BILBAO, Spain — Jens Keukeleire of Belgium won the 12th stage of the Spanish Vuelta, while Nairo Quintana maintained his overall lead on Thursday.
Keukeleire, riding for Orica BikeExchange, used a late burst to pull away and win his first stage at a grand tour by over two bike lengths.
He completed the hilly 193-kilometer (120-mile) route that traversed four ascents between Los Corrales de Buelna and Bilbao in 4 1/2 hours.
“My director said, ‘If you are there at the end, you can give it a crack.’ And I was good enough to take it over,” Keukeleire said. “What makes it special is that I just became a father four weeks ago, and my girlfriend and son are here with me.”
Quintana protected his 54-second lead over Chris Froome, before the race enters three consecutive stages in the Pyrenees Mountains.
The two frontrunners held off from attacking one another after back-to-back duels on summit finishes, and crossed the line in the large lead group.
“There are no easy days. There haven’t been, and there won’t be,” Quintana said.
There were no changes among the top-10 times. Quintana’s Movistar teammate, Alejandro Valverde, remained in third place at 1:05 behind.
Early in the stage, Froome’s Sky team launched two riders, Peter Kennaugh and David Lopez, in a small breakaway group of six riders. But Astana led the peloton back and swallowed them up by the start of the second ascent over the Alto El Vivero before the flat finish.
Friday’s 13th stage is the longest of the three-week race. The 213-kilometer (133-mile) route starting in Bilbao goes over four category-three climbs and briefly dips into France before finishing in Urdax.