Joaquin Rodriguez Edges Alberto Contador in Stage 12 of 2010 Tour de France

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07/16/2010| 0 comments
by AP, with additional commentary by Roadcycling.com
Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Joaquin Rodriguez Edges Alberto Contador in Stage 12 of 2010 Tour de France

Joaquin Rodriguez wins stage 12 ahead of Alberto Contador; Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) now has an overall 2010 Tour de France lead of 00:31 over Alberto Contador (Team Astana).

Joaquin Rodriguez wins stage 12 ahead of Alberto Contador; Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) now has an overall 2010 Tour de France lead of 00:31 over Alberto Contador (Team Astana).

Joaquin Rodriguez of Spain won a hilly 12th stage of the 2010 Tour de France on Friday, leading a two-man sprint finish with Alberto Contador - who gained 10 precious seconds in the title quest.

Contador, the defending champion, and Rodriguez burst out of the pack in a steep final climb, dusting race leader Andy Schleck and the rest of the pack and overtaking several breakaway riders.

Rodriguez, a 10-year veteran on the Katusha team riding in his first Tour, out-sprinted Contador in the last few hundred meters of the 210.5-kilometer (131-mile) course from Bourg-de-Peage to Mende.

Rodriguez stretched out his arms, looked back and smiled as he nosed Contador at the line - clocking 4 hours, 58 minutes, 26 seconds. Contador's Astana teammate Alexandre Vinokourov was third, 4 seconds back.

"I knew to anticipate, and I knew it was going to be difficult," said Rodriguez, who won the 2010 Volta of Catalunya in April. "I did it perfectly. I knew I'd be able to resist Alberto."

Rodriguez said he had ridden well in the Tours of Italy and Spain in the past, but "I just needed to win in the best race in the world" - referring to the Tour de France.

Rodriguez added that "I'm very happy, my goal was to win a stage in my first Tour de France and now I took it. My shape is fantastic. I did the climb without suffering and kept the rhythm on the flat, so I had a lot of power for the final climb. I knew that I had to start before of Contador to beat him in the sprint and I did so. Now I want to finish as good as possible in the general classification. I want to thank my teammates and also Andrei Tchmil for the confidence that he gave me."

Contador finished 10 seconds ahead of Schleck, who was fifth, and reduced his deficit to the Saxo Bank team leader from Luxembourg to 31 seconds. Samuel Sanchez of Spain was third overall, 2:45 back, after crossing alongside Schleck in sixth place.

The finish was destined for drama. In the final kilometers, the pack scaled the La Croix Neuve pass - featuring nearly 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) at an average gradient of more than 10 percent.

Vinokourov and three other breakaway riders were the first at the foot of the climb. At first he and Belarus rider Vasili Kiryienka slugged it out alone and the Kazakh star rode out alone.

But with fewer than 2 kilometers to go, Contador caught Schleck off-guard by racing out wide in the climb and mustering a burst of speed. As the Spaniard rose up out of his saddle, his bike wagging side to side, Schleck couldn't or wouldn't lay chase -- and kept seated in a steady rhythm.

The two Spaniards then overtook Vinokourov, who is riding in his first Tour after

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