DUMBRIA, Spain -- Joaquin Rodriguez surged past Alberto Contador on the final climb to win the 12th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Thursday and extend his overall lead to 13 seconds.
Rodriguez and Contador broke away from the peloton and rode wheel-to-wheel up the last stretch of a sharp ascent to finish the 118.4-mile leg.
"You can compare this end of stage to any in Italy, it is so explosive," Rodriguez said. "People had explained it to me and even though people tend to exaggerate, I didn't expect it to be so difficult. I waited, then sprinted and won it."
Rodriguez, who had a 1-second lead on Contador entering the stage, won his second stage in 4 hours, 24 minutes, 32 seconds. Contador crossed 8 seconds later.
Christopher Froome of Britain finished fifth, 23 seconds behind to trail Rodriguez by 51 seconds overall. Alejandro Valverde dropped to 1:20 behind Rodriguez after finishing third ahead of Robert Gesink of the Netherlands.
Contador was unconcerned about losing 12 seconds to Rodriguez.
"I'm feeling good and when the mountain stages come, with longer finishes, then I should get even better," said Contador, the 2008 champion.
The 13th stage Friday from Santiago de Compostela to Ferrol is the last before a pair of important weekend mountain stages that will test Rodriguez's ability to hold off Contador.
"Alberto is going to really take it to us this weekend," Rodriguez said. "The gap is very small and someone like Alberto makes you work very hard on a good day."
The 21-stage, three-week race ends in Madrid on Sept. 9.