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Page last updated at 15:26 GMT, Friday, 16 July 2010 16:26 UK

Alberto Contador cuts Andy Schleck's Tour lead

Tour de France 2010
Start: 3 July, Rotterdam Finish: 25 July, Paris
Coverage: Listen to the final hour of every stage on the BBC Sport website (UK only), with selected stages on BBC 5 live sports extra ; Watch live on Eurosport and ITV4; Live text commentary each day on BBC Sport website

Joaquim Rodriguez
Rodriguez held off the challenge of Contador to claim victory

Joaquin Rodriguez sprinted to victory on stage 12 of the Tour de France ahead of Alberto Contador, who cut Andy Schleck's overall lead to 31 seconds.

Defending champion Contador caught his rivals cold with a late charge on the gruelling 3km climb towards Mende but Rodriguez surged past on the run-in.

Schleck crossed 10 seconds later in fifth, to retain the yellow jersey.

Third place went to Contador's team-mate Alexandre Vinokourov, a survivor of a breakaway that began after 57km.

But it was Contador's trademark burst on the Montee Jalabert that was the most telling move of the day as the Spaniard left Schleck, who prefers longer climbs, trailing in his wake.

"It's an important psychological blow," said Contador. "It's good to see your body responding like that after 210km of racing.

"I was on Andy's wheel and saw him looking weak for a moment and decided to go for it.

"I saw he wasn't doing anything so I decided to go. It's a pity I couldn't cap it with the win.

The Count

"Vinokourov did a great job getting into the break. It was very important having him there. We didn't have to work on what was a very hot and difficult day.

"I'm very pleased about this looking to the Pyrenees, especially the sensations in the legs. The next thing is to recover in time for Sunday."

The break looked like gaining Contador more than the 10 seconds it eventually did as Saxo Bank's Luxembourg rider Schleck responded in his usual calm way.

"It was a hard day and I wasn't looking forward to this climb," stated the race leader.

"It's short and you have to be explosive - not my type at all. But I'm happy. I lost only 10 seconds in the end."

Astana rider Vinokourov, who was thrown out of the 2007 Tour for blood doping, was among an 18-strong group of riders who broke from the peloton on the ascent of Col des Nonieres.

French rider Anthony Charteau was also in the group and he was first over the category three climb to take possession of the King of the Mountains polka dot jersey from compatriot Jerome Pineau.

Sprinter Thor Hushovd also made it into the breakaway and took advantage to pick up 10 points in the two intermediate sprints on the stage and wrest the green jersey from Lampre's Alessandro Petacchi.

Hushovd now leads Italian Petacchi by six points, with Isle of Man rider Mark Cavendish 35 points back.

Once the riders were through the second intermediate sprint, Hushovd dropped back to the peloton which had been happy to allow the escapees a lead of between two and three minutes for much of the stage.

Vinokourov was not going to give up the break though and he led Garmin's Ryder Hesjedal, RadioShack's Andreas Kloeden and Caisse d'Epargne's Vasil Kiryienka on a four-man counter-attack, opening up a four-minute advantage on the peloton.

But any thoughts that Canada's Hesjedal, who began the day five minutes 42 seconds behind race leader Andy Schleck, may have harboured at having a shot at wearing yellow evaporated when the peloton upped the pace in the final 20km or so.

Hesjedal then ran out of steam on the final climb up to Mende, the steepest on this year's Tour. Vinokourov made a bid for glory, but he was reeled in after Contador's burst with two kilometres of the climb remaining.

Spaniard Rodrguez went after Contador and followed him over the summit before timing his sprint in the final kilometre to take his first Grand Tour stage win.

Britain's Bradley Wiggins, who looked to be struggling up the final climb, recovered to finish in a bunch of riders 31 seconds back while seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong lost another three-and-a-half minutes.

Stage 12 results:
1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa/Katusha) 4h 58m 26s
2. Alberto Contador (Spa/Astana) same time
3. Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz/Astana) +4"
4. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel/Omega Pharma - Lotto) +10"
5. Andy Schleck (Lux/Saxo Bank) same time

Overall Standings:
1. Andy Schleck (Lux/Saxo Bank) 58h 42m 01s
2. Alberto Contador (Esp/Astana) +31"
3. Samuel Sanchez (Esp/Euskatel) +2'45"
4. Denis Menchov (Rus/Rabobank) +2'58"
5. Jurgen van den Broeck (Bel/Omega Pharma-Lotto) +3'31"
6. Levi Leipheimer (US/RadioShack) +4'06"
7. Robert Gesink (Ned/Rabobank) +4'27"
8. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa/Katusha) +4'58"
9. Luis Leon Sanchez (Spa/Caisse d'Epargne) +5'02"
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze/Liquigas) +5'16"

Selected others:
16 Bradley Wiggins (GB/SKY) at 7'39"
18 Cadel Evans (Aus/BMC) at 8'08"
32 Lance Armstrong (US/TRS) at 21'16"
63 Geraint Thomas (GB/SKY) at 56'23"
121 Fabian Cancellara (Swi/Saxo Bank) at 1h 30'55"
137 Stephen Cummings (GB/SKY) at 1h 39'11"
148 David Millar (GB/GRM) at 1h 47'10"
150 Mark Cavendish (GB/HTC) at 1h 48'27"
155 Daniel Lloyd (GB/CTT) at 1h 51'38"
158 Jeremy Hunt (GB/CTT) at 1h 53'51"
Charlie Wegelius - withdrawn

For full results visit the official Tour de France site

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see also
Cavendish takes controversial win
15 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Cavendish team-mate disqualified
15 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Tour de France day by day
04 Jul 10 |  Cycling
Tour de France 2010 guide
02 Jul 10 |  Cycling

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FROM OTHER SPORT SITES News: Tour de France Stage 13: "Clean" Vino back on form as race heads for Pyrenees - 3 hrs ago
ESPN Star Schleck unperturbed by Contador - 6 hrs ago
Sporting Life VINOKOUROV ATTACK NETS STAGE WIN - 10 hrs ago Contador sends Schleck warning - 10 hrs ago
Taipei Times Online Contador marks turf in Tour battle with Schleck - 13 hrs ago


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