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Rodriguez and Contador fight it out
Aug 31st, 12. Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez tightened his grip at the top of the Tour of Spain's overall standings today after he won the 12th stage, beating Alberto Contador in a summit finish.
The two riders distanced themselves from the rest of the peloton near the end of the 190.5-kilometre rise along the coast of Galicia in northwestern Spain between Vilagarcia de Arousa and Dumbria.
Rodriguez trailed right behind fellow Spaniard Contador at the start of the final climb of the run which featured pitches of 30 percent, but in the final 200 metres attacked and was the first to cross the finish line.
The 33-year-old Katusha rider completed the stage in four hours, 24 minutes and 32 seconds, eight seconds ahead of 2008 Tour of Spain winner Contador, who is back after a two-year drugs ban.
"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," said Rodriguez.
Spain's Alejandro Valverde finished the stage in third place, 13 seconds behind the leader.
"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, one minute and 20 seconds behind the leader.
Rodriguez led Contador by one second in the general classification before the start of the 12th stage, and he extended his lead by 12 seconds with his stage win.
"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," Rodriguez said.
Britain's Christopher Froome tried but was not able to respond when Rodriguez and Contador broke away from the rest of the peloton at the start of the final ascent.
The Team Sky rider lost serious ground, finishing the stage in fifth place to leave him in third in the overall standings, 51 seconds behind Rodriguez.
Froome's teammate Xabier Zandio dropped out of the Tour after he was involved in a crash along with France's and Nacer Bouhanni of the FDJ team.
Spain's 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 12th stage. NZ's Hayden Roulston (RadioShack Nissan Trek) also touched the deck today but although frustrated with the number of times he has tumbled this tour, he was able to get up and continue.
Tomorrow's 13th stage takes the Tour peloton on a 172.8-kilometre ride from Santiago de Compostela to Ferrol. The race finishes on September 9 in Madrid.
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