2012 Vuelta a España, Stage 1 to Stage 11

The 2012 Vuelta a España began on 18 August, and stage 11 occurred on 29 August. The 2012 edition began with a team time trial stage – where each member of a team started together racing against the clock – in Pamplona, Navarre with the race remaining in Spain until the finish to the eighth stage, with a summit finish at the Collada de la Gallina in Andorra. After the ninth stage, the race's first rest day saw the riders travel across Spain by air from Barcelona to Ponteareas; a road stage was followed by the only individual time trial of the race, where each remaining member of the starting peloton of 198 riders competed against the clock. The Movistar Team were the winners of the race-opening team time trial, recording a time ten seconds quicker than any other squad; their first rider to cross the line, Jonathan Castroviejo, became the first race leader as a result. He maintained his lead through the first mass-start stage the following day – the first of four stage victories for German sprinter John Degenkolb, who also won stages 5, 7 and 10 – but lost the lead following the first summit finish of the race in Eibar. The rojo jersey remained within the team however, as Alejandro Valverde picked up the race lead after pipping Joaquim Rodríguez in a photo-finish at the stage end. Valverde gave up the lead the following day, after crashing with several other members of his team just as the peloton's pace was being increased by the team on the front, Team Sky. As a result, Valverde apportioned blame to Team Sky, while his team manager, at one point, pulled alongside his opposite number from Team Sky for discussions. Rodríguez assumed the lead of the race then, but held a marginal one-second lead ahead of Chris Froome. There were no changes in the classification until another summit finish on the sixth stage, when Rodríguez and Froome were the two contenders for the stage victory. Froome had attacked to bring himself and Rodríguez, but a second attack from Rodríguez brought him clear, and with time bonuses on the line, extended his lead to ten seconds. In Andorra, it again came down to the main favourites for the race; for a time, Alberto Contador attacked off the front and maintained a lead of around ten seconds – looking for his first victory since his return from a doping ban – before tying up and Valverde and Rodríguez beat him to the line, with Froome having cracked further back. Rodríguez put another twenty seconds into his lead the following day after attacking on the final climb, and his advantage of around a minute prior to the individual time trial was sufficient for him to maintain the lead after the stage; he put in the seventh-fastest time on the stage to keep the leader's jersey, but by only a second from Contador, who moved ahead of Froome in the classification. As a result, Rodríguez topped the overall standings with the more mountainous second half of the Vuelta still to race.


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