Nobody could match Joaquim Rodriguez on the two-kilometre wall up to the finish at Mirador de Ezaro as he won stage 12 to extend his Vuelta lead.
After limiting his losses impressively and keeping his lead by a second in yesterday’s long time-trial, his weakest point, Rodriguez put the accelerator down on this better-suiting brute, a viciously-steepening climb in Galicia.
Escaping with a kilometre to go with closest rival Alberto Contador, the explosive Katusha climber blasted away on the 20% gradient with 500 metres to go and distanced him.
Froome loses time
Chris Froome (Team Sky) recovered to finish fifth after losing position, though he dropped 42 seconds to Rodriguez.
The stage opened with a an eyeballs out 80 kilometres. Several unsuccessful breakaway compositions shoot out and drift back into the bunch until the right mix clicked.
Mikel Astarloza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Amael Moinard (BMC), Kevin De Weert (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEdge) escaped.
During the comparative lull behind, Team Sky suffered a blow as Froome domestique Xabier Zandio crashed and abandoned the race.
The chasers rallied along the rugged Galician coast as Movistar and Katusha rode hard to the foot of the final climb to close the gap to below a minute.
Hitting the narrow slopes, Astarloza survived the longest, before he, Meyer and late attacker Igor Anton were caught and spat out by Rodriguez and Contador’s move.
The climbing continues on Saturday in stage 14, with a mountain-top finish on the first-category climb of Puerto de Ancares. Tomorrow the riders face a flatter day between Santiago de Compostela and Ferrol.
Vuelta a Espana, stage 12: Vilagarcia de Arousa-Mirador de Ezaro, 190.5km
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 4-24-32
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sungard at 8secs
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Team Movistar at 13secs
4. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 20secs
5. Chris Froome (Gbr) Team Sky at 23secs
6. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha
7. Igor Anton (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 27secs
8. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 31secs
9. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-ISD at 33secs
10. Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi at 36secs
General classification after stage 12
1. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha 44-50-35
2. Alberto Contador (Spa) Saxo Bank-Sungard at 13secs
3. Chris Froome (Gbr) Team Sky at 51secs
4. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) at 1-20
5. Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank at 2-59
6. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha at 3-29
7. Nicholas Roche (Irl) Ag2r-La Mondiale at 4-22
8. Andrew Talansky (Usa) Garmin-Sharp at 5-17
9. Laurens Ten Dam (Ned) Rabobank at 5-18
10. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank at 6-01
Ian Stannard and Chris Froome
Alberto Contador and Joaquin Rodriguez
Vuelta a Espana 2012: Reports
Stage one report: Movistar win team time trial
Stage two report: Degenkolb wins, Swift third
Stage three report: Valverde victorious after Contador attacks
Stage four report: Rodriguez takes over lead after Valverde crashes
Stage five report: Degenkolb wins again
Stage six report: Froome gains time on Contador
Stage seven report: Degenkolb makes it three at Vuelta
Stage eight report: Valverde doubles his score in Andorra
Stage nine report: Gilbert pips Rodriguez in Barcelona
Stage 10 report: Degenkolb continues unbeaten sprint record
Stage 11: Rodriguez hangs onto lead as Kessiakoff wins time trial
Vuelta a Espana 2012: Photos
Stage one TTT gallery
Stage two gallery
Stage three gallery
Stage four gallery
Stage five gallery
Stage six gallery
Stage seven gallery
Stage eight gallery
Stage nine gallery
Stage 10 gallery
Stage 11 gallery