Elissonde Wins Stage 20 of Vuelta; Horner Pads Overall Lead
Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) is poised to win the Vuelta a Espana when the race ends tomorrow in Madrid. The American distanced Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) on the Alto de L’Angliru to pad his overall lead. Ahead, Kenny Elissonde (Francaise des Jeux), the sole survivor of a daylong break, won Stage 20, a mountainous, 142.2-km ride from Aviles to Alto de L’Angliru, in 3:55:36. Horner finished second at 0:26, and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took third at 0:54.
did the pacemaking. Nibali put in another attack, but Horner, Valverde, and Rodriguez stayed with him. Nibali tried again, and Valverde and Rodriguez fell off of the pace. Another surge of Nibali forced the American to claw his way back to the Italian’s wheel.
With one km left, Elissonde led Nibali and Horner by one minute. He hung on for the biggest win of his career, throwing his arms aloft as he reached the finish line.
Horner attacked, and Nibali fell back. The RadioShack-Leopard man powered away from the Astana rider. Valverde caught Nibali and outsprinted him for third. After crossing the finish line, Horner laid on the tarmac for a time and was then escorted to a tent near the podium.
Horner exulted over his pending victory, which will make him the oldest rider to win a Grand Tour and the first American to win the Vuelta a Espana. “At my age I do not need to wait until tomorrow to let this sink in. I understand how beautiful it is. I love how big a fight Nibali brought to this and how hard and to such a dark place I had to dig to win this race. I had to go back to what works best for me. It took me a moment to realize as he kept attacking me that I needed to stick with what worked for me at the beginning and remind myself it would work for me again at the end. Finally, I had to bring the power up as high as possible all the way to the end so he wouldn’t have one moment to recover. Any time he could recover even just a little bit, he had time to accelerate. I made that mistake the first few times before I went to the front and set my own tempo.
“I knew how hard today would be and how much suffering I was in for. Nibali was amazing. To win here among such great champions such as Nibali and Valverde and Rodriguez means so much to me. To have those guys around me in this victory is incredible. To see Nibali attack so many times had to be so exciting for the fans of cycling. They must have been on the edge of their seats! It was a legendary moment, I think, to see someone of my age win a Grand Tour. I hope all of you enjoyed every pedal stroke and enjoyed my suffering and love it the same way I did. For every moment I suffered, I hope the fans truly enjoyed it.”
In the overall, Horner leads Nibali by 0:37 and Valverde by 1:36. Stage 20 will be a largely ceremonial procession for Horner, but victory in the flat, 109.6-km run from Leganes to Madrid will still have to be fought for. A sprinter will take the stage. Who will it be? Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp)? Gianni Meersman (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)? Michael Matthews (GreenEdge)? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!