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Rodriguez surges past Contador to win 12th stage of Spanish Vuelta

DUMBRIA, Spain -- Joaquin Rodriguez surged past Alberto Contador on the final climb to win the 12th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Thursday and extend his lead over his fellow Spaniard to 13 seconds.

Rodriguez and Contador broke away from the peloton and rode wheel-to-wheel up the last stretch of a sharp ascent to finish the 190.5-kilometer (118.4-mile) leg.

Rodriguez, who led Contador by 1 second coming in, passed his rival with a couple hundred meters left and held on for his second stage victory in 4 hours, 24 minutes, 32 seconds. Contador crossed 8 seconds later.

“You can compare this end of stage to any in Italy, it is so explosive. People had explained it to me and even though people tend to exaggerate, I didn't expect it to be so difficult,” Rodriguez said. “I waited, then sprinted and won it.”

Contador was unconcerned about losing 12 seconds overall to Rodriguez, of Katusha.

“I'm feeling good and when the mountain stages come, with longer finishes, than I should get even better,” said Contador, the 2008 champion.

Christopher Froome of Britain finished fifth, 23 seconds behind, to trail Rodriguez by 51 seconds overall.

Alejandro Valverde dropped to 1:20 behind Rodriguez after finishing third ahead of Robert Gesink of the Netherlands.

Friday's 13th stage from the UNESCO heritage city of Santiago de Compostela to Ferrol is the last appetizer before a pair of important weekend mountain stages that will test Rodriguez's ability to hold off Contador.

“Alberto is going to really take it to us this weekend,” Rodriguez said. “The gap is very small and someone like Alberto makes you work very hard on a good day.”

The 21-stage, three-week race ends in Madrid on Sept. 9.

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Race leader Joaquin Rodriguez, of Spain, raises his arms as he crosses the finish line to win the 12th stage of the Spanish Vuelta cycling race in Dumbria, Spain Thursday, Aug. 30. The 21-stage, three-week race ends in Madrid on Sept. 9. (AP)

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