Magnus Cort held on over the final climbs to sprint to victory after a late catch of the breakaway with Cort taking his second stage win at the Vuelta a España 2021.
The day was expected to go to the early breakaway but UAE Team Emirates had another idea for Matteo Trentin. Team BikeExchange also were keen to give their all for Michael Matthews.
But Cort (EF Education-Nippo) sat in the wheels with his team-mate, Jens Keukeleire and came up at the perfect moment with the Danish puncher having the power to hold off Andrea Bagioli (Deceuninck - Quick-Step).
Odd Christian Eiking (Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert) holds onto red with Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) staying involved despite another crash also including Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers).
How it happened
The day was between Jaén and the city of Córdoba, with two challenging climbs in the second half of the stage.
Eventually, the break did get away with eight riders managing to break away at the halfway point with about 90km to go, but the peloton were not letting it go as they looked to keep the gap down for a possible bunch sprint.
The riders in the break were Julen Amezqueta (Caja Rural), Chad Haga (DSM), Stan Dewulf (Ag2r-Citroën), Seb Berwick (Israel Start-Up Nation), Jetse Bol (Burgos-BH), Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Soudal), Mikkel Iturria (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Sander Armée (Qhubeka-NextHash) with a maximum gap of two minutes.
The gap continued to come down thanks to the pace set by UAE Team Emirates and Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux with the gap sitting at a minute with 61km to go as they hit the first of the two climbs of the day, the Alto de San Jeronimo.
Movistar joined the pacing as the gap started to jump up again to 1-40 with 57km to go as riders such as Omar Fraile (Astana-Premier Tech) and Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers) were dropped out of the back with plenty of the climb remaining.
Haga was called back by his team as the break was clearly going nowhere so Haga’s sports director, Matt Winston, got his rider to drop back to the bunch.
There was a crash right at the front of the peloton with Adam Yates (Ineos Grenadiers) and Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) among team-mates from both teams as well as a few from Movistar all hitting the deck in a ditch that had rather sharp plants in it.
This caused some issues for these riders as UAE Team Emirates continued to hammer on the pace. However, Roglič made it back in with his team, but the pace was splitting the bunch to bits meaning the race favourite and his team had to work hard to get through the small groups that were forming in front of them with 50km to go. Roglič eventually made it back to the front of the peloton with 45km to go.
Back in the break, they were back to just under a minute as Iturria went on the attack to try and stay away for as long as possible. He was brought back on the valley bottom as they went through the finish line for the penultimate time.
Van Gils was the last man out of the break as he attacked solo at the base of the final climb, the Alto de 14 per cent with 25km to go.
He was caught with 21km to go as Jonathan Lastra (Caja Rural) was the next man to put in a counter move. Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Jay Vine (Alpecin-Fenix) tried a move too as Lastra faded back into the bunch with 20km to go.
UAE Team Emirates disappeared from the front of the bunch with Bahrain Victorious taking up the chase. Romain Bardet (DSM) and Sergio Henao (Qhubeka-NextHash) joined them.
These attacks saw Michael Matthews (BikeExchange), Matteo Trentin (UAE Team Emirates) and Magnus Cort (EF-Nippo) all dropped out of the back. But they made it back in just as the bunch went over the top of the climb.
Trentin went on the attack on the descent followed by Ion Izagirre (Astana-Premier Tech) who powered away from the peloton with 29 seconds up to the leaders. But behind, Team BikeExchange came to the front en masse with all but one rider of the team hitting the front for their sprinter with 9km to go.
BikeExchange caught Trentin and Izagirre with 8km to go which allowed UAE Team Emirates to come back to the front. Although, the gap now sat at 38 seconds with 7.5km to go.
With 5km to go the peloton were absolutely flying but the break still had 21 seconds on the chase as the race looked to be coming down to the wire. The section on the main road looked to have wrecked the chances of the break and they were caught with 1.4km to go.
Vine kicked clear into the final kilometre but he couldn’t quite hold on as EF Education-Nippo went over the top to lead out Cort who then held some amazing power to take the win.
Eiking remains in red going into the 13th stage which looks like a shoe-in for the sprinters with a pan flat stage from Belmez to Villanueva de la Serena over a long and likely hot 203.7km.
Vuelta a Espana stage 12, Jaén to Córdoba (175km)
1. Magnus Cort (Den) EF Education-Nippo, 3-44-21
2. Andrea Bagioli (Ita) Deceuninck - Quick-Step
3. Michael Matthews (Aus) BikeExchange
4. Matteo Trentin (Ita) UAE Team Emirates
5. Andreas Kron (Den) Lotto-Soudal
6. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe
7. Antonio Jesús Soto (Esp) Euskatel-Euskadi
8. Anthony Roux (Fra) Groupama-FDJ
9. Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo
10. Martijn Tusveld (Ned) Team DSM, all at same time
General classification after stage 12
1. Odd Christian Eiking (Nor) Intermarché-Wanty-Gobert Matériaux, in 45-33-18
2. Guillaume Martin (Fra) Cofidis, at 58s
3. Primož Roglič (Slo) Jumbo-Visma, at 1-56
4. Enric Mas (Esp) Movistar, at 2-31
5. Miguel Ángel López (Col) Movistar, at 3-28
6. Jack Haig (Aus) Bahrain Victorious, at 3-55
7. Egan Bernal (Col) Ineos Grenadiers, at 4-46
8. Adam Yates (GBr) Ineos Grenadies, at 4-47
9. Sepp Kuss (USA) Jumbo-Visma, at 5-03
10. Felix Großschartner (Aut) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5-38
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