Chris Horner of RadioShack-Leopard, the oldest man in this year's Vuelta a Espana, has taken his second stage of this year's race and with it goes back into the rted jersey of overall leader. The American, who will celebrate his 42nd birthday next month, attacked inside the last 5km of today's final climb to Alto Hazallanas to gain a margin of 52 seconds at the top of the overall standings over Astana's Vincenzo Nibali.
Horner, who spent a day in the leader's jersey after his Stage 3 victory which made him the oldest man to win a Grand Tour stage, and the oldest to lead one - a bar he has raised higher still today - quickly established what would be a decisive margin over his rivals, putting the best part of a minute into them by the time he passed under the 4km to go banner.
With 2km remaining, Nibali, winner of the Giro d'Italia in May and the 2010 Vuelta champion, set off from a select group in pursuit of Horner, but finished 48 seconds down on him on today's stage.
Movistar's Alejandro Valverde took third place, outsprinting Cannondale's Ivan Basso, Joaquin Rodriguez of Katusha and Thibaut Pinot of FDJ to the line. Valverde now lies third overall.
Among the riders dropped on today's last ascent, the highest rated so far in this year's race - it's categorised as 'especial,' similar to 'hors categorie' in the Tour de France - was the man who led the race this morning following his stage win yesterday, Katusha's Daniel Moreno.
Tomasz Marczynski of Vacansoleil-DCM had hit that final 15.8km climb at the front of the race, followed by fellow escapees Georg Preidler of Argos-Shimano and Lampre-ISD’s Diego Ulissi, who had led the race over the day’s penultimate climb, the Category 1 Alto de Monachil.
For much of the 175.5 km stage from Torredelcampo, the trio had been part of a ten-man break that had taken a long time to reach its eventual composition, as the peloton fought hard to reel in attacks in the opening hour, but the group split apart on that last but one ascent.
Officially, the final climb had an average gradient of 5 per cent over its entire length, but a section of false flat followed by a descent in the opening half of it made that figure deceptively low.
On the lower slopes, Movistar were forcing the pace on behalf of Valverde at the front of the bunch as they had done for much of the day, and one by one swallowed up the final members of the break.
As the road headed back upwards for the final 7km, the gradient hitting 18 per cent in places, what had been a group of around 30 riders at the bottom of the climb had been reduced to a handful of men.
Among them were AG2R’s Domenico Pozzovivo and Saxo-Tinkoff’s Nicolas Roche. Both would be dropped as – briefly – was Valverde, although Roche at least would limit his losses enough to finish seventh, just 8 seconds behind the quartet led across the line by the Spaniard.
Tomorrow sees the first rest day of this year's race, which resumes on Wednesday with an individual time trial.
Vuelta 2013 Stage 10 - Chris Horner back in red (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)
After his win, Horner said: “Movistar did a good job of making an initial selection and then when Nibali attacked hard he made the selection down to four riders.
"I saw that Valverde was suffering so I said to myself it was time to go as hard as I could. I thought if I could get a little gap that the others would play with some tactics behind me with none of them really wanting to work too hard. I don’t have quick acceleration, but once I get up to speed I can maintain it. So I knew if I could get a small gap I would be able to keep that speed all the way to the finish.
He went on: “I don’t expect to hold the jersey after the time trial – that isn’t my specialty and Nibali is a very good time trialist. I have a little bit of a time cushion now but I’m sure Nibali knew he could give me some time before the time trial and not worry about it. I can stay very close after that until we go to another mountain stage and that will decide this Vuelta. As you can see, every top rider is alone on the last climb, so it’s going to get down to tactics every time.”
Talking of that final ascent, he reflected: “This was a very difficult climb. It was steep and hard, but so steep that there was no draft at all. So it didn’t matter if you were in a group or solo, the effort required was the same. For me it was better to attack while the others played some tactics behind me. I watched my power meter and stayed at 98% all the way to the line, never at 100%.
“Today in the team meeting we talked about the climb. I didn’t think I’d seen it before, but once on it I remembered it from 2006 or 2007. So when we move the race north to the next climbs, it’s possible that I know none of those climbs, but perhaps I’ll know all of them.
“I don’t know if the time trial course suits me or not but it’s been a few years since I’ve had a good time trial, so I don’t expect to be able to keep the jersey but it is what it is. I’m a small guy, I’m a climber and sometimes I do a good time trial. Maybe that time will come again in two days.
“Fabian Cancellara was fantastic for me. Really the entire team was unbelievