Vuelta a España: Chris Horner climbs into the red jersey on the Mirador de Lobeira
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Monday, August 26, 2013

Vuelta a España: Chris Horner climbs into the red jersey on the Mirador de Lobeira

by Ben Atkins at 12:14 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España, Race Reports and Results
 
Late attack sees American veteran become oldest ever Grand Tour stage winner and take overall lead

chris horner

Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) seized the overall lead in the 2013 Vuelta a España with a final kilometre attack in the third stage between Vigo and the Mirador de Lobeira above Vilagarcía de Arousa. The 41-year-old American jumped clear of the front of the peloton, as most of the big names in the race looked at one another, and passed Italian champion Ivan Santaromita (BMC Racing), who had broken away a kilometre before.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took the sprint for second place - with Santaromita having faded back into the chasing pack - just three seconds behind Horner, with Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) third, but it was not enough to prevent time bonuses from giving the American veteran the overall lead.

“It was fantastic today,” said Horner afterwards.  “There were multiple attacks but when I looked back and saw that I had a small I gap, I just said to myself that I was going.  There were so many attacks that when I finally got to the last rider I wasn’t 100 percent sure he was the last guy, but in the car they were telling me to ‘Go! Go!’ So I went full gas to the line.  It’s always a gift to win.  And when you win here with all of these world class riders, you know you are one of the best riders, too, and it’s a wonderful feeling.

“I hurt my knee earlier in the year,” the 41-year-old explained. “Utah was my first race since end of March but I’m back now and I feel good and motivated to win some races.  I’ve trained very hard and now I’m back to work.  I wanted to take the jersey today.  That was my plan and I hope to keep it as long as possible.

“I love racing,” he continued.  “Everyone keeps asking me when I am going to retire, but I won’t do that until I feel like I’m just suffering all day on the bike and never winning bike races.  At this moment I feel like I can keep racing forever.  We feel we can keep this jersey for a few days.  The team is so strong, we will work to keep it.  Markel [Irizar], Fabian [Cancellara], Rasty [Gregory Rast] – they are the best at riding on the flats and I will be well protected by them.  We will work for more stage wins too – I think I can win the Vuelta.

“Thank you RadioShack for sponsoring me and the team for 4 years. They stop now and also I am at the end of contract. My contract is free and open."

The 184.8km stage saw a breakaway from Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Cyril Bessy (Cofidis), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vicente Reynes (Lotto-Belisol) and Luca Dodi (Lampre-Merida), who escaped in the opening moments and were able to get six minutes ahead. The group was being steadily reeled in by the Omega Pharma-Quick Step and BMC Racing teams, until a crash with 43km to go split the peloton and the resulting acceleration from those at the front pulled them back soon afterwards.

Coastal winds made it tough for the dropped groups to regain the front of the peloton, but an overall slowing of pace as the leading group arrived inside the hillier final 20km saw the whole bunch regroup.

With the peloton all together the final kilometres were a fast, but cagey affair, as several teams were keen to keep the pace high but not willing to attack until the final, four kilometre, 3rd category climb arrived. Orica-GreenEdge led onto the climb, but Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) was the first rider to attack with three to go.

Santaromita attacked half a kilometre later, quickly overtaking the Spanish Classics specialist, but he was visibly slowing as Horner jumped clear of the pack with just over a kilometre to go.

With nobody committing to a chase, the American was quickly able to open up a stage-winning gap, and soloed to the finish to become the oldest ever winner of a Grand Tour stage and to take the red jersey.

A five-man group is kept within arms length until a crash disrupts the bunch

Ferrari, Bessy, Urtasun and Reynes attacked almost as soon as the flag was dropped, and were joined by Dodi after a few kilometres. Just as had happened the day before, the Astana team was happy to allow the five riders to open up a gap over the peloton, daring other teams that wanted stage wins to do the chasing. After 24km, with the group’s lead up to 5’56”, Omega Pharma-Quick Step was the team to take responsibility, and checked the progress of the gap.

After 34km the gap hit its maximum of six minutes, but at the 45km point it was down to five, as BMC Racing joined the chase. Ferrari took the intermediate sprint, in O Grove after 88km, with the gap down to 4’04”, and such was the speed of the chase that, after 100km - with almost 85km still to go - it was down to 2’30”.

