no one has been able to form a break so far.


Around a dozen riders open up a small gap but it comes to nothing when the Saxo Bank team of Alberto Contador combine to reel them in. Contador is second on GC but has yet to win a stage in this year's race. He came close in Andorra, where he led until the final 150m, when Valverde and Rodriguez both passed him in the dying stages. He also was second in yesterday's ITT - so the Spaniard is riding into form ahead of the main mountains stages.


The pace continues to be very high as the peloton riders along as one. With Joaquim Rodriguez holding on to the red jersey by just one second, but also being the favourite today, the atmosphere is naturally quite tense out there.


No need for a time check: those eight riders have now been swallowed up by the peloton. The temperature is up to 23 degrees Celsius and the competition out there is hot: we've had more than 35km of the stage and still no definitive break has formed.


Rabobank, without a rider in the break but with three in the top ten on GC, drive the pace on the front of the pack. Time checks coming right up.


The leaders are joined by a few more riders: Gregory Rast (RadioShack), Johan van Summeren (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Denys Kostyuk (Lampre).


BREAK: Five riders have finally formed a group off the front of the pack. Romain Sicard (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Markel Irizar (RadioShack-Nissan) initiate the attack and are soon joined by Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Benjamin Noval (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff).


The most active teams so far today have been Movistar, FDJ-BigMat, Garmin-Sharp, Lotto Belisol and Euskaltel-Euskadi - all of whom have been keeping Katusha on their toes.


There's quite a strong headwind at the moment, which may explain why it's proving very hard for anyone to form a break. A reminder that the blue polka dot king of the mountains jersey is being worn by Alejandro Valverde of Movistar - the Spaniard leads his countryman Rodriguez by 21 points to 17.


Daniele Ratto of Liquigas-Cannondale has withdrawn from the race. Duos and trios of tiders keep on trying to break clear of the bunch - so far, nothing has stuck.


John Degenkolb, winner of four stages so far in this year's race, currently leads the green jersey standings. The young German from Argos Shimano has 103 points, with Joaquim Rodriguez on 94 and Alejandro Valverde on 90.


The latest thwarted escape attempt comes from the 2011 Paris-Roubaix winner Johan van Summeren of Garmin-Sharp. The Belgian is reeled in by the pack. What a fiesty start.


Another five riders manage to open up a gap off the front, but Astana combine well to reel in the riders before a break is properly formed.


Markel Irizar of RadioShack has a pop at breaking clear. The Spaniard opens up a 10-second gap over the pack but is eventually reeled in.


No overnight withdrawals to report: we have 193 riders remaining. That means just five riders have quit the race since the start in Pamplona.


Five riders try and break away early but they are reeled in by the bunch. It's going to be a fast start with many attempts at forming the day's break, no doubt.


They're off! Stage 12 is underway... The road is rather rolling for the first 40km, then it flattens out towards the feed zone. In a busy last third, we have two intermediate sprints and then that hellishly steep final ramp to the finish.


The riders are rolling through the 8km neutral zone at the start of today's stage: once again, the Galician weather is more clement than the blazing sun we saw in the race's opening week. Today the temperature is currently 21 degrees Celsius.


Today's finish should really be spectacular: the Ezaro Lookout is 1.9km long and averages at 13% with some sections at 20% (although if you ride the inside of the hairpin bends, Jan Ullrich-style, the gradient will be an evil 30%). It's surrounded by wind turbines and overlooks both the Atlantic coast and the town of Dumbria. The obvious choice for today is red jersey Joaquim Rodriguez, who loves this kind of finish. Also, look out for Moreno, Valverde, Contador and Gilbert.


After his strong ITT, Alberto Contador rose to second on GC, one second behind Joaquim Rodriguez, while Britain's Chris Froome drops to third place, 16 seconds in arrears, after the Team Sky rider could only post the third-best time in the race against the clock, 39 seconds slower than Kessiakoff. Alejandro Valverde rode out of his skin to post the fourth-best time and preserve his fourth place on GC, 59 seconds down on Rodriguez. It's all perfectly poised for the final 10 days in the saddle...


Yesterday, Joaquim Rodriguez rode a bullish time trial to hold on to the red jersey by one slender second ahead of fellow Spaniard Alberto Contador in stage 11. Race leader Rodriguez posted the seventh fastest time on the hilly 39.5km time trial in West Galicia, unexpectedly won by the Frederik Kessiakoff. The Swede completed the demanding course in a time of 52 minutes and 36 seconds, 17 seconds quicker than second-place Contador.


Welcome to live coverage of stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espana - a largely flat 190.5km ride from Vilagarcia de Arousa to Dumbria, where the stage will spark into life with an exciting finish atop the punchy Cat.3 Mirador de Erazo, or 'Ezaro Lookout', high above the Galician coast.