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(AP) - Spanish climbing specialist Samuel Sanchez won the 12th stage of the Tour de France on Thursday and Thomas Voeckler retained the overall lead as the race entered the high mountains for the first time.

After a string of setbacks in earlier stages, defending champion Alberto Contador struggled up the main climb and lost crucial seconds to other pre-race favorites for overall victory.

Stage 12 Results
1. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez Euskaltel-Euskadi - 6:01:15
2. Jelle Vanendert Omega Pharma-Lotto - 0:00:07
3. Fränk Schleck Leopard Trek - 0:00:10
4. Ivan Basso Liquigas-Cannondale - 0:00:30
5. Cadel Evans BMC Racing Team
6. Andy Schleck Leopard Trek
7. Damiano Cunego Lampre - ISD - 0:00:35
8. Alberto Contador Velasco Saxo Bank Sungard - 0:00:43
9. Thomas Voeckler Team Europcar - 0:00:50
10. Pierre Rolland Team Europcar

General classification after Stage 12
1. Thomas Voeckler Team Europcar - 51:54:44
2. Fränk Schleck Leopard Trek - 0:01:49
3. Cadel Evans BMC Racing Team - 0:02:06
4. Andy Schleck Leopard Trek - 0:02:17
5. Ivan Basso Liquigas-Cannondale - 0:03:16
6. Damiano Cunego Lampre - ISD - 0:03:22
7. Alberto Contador Velasco Saxo Bank Sungard - 0:04:00
8. Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez Euskaltel-Euskadi - 0:04:11
9. Thomas Danielson Team Garmin-Cervelo - 0:04:35
10. Nicolas Roche AG2R La Mondiale - 0:04:57

Full results here..

Jersey Standings:
Thomas Voeckler
Mark Cavendish
Samuel Sanchez
Arnold Jeannesson

Links to news sites...

"Contador loses more time as Sanchez wins Tour 12th stage
By Justin Davis (AFP)

LUZ ARDIDEN, France - Embattled champion Alberto Contador lost more time to key yellow jersey rivals on Thursday as Olympic champion Samuel Sanchez claimed his maiden win in the Tour de France.

Spaniard Sanchez came over the finish line of the 211km 12th stage ahead of Belgian Jelle Vanendert after attacking the Omega-Pharma rider inside the final 400 metres of the 13.3km climb to Luz Ardiden.

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler upset the form book to retain the race leader's yellow jersey after the first of three consecutive days in the Pyrenees.

Helped by his surprising Europcar team throughout, Voeckler stuck with a group that contained all the real yellow jersey favourites -- admitting later that he had been helped by the absence of incisive attacks." Read more from AFP...

"Sanchez wins first stage as champion Contador loses time in Tour

(CNN) -- Samuel Sanchez finally won his first stage at the Tour de France on Thursday, but the title hopes of his fellow Spanish cyclist Alberto Contador suffered a surprise blow as the race headed into the mountains.

Sanchez was fourth in the sport's biggest event last year, but found himself more than five minutes behind leader Thomas Voeckler going into the 12th leg from Cugnaux to Luz Ardiden.

However, the 2008 Olympic road race champion sped clear of the bunch of escaped riders going into the final ascent along with Jelle Vanendert, and the 33-year-old held off the Belgian for a memorable victory by seven seconds in the Pyrenees.

It came almost 10 years after his Basque-based Euskaltel team's first stage win at Le Tour, also at Luz Ardiden." Read more from CNN International...

Photos by CorVos