TARRAGONA, Spain (AP) — World champion Philippe Gilbert won the 12th stage of the Spanish Vuelta on Thursday, and Vincenzo Nibali retained the leader's jersey.
Gilbert, a Belgian riding for BMC, caught Edvald Boasson and moved past him in the final meters (yards) to cross first ahead of the pack in the 164-kilometer (102-mile) stage from Maella to Tarragona on the Mediterranean coast.
Gilbert's first stage win of the season comes before he will have a chance to defend his title at the world road race championships in Florence, Italy, this month.
"I think this year has been very hard for me and I am very happy to win my first victory," said Gilbert. "I want to thank everybody that has trusted me all this season, and my family, of course. It's special for me because I have some family here in Catalonia."
Gilbert won in 4 hours. Boasson of Norway crossed second after appearing to have the win in his grasp. Argentine Maximiliano Richeze finished third.
The relatively flat ride didn't cause any major changes at the top of the overall classification.
Nibali lost two seconds of his lead, seeing it reduced to 31 seconds over Nicolas Roche. Alejandro Valverde and Christopher Horner are tied for third overall at 46 seconds behind.
Friday's 13th stage remains in the northeastern region of Catalonia for a second straight transition stage, a 169-kilometer (105-mile) route from Valls to Castelldefels.
The three-week race then heads back into the mountains for a trilogy of stages in the Pyrenees that could prove decisive.
After losing time in Wednesday's individual time trial, Joaquim Rodriguez said he needs to attack in the mountains to have a chance, as he's already 2 minutes, 33 seconds off Nibali's pace.
"It's clear I am not having my best race," said Rodriguez. "I hope that the motivation of riding at home helps me. To come back I will have to shake the race up."
The 68th Vuelta ends in Madrid on Sept. 15.