Ten kilometres later the quintet’s lead had fallen to just 1’25”, and Omega Pharma-Quick Step and BMC Racing both sat up so as not to catch it too soon. As Urtasun took the second intermediate sprint, in A Escusa with 66.2km to go, the gap was back up to 2’32”, but then it began to fall steadily once again.

With 43km to go, the break’s lead was down to a minute, and a crash on left hand corner briefly brought much of the bunch to a standstill. Jorge Azanza (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Orica-GreenEdge’s man for the day Simon Gerrans were among the relatively few fallers, but far more were caught behind it.

Katusha, who had been on the front, accelerated and pulled a group of around sixty riders clear. Movistar and RadioShack-Leopard then came through to lift the pace even higher, which saw the breakaway’s final minute disappear quickly and the five riders were caught with 37km to go.

With 35km to go the lead peloton crossed the long bridge to the Illa de Arousa and, because the race was to use the bridge in both directions, plastic barriers had been down the middle of the road to separate each direction. This caused at least one rider to come down in the confusion, and the bunch split into two, on opposite sides of the barriers, regardless.

The peloton reforms as everybody prepares for the final rise to the line

Belkin was leading the second group, with Bauke Mollema having been caught behind the split, and was 35 seconds behind, but the central barriers caused the front group to ease up the pace. Mollema’s group soon caught up with the front peloton, but another group containing many of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team was 40 seconds back as Astana pulled the peloton back onto the bridge to cross back to the mainland.

Another group, containing several members of Euskaltel-Euskadi was back further still. With 25km to go the gap was 18 seconds to the Omega Pharma-Quick Step group, while the next group was a further 20 seconds behind.

Having had Alejandro Valverde put out of contention by Omega Pharma-Quick Step under similar circumstances at the Tour de France, Movistar was taking its revenge on the Belgian team.

Cannondale was helping out Movistar on a small, unclassified climb with 20km to go, but the Omega Pharma-Quick Step led group managed to regain contact. Having chased for the best part of 25km, the Euskaltel-Euskadi group also made it back on to the peloton

Mollema punctured with around 15km left, and the Dutchman was forced to chase for several kilometres as Movistar - with Cannondale - strung the peloton out again. Belkin had also been among those responsible for Valverde’s losing time at the Tour de France.

With 11km to go, Astana moved forward on a fast, straight descent, but Movistar and Cannondale were unwilling to give up control. The pace dropped considerably two kilometres later, however, as the highway that the peloton was riding on began to rise again.

RadioShack-Leopard and Argos-Shimano then came forward and lifted the pace again, but Orica-GreenEdge seized control as the final climb approached. Katusha tried to take over, but the Australian team was on the front in force as the road began to rise with four kilometres to go.

Orica-GreenEdge had the peloton strung out as it passed under the three kilometre banner, but Flecha managed to jump clear. Santaromita overtook the Spanish Classics specialist with two and a half to go, however, and the Italian champion was seven seconds clear under the two kilometre banner.

José Herrada (Movistar) was leading the chase, but making little progress on Santaromita as he approached the final kilometre. Horner jumped clear and passed the Italian champion just after the flamme rouge and, with the favourites looking at one another behind him, the American veteran powered clear to take the victory.

Valverde won the sprint for second place, just three seconds behind the American, with Rodríguez third.

Result stage 3
1. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard
2. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 3s
3. Joaquim Rodríguez (Spa) Katusha Team
4. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Sky Procycling
5. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
6. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Belkin Pro Cycling
7. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
8. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard @ 6s
9. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff
10. Ivan Basso (Ita) Cannondale Pro Cycling

Standings after stage 3
1. Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack-Leopard
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astana Pro Team @ 3s
3. Nicolas Roche (Irl) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 11s
4. Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard @ 13s
5. Robert Kiserlovski (Spa) RadioShack-Leopard @ 23s
6. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Movistar Team @ 24s
7. Rigoberto Urán (Col) Sky Procycling @ 25s
8. Rafal Majka (Pol) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 35s
9. Daniel Moreno (Spa) Katusha Team @ 44s
10. Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Team Saxo-Tinkoff @ 45s

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