World Champion Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) jumped away in the last 200 metres to take victory in Stage 12 of the Vuelta a Espa¤a. The Italian World Champion, nicknamed il Grillo (the Cricket) was the strongest in a wet finish on the day that Bettini announced that he was seeking a new team for next year, after his Quick Step team announced the signing of German powerhouse Stefan Schumacher. The rest of the Stage 12 podium had an Italian flavor with Olympic silver medallist Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) second and Damiano Cunego (Lampre) finishing and third. Vuelta a Espa¤a Stage 12 proved to be disastrous for Spanish Champion Alejandro Valverde, as he was dropped like a rock on the final descent of the day and the subsequent time loss put him out of overall contention in the Vuelta a Espa¤a.
Stage 12 started under sunny skies in Burgos, but misty and foggy conditions on the climbs mid-stage then gave way to rain in the north coastal area around the finish in Suances. The break of the day escaped after just 10km, when Stage 10 winner Sebastien Hinault (Credit Agricole) got away with Sandy Casar (Franaise des Jeux) & Manuel Quinziato (Liquigas). The trio co-operated well together, stretching their lead to a maximum of 4’32” after 32km, but this stabilised to 3’30” at the stage’s mid point, with Quick Step, Lampre and Caisse d’Epargne leading the peloton.
On the the final descent of the day of the Alto del Caracol, with less than 40km to go, a split happened in the peloton and contender Valverde was one of those left behind on the wet, slippery roads. Pressure from Euskaltel-Euskadi, Astana and Xacobeo then opened up the gap over Spanish champ Valverde, who had called his entire Caisse d’Epargne team back to chase. This then heightened the pace in the peloton, which also had the effect of catching the three breakaway riders Hinault, Casar & Quinziato earlier than they might have expected, at around 30km from the finish.
Inside the final few kilometres, other attacks from Quinziato, who had managed to stay near the front after being caught, and Alberto Contador (Astana) were to no avail. Then, with a few hundred metres remaining, World Champion Bettini then attacked on the uphill finish, and not even Rebellin or Cunego had any answer as Bettini took his second stage win of this Vuelta. By the finish, Valverde had lost a total of 3:23, effectively ending his golden jersey campaign.