Vuelta hat-trick for Degenkolb

John Degenkolb sprinted to his third victory of this year's Vuelta a Espana on stage 12 as Alberto Contador retained his overall lead and Chris Froome stayed fourth.

Degenkolb was one only a dozen or so riders who avoided a crash in the peloton in the last 1km and the Giant-Shimano rider capitalised by beating Tom Boonen into second place and Jacopo Guarnieri into third.

Contador and his rivals for overall victory all followed around 40 seconds later after being held up by the accident, but because it took place in the final 3km, they were awarded the same time as the front-runners.

The result means Contador remains 20 seconds ahead of second-placed Alejandro Valverde in the general classification, with Rigoberto Uran still 1min 08sec back in third and Froome 12 seconds further adrift in fourth.

The 116.4km stage took place over eight laps of a flat 20.8km circuit around Logrono, in northern Spain, and with a bunch-sprint finish a near certainty, only one man, Cannondale's Matthias Krizek, opted to break away from the peloton.

The Austrian built up a lead of over eight minutes, but the sprint teams in the main bunch measured the chase perfectly and swallowed him back up with 12km to go.

Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo team then took over pace-setting on the front of the pack as they looked to keep the red jersey out of trouble, and they didn't move off the nose until they had passed under the 1km-to-go banner.

Ironically, almost as soon as they had done so, a crash close to the head of the race held up all of the general classification teams, as well as the and Orica-GreenEdge sprint squads of Nacer Bouhanni and Michael Matthews respectively, ruling both riders out of contention for the stage win.

Degenkolb had been better placed and not only did he avoid the pile-up, he also still had one team-mate, Ramon Sinkeldam, to lead him out in the final 500m.

He started his sprint with 150m remaining and although Boonen (Omega Pharma – Quick-Step) came back at him strongly, there was no denying the German an eighth Vuelta stage win of his career.

Stage 12 result

1 John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Shimano, 4:11:182 Tom Boonen (Bel) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, same time3 Jacopo Guarniei (Ita) Astana, st4 Peter Sagan (Svk) Cannondale, st5 Maximiliano Ariel Richeze (Arg) Lampre-Merida, st6 Yannick Martinez (Fra) Europcar, st7 Lloyd Mondory (Fra) Ag2r-La Mondiale, st8 Fabian Cancellara (Swi) Trek Factory Racing, st9 Jasper Stuyven (Bel) Trek Factory Racing, st10 Guillaume Boivin (Can) Cannondale, stSelected others19 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, st21 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, st22 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, st

General classification

1 Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo, 44:38:142 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar, +20sec3 Rigoberto Uran (Col) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step, +1:084 Chris Froome (GB) Team Sky, +1:205 Joaquim Rodriguez (Spa) Katusha, +1:356 Samuel Sanchez (Spa) BMC Racing, +1:527 Fabio Aru (Ita) Astana, +2:138 Winner Anacona (Col) Lampre-Merida, +2:229 Robert Gesink (Ned) Belkin, +2:5510 Damiano Caruso (Ita) Cannondale, +3:51