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John Degenkolb wins stage 12 at the Vuelta a Espana

John Degenkolb won his third stage at the Vuelta a Espana on Thursday as Alberto Contador retained his 20-second overall lead.

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A late accident marred the 166.4-kilometre 12th stage that ended in Logrono, but as it occurred in the final three kilometres, none of the general classification contenders lost time.

The incident allowed Giant-Shimano's Degenkolb to sprint away to victory, just ahead of Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma " Quick-Step) and Jacopo Guarniei (Astana).

"I feel great," Degenkolb said afterwards.

"I was hoping to win but I wasn't over confident. I pushed for the sprint at the right time which was fundamental. The whole team did a great job."

Contador, who saw his lead cut by Movistar's Alejandro Valverde on Wednesday, was held up by the crash but remained comfortably ahead of his fellow Spaniard.

Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma- Quick-Step) is one minute and eight seconds behind Contador, with Chris Froome (Team Sky) a further 12 seconds back.

Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ.fr) and Michael Matthews (Orica-GreenEDGE) " expected to contest for honours at the end " were both held up in the crash, which came at the end of a unique stage that saw riders complete eight laps of a flat 20.8km circuit.

The nature of the day's racing meant that a successful breakaway was always unlikely, but that did not stop Matthias Krizek (Cannondale) trying his luck.

He built up a lead of nine minutes at one stage and bravely held the lead until the final lap when, with 12km to go, he was eventually hauled in.

Degenkolb " who won the same stage two years ago " was always expected to challenge and had his chances greatly boosted by the accident, which occurred in the final kilometre.

Only 15 riders managed to escape the carnage and Degenkolb and team-mate Ramon Sinkeldam were among them.

Sinkeldam helped Degenkolb take the lead in the last 200 metres and the latter was then good enough to hold off a fast-finishing Boonen.

Peter Sagan (Cannondale) also finished well to take fourth on a day designed for the sprinters.

Contador will be pleased to have retained his lead and avoided the late carnage, but he is sure to be tested by Friday's 188.7km stage from Belorado to Obregon. Parque de Cabarceno.

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