Horner moves into contention for Pais Vasco victory
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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Horner moves into contention for Pais Vasco victory

by VeloNation Press at 2:17 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta al Pais Vasco
American rider equal on time to race leader Sanchez

Chris HornerEnding the day second overall after an impressive climbing display on the final climb, American Chris Horner has shown that he could be one of the riders fighting for the overall victory in Saturday’s concluding time trial.

The RadioShack Nissan rider finished third on the leg to Santuario Arrate, being beaten by Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) in the sprint to the line, but appearing to sacrifice the stage win in order to maintain their gap over a chasing group.

When Rodriguez slowed inside the final kilometre to beckon Sanchez to do his turn, Horner immediately moved to the front to keep the momentum going. This left him vulnerable to Sanchez’s winning surge, but also helped ensure the group hit the line twelve seconds ahead of those chasers.

World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quick Step) was in this group and, with a 18.3 kilometre time trial winding up the race on Saturday, will be a big GC threat if he can limit his losses in tomorrow’s mountain stage.

Having finished second in last month’s Tirreno Adriatico, his first race since crashing out of the Tour de France, he’s determined to both clock up a victory. He’s placed first and second overall in the race before.

Horner explained how things played out today. “None of the teams were really strong enough to blow things up,” he said. “I knew I had to make the race hard so eventually I just had to go. I had to put in the first attack, which is never smart, I know.”

He jumped clear approximately five kilometres from the finish, just after breakaway riders Angel Vicioso and Giampaolo Caruso (Katusha) were caught. His first surge was covered by Robert Kiserlovski (Astana), who also went clear, then Rodriguez brought the group back up to them.

The latter then launched the decisive attack with 4.4 kilometres to go; Horner went with him, then Sanchez bridged across.

“I knew I could put in the first attack, explode the field and then follow whoever came with me,” he continued. “Of course I would have preferred that someone else attacked first – then I could do the following and be really good. But what are you going to do?”

Tomorrow’s stage ends with a summit finish at Bera-Ibardin, but he’s not sure how decisive it will be. “The final climb isn’t really steep enough and none of the domestiques are strong enough to explode the field,” he said. “I think it will be a big group until the last 500 meters, so we’ll only see a small separation at the top, maybe a handful of seconds. My real concern today was that Tony Martin was still with us at the bottom of the climb and we didn’t want to hand him the GC.”

It remains to be seen how the German will fare tomorrow, and if he will be able to overcome his overall deficit on Saturday. Horner is now level on time with the new race leader Sanchez, while Rodriguez is also deadlocked at the top.



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