Vincenzo Nibali surprised to get back Vuelta a España lead so quickly
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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Vincenzo Nibali surprised to get back Vuelta a España lead so quickly

by Ben Atkins at 3:44 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Vuelta a España
 
Chris Horner bullish after losing out to finish line split

vincenzo nibaliVincenzo Nibali (Astana) was a surprise recipient of the Vuelta a España’s red jersey after today’s fourth stage, between Lalín and Finisterra, after a small gap near the front of the peloton saw Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) lose six seconds. The Italian Giro d’Italia champion was a little relieved to have conceded the race lead to the American veteran, after Horner won yesterday’s stage, since it took the pressure off his team to control the race, but now has it back again.

“Chris Horner’s team had the objective to keep the red jersey, it comes as a surprise for me to get it back,” Nibali said after the stage. “I don’t know what happened. There might have been a gap somewhere…

“I didn’t do any great action,” Nibali said of his own ride in the stage. “We targeted the stage for Maxim Iglinskiy but it was difficult to position him in this very fast sprint. It’s been a very nervous stage from 30km to go till here at the “end of the world”.

Astana took the red jersey on stage one, following its victory in the team time trial, with the honour given to Slovenian Janez Brajkovič after he crossed the line first. Nibali then took it from his teammate after stage two’s finish on Monte da Groba, but lost it to Horner on the Mirador de Lobeira yesterday.

The onus is generally on the race leader’s team to control the race, and ride on the front of the peloton all day to control any breakaways, which can prematurely wear down the team of an overall hopeful if they have the jersey this early. On stages two and three, however, Astana relaxed and allowed the breakaways to build huge leads, saving its riders’ legs and daring other teams with stage ambitions to chase it down, and this is likely to happen in the days to come.

The ideal scenario for Nibali tomorrow would be for an overall no-hoper to take it from him as part of a successful breakaway, so that he can relax as much as possible as the race approaches the first real mountain stages.

“We’ll ride the next stage with serenity,” he confirmed. “As I said the previous days, the Vuelta is still long. You have seen as well as I did who are my main rivals, [Movistar’s Alejandro] Valverde, [Katusha’s Joaquim] Rodríguez…, those who have taken some time bonus atop the hills. But we haven’t experienced the real climbs of the Vuelta yet.

“It’s been more of a nervous kind of racing so far,” he added. “My team has managed to keep me up the front with caution and avoid too big gaps.”

Horner himself was bullish after losing the jersey, having unsuccessfully appealed against the jury’s decision to recognise the gap in the peloton. On winning stage three, the 41-year-old became the oldest rider ever to take a Grand Tour stage, and the oldest to ever hold the lead in one, and the confidence he gained has made him certain that his time in the Vuelta sun is far from over.

“It’s not a bad thing to lose the red jersey by only a few seconds,” he said. “It’s even better because it makes this my last interview until we reached the mountains where I’ll get the jersey back. For the sponsors it’s better to see the red jersey every day, but for me it’s better this way. I have good legs. If my team takes care of me the way they can, I’ll have a fantastic Vuelta.”

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