Horner Takes Stage 3 of Vuelta and Red Jersey
In the opening minutes of the stage, Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Cyril Bessy (Cofidis), Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vicente Reynes (Lotto-Belisol), and Luca Dodi (Lampre-Merida) got clear. Astana refused to expend energy chasing, and the quintet’s lead was 5:56 at 24 km. Omega Pharma-Quick Step then went to the front to peg the lead.
At about 35 km, the escapees’ lead maxed out at about six minutes. BMC joined the pursuit, however, and 10 km later, the gap had narrowed to five minutes. It continued to drop to 4:04 at 88 km and 2:30 at about 100 km.
At about 110 km, the fugitives were 1:25 ahead of the peloton. Omega Pharma-Quick Step and BMC backed off to avoid catching the break too soon, and the gap widened to 2:32. The peloton started chasing again, and the lead began to drop once more.
With 43 km left and the break’s lead at about one minute, a crash occurred on a left turn. Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), a favorite to win today, was the best-known rider to hit the deck. The crash delayed many other riders.
Katusha, which led the peloton, accelerated and formed a group of about 60 riders. Movistar and RadioShack-Leopard joined the Russian squad at the front, and the lead group reeled in the break with 37 km left.
Two km later, another crash occurred. This one split the lead group and delayed the chase group, which Belkin was leading. The chase group did catch the lead group, while other groups struggled to catch up. Movistar began to drive the lead group.
Cannondale joined the Spanish squad at the front. One group, which Omega Pharma-Quick Step led, joined the lead group, as did another, which Euskaltel-Euskadi drove. With 15 km left, Bauke Mollema (Belkin) punctured, but he got back on.
Four km later, Astana moved to the front, but Movistar and Cannondale battled the Kazakh squad. The pace dropped for a time, but RadioShack-Leopard and Argos-Shimano went to the front and sped things up. Orica-GreenEdge took command and fought off Katusha. The Australian team led the field onto the three-km climb to the finish.
Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil-DCM) jumped clear. Ivan Santaromita (BMC) followed and caught the Spaniard with 2.5 km left. With two km left, the Italian road champion led the field by 0:07.
Horner attacked and overtook Santaromita with just less than one km remaining. The heads of state chased hard, but the RadioShack-Leopard man held on for the win and the red jersey.
Opportunity beckoned, and Horner capitalized on it. “It was fantastic today,” the American said. “There were multiple attacks, but when I looked back and saw that I had a small 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.”
Horner’s season has been difficult because of a knee injury, but he found his form in the nick of time. “I hurt my knee earlier in the year,” he said. “[The Tour of] Utah was my first race since the 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.”
The RadioShack-Leopard man is one of the oldest riders in the peloton (41 years old), but he still feels that he can race with the young guys, and he has no plans to retire. Horner said, “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.” He added that RadioShack-Leopard brought a strong contingent to the Vuelta. “We will work for more stage wins too--I think I can win the Vuelta,” he said.
In the overall, Horner leads Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) by 0:06 and Nicolas Roche (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff) by 0:14. The 189-km ride from Lalin to Fisterra has only one categorized climb, but it has many short, punchy climbs and an uphill finish. A small group should fight for the win. Who will be in it? Check in at www.roadcycling.com and find out!