Chris Horner of the US rolled back the years for the second time on the Vuelta a Espana on Monday when the 41-year-old claimed another impressive mountain-top stage win and regained the overall lead.
Horner, who is already cycling’s oldest Grand Tour stage winner and race leader after his stage three triumph in Lobeira, Spain, last week, proved equally unstoppable in Monday’s 10th stage.
The RadioShack Leopard Trek veteran attacked 4km from the summit of the Alto de Hazallanas ascent to stop the clock at the summit of the sun-drenched 15km climb 48 seconds ahead of Italian race favorite Vincenzo Nibali of Astana.
Spain’s top contender, Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, was in third place.
With the first rest day scheduled for yesterday, Horner leads by 43 seconds from Nibali with Ireland’s Nicolas Roche of Saxo-Tinkoff third, 53 seconds further back.
“I knew if I attacked and got 10 or 15 seconds then they would start playing games and start marking each other,” Horner, who turned professional in 1995, told reporters. “Nibali was the strongest there, but things got very tactical.”
Horner was pessimistic about his chances of retaining the lead in today’s 38.8km individual time trial in Tarazona.
“It’s been a long time, a good couple of years since I did a good time trial,” he said. “I expect Nibali will get the [leader’s] jersey there, but sometimes, just sometimes, I do do a good time trial.”
After making the pace on the lower slopes of the final climb and seeing Spanish overnight leader Dani Moreno of Katusha fall back, Nibali staged a lone, fruitless, pursuit of Horner.
Asked if he had wanted the lead, Nibali responded: “I always do, but Horner did a brilliant ride.”
“I’m not too worried, though, we’re not even halfway through yet and the hardest part of the Vuelta is yet to come,” the Italian said.
Although none of their riders won and their best rider, Spain’s Igor Anton, finished eighth on the stage, the Euskaltel-Euskadi team were all smiles at the finish.
They had been told that their 17-year-old team would no longer fold at the end of this season, with Formula One driver Fernando Alonso, a long-standing fan of the sport, poised to buy the team’s license for the WorldTour, cycling’s top league.
“This news is way better than any victory” team leader and 2008 Olympic gold medalist Samuel Sanchez of Spain said. “Now, at least, we can get on with the Vuelta without being worried about our jobs for next year.”
The race finishes in Madrid on Sept. 15.