For the first time in his debut Vuelta, things did not go entirely according to plan for Remco Evenepoel after the race leader became the second Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl rider in as many days to hit the deck on a slippery corner.
Luckily for the man in red, the damage was not as severe as it was for his team-mate Julian Alaphilippe 24 hours earlier, the French world champion having been forced out of the race with a dislocated shoulder.
For Evenepoel, the damage was just superficial – a few cuts and bruises, not least to his ego after skidding out on an innocuous corner that posed no apparent danger, at a point in the race where the Belgian was under no real pressure.
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After venting his fury at the race director – citing the over-zealous braking of a motorcycle ahead of the peloton, plus the quality of the road surface – Evenepoel fought back into the pack and gathered his calm ahead of the final climb. Here on the fluctuating ramps of Penas Blancas, Evenepoel rode defensively in the wake of a superb stage win from Ecuador’s Richard Carapaz (Ineos Grenadiers), the Olympic champion emerging the strongest of the day’s large 32-man breakaway.
Carapaz crossed the line nine seconds clear of Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) as the Dutchman rose 15 places to sixth in the new top 10. Slovenia’s Jan Polanc also entered the top 10 after taking fourth place in the 192.7km stage just behind his UAE Team Emirates colleague Marc Soler.
Australia’s Jay Vine (Alpecin-Deceuninck) featured in the breakaway, but the double stage winner was unable to replicate his form from the opening week of the race, fading to seventh place on the final climb but retaining the polka dot jersey.
It was the slightly bloodied figure of Evenepoel who led the GC favourites home almost eight minutes down on Carapaz, the Belgian following all the accelerations and attacks on the 19km ascent before applying some pressure of his own in the closing kilometre.
Slovenia’s defending champion Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) and the Spanish duo of Enric Mas (Movistar) and Juan Ayuso (UAE Team Emirates) followed Evenepoel over the line for the same time, while the likes of Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana-Qazaqstan), Ineos Grenadiers duo Carlos Rodriguez and Tao Geoghegan Hart, and the Portuguese Joao Almeida (UAE Team Emirates) all lost a bit of time after being tailed off near the summit.

Remco Evenepoel of Belgium and Team Quick-Step - Alpha Vinyl - Red Leader Jersey competes injured after being involved in a crash during the 77th Tour of Spain 2022, Stage 12 a 192,7km stage from Salobreña - Peñas Blancas. Estepona 1260m / #LaVuelta22 /

Image credit: Getty Images

There was no change in the top three with Evenepoel still leading Roglic by 2’41" and Mas by 3’03". The top five is completed by Spanish champion Rodriguez and compatriot Ayuso, with Kelderman now sixth at 6’28".
Asked after the stage about the damage inflicted by his crash, Evenepoel said: "Just my leg but it’s fine, I think. My bike is much worse than myself. It was a super slippery corner – the motorbikes were slipping and slowing down as well. I wanted to cut the corner but it was too much.
"Sorry for my words, but s*** happens. The climb was good. I knew it was a climb to just follow. I went for the sprint at the end because I had something left. Now I’m just going to heal the wounds and try and recover tomorrow, which is a sprint stage."

Evenepoel crashes, rages at commissaires

Carapaz, Vine, Kelderman and Soler were always going to be the danger men from a large break of 32 riders which extricated itself from the peloton after a fast and furious opening hour of the longest stage of the race. Only four teams – Cofidis, Groupama-FDJ, Kern Pharma and Lotto Soudal – were not represented in the move, which quickly established a strong lead as the riders hugged the Andalusian coast.
A gap of six minutes as the race left the seaside at Malaga soon doubled on a long, uncategorised climb inland. Twice a runner-up on previous stages, Samuele Battistella (Astana-Qazaqstan) tried his luck with a long-range attack on the climb – but the Italian was swept up by the time the break returned to the coast at Marbella.
It was on the long, twisting descent where Evenepoel had his moment of madness, the 22-year-old attacking a tight right-hand bend with too much eagerness as Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl led the peloton in pursuit of the leaders.
Battistella enjoyed another foray off the front as he picked up the spoils in the intermediate sprint at Estepona with 20km to go before the breakaway finally started to fracture on the long final climb. It was Kelderman’s Bora team-mate Matteo Fabbro who did the damage, the Italian setting a strong tempo which soon reduced the leading group to 10 riders ahead of the finale.
Entering the final 5km, Frenchman Elie Gesbert (Arkea-Samsic) and Polanc put in some early attacks to distance Vine and Soler before Carapaz put in his decisive attack 2km from the summit to drop Kelderman, Gesbert and the German Marco Brenner (Team DSM).

Stage 12 highlights: Evenepoel shows 'who’s boss’ after crash, Carapaz takes stage win

Carapaz held on for the win to take an emotional win, the 29-year-old punching his handlebars as well as the air in celebration after what has been a frustrating final Grand Tour for him at Ineos ahead of his impending move to EF Education-EasyPost.
The win saw Carapaz, the 2019 Giro champion and 2020 Vuelta runner-up, rise eight places to 16th in the standings, albeit still a whopping 11’37 behind a man who emerged relatively unscathed from a day that almost sparked disaster.
Evenepoel will hope there are no ill after effects to his crash as La Vuelta continues on Friday with the lumpy 171km Stage 13, which favours the breakaway specialists and sprinters with a decent uphill kick: the final ramp into Montilla won’t favour the flat-track bullies.
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