Alexandre Geniez (Ag2r La Mondiale) beat Dylan van Baarle (Team Sky) to victory in a breakaway sprint on stage 12 of the Vuelta a España 2018, while Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) lost his overall lead to Jesus Herrada (Cofidis).
Geniez and Van Baarle battled it out in a sprint after five riders from the original 18-man breakaway of the day made it to the final kilometre together.
The Frenchman launched his sprint first ahead of Dylan Teuns (BMC), Victor Campenaerts (Lotto-Soudal) and Marc Padun (Bahrain-Merida), with Dutchman Van Baarle the only rider able to come close to him.
He was forced to check his speed close to the line, and Geniez was able to hold his speed and take victory on the stage; Ag2r's second victory of this Vuelta.
Herrada, who sat just 5-45 down in GC and had also been part of the day's main break, which got over 11 minutes advantage on the peloton, arrived a couple of minutes after Geniez to take the overall lead away from Simon Yates, who seemed content to let it go with three big mountain days to come.
The former Spanish champion now leads the general classification by 3-22 over second place Yates.
How it happened
Another up and down day greeted the Vuelta riders in the north of Spain, with 181.1km to race from Mondoñedo in Galicia.
Unlike stage 11, it only took around 10km for a breakaway to establish, and it looked like it could be a successful one with 18 riders getting away.
That group included: Alexandre Geniez (Ag2r La Mondiale), Vincenzo Nibali and Mark Padun (Bahrain-Merida), Dylan Teuns (BMC Racing), Davide Formolo (Bora-Hansgrohe), Victor Campenaerts and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Dries Devenyns (Quick-Step Floors), Amanuel Gebregziabher (Dimenstion Data), Tiago Machado (Katusha-Alpecin), Dylan van Baarle (Team Sky), Gianluca Brambilla (Trek-Segafredo), Valerio Conti (UAE Team Emirates), Pablo Torres (Burgos-BH), Jonathan Lastra and Lluis Mas (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) and Mikel Bizkarra (Euskadi-Murias).
With Mitchelton-Scott controlling the front of the peloton, the breakers were allowed to establish a huge gap. Working together they'd accrued around 10 minutes with 70km remaining, stretching out to over 11 minutes with 50km to go. The put Spaniard Jesus Herrada in the virtual lead, sitting just 5-45 down in GC.
The pace in the break began to push higher and higher with Formolo one of the most active riders in pushing things on. That saw a number of attempted attacks by riders, including a Nibali attack with 34.4km to go. A number of riders like Mas, Campenaerts and Conti were struggling to hold on, while behind, Movistar took up the job of controlling the peloton with the gap out to 11-10.
With 23.1km Padun, Brambilla, Formolo, and Campenaerts were able to jump away from the main breakaway group, with no-one immediately chasing.
They quickly managed to establish a gap but were quickly bridged to by Teuns, Van Baarle, Devenyns and Geniez just 3km later.
With the riders behind leaning on Herrada to do the work as he chased the overall lead, that leading group of eight put over a minute into the chasing group, still with 11 minutes on the peloton.
The leading group split in two with 5.6km to go, with Brambilla, Van Baarle, Geniez and Devenyns losing contact on an unclassified climb. Van Baarle was able to then attack to bridge back over on a short descent.
The six leaders remained together almost through to the flamme rouge, when a short kick up saw Teuns, Campenaerts, Padun and Geniez get away, but they couldn't stop Van Baarle getting back into the fold once again.
The Dutchman was the only rider who could then challenge Geniez when he launched his sprint 200 hundred metres or so from the line, but he couldn't do anything to stop the Frenchman from holding his speed to take victory.
Herrada arrived at the finish 2-30 down on Geniez, and takes over the general classification lead by 3-22 over Simon Yates and another second over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
The Vuelta a España continues on Friday with a category one summit finish to stage 13, over 174.8km.
Vuelta a España 2018, stage 12: Mondoñedo to Faro de Estaca de Bares. Mañón (181.1k)
1 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, in 4-22-59
2 Dylan van Baarle (Ned) Team Sky
3 Mark Padun (Ukr) Bahrain-Merida
4 Dylan Teuns (Bel) BMC Racing Team, all same time
5 Victor Campenaerts (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 2s
6 Davide Formolo (Ita) Bora-Hansgrohe, at 5s
7 Gianluca Brambilla (Ita) Trek-Segafredo, at 24s
8 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quick-Step Floors, at 48s
9 Thomas De Gendt (Bel) Lotto Soudal, at 2-27
10 Valerio Conti (Ita) UAE Team Emirates, at 2-29
16. Jesus Herrada (Esp) Cofidis, at 2-32
22. Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 11-39
Overall classification after stage 12
1 Jesus Herrada (Esp) Cofidis
1 Simon Yates (GBr) Mitchelton-Scott, at 3-22
2 Alejandro Valverde (Esp) Movistar Team, at 3-23
3 Nairo Quintana (Col) Movistar Team, at 3-36
4 Ion Izagirre (Esp) Bahrain-Merida, at 3-39
5 Tony Gallopin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale, at 3-46
6 Emanuel Buchmann (Ger) Bora-Hansgrohe, at same time
7 Miguel Angel Lopez (Col) Astana Pro Team, at 3-49
8 Rigoberto Uran (Col) EF Education First-Drapac, at 3-54
9 Steven Kruijswijk (Ned) LottoNL-Jumbo, at 4-05
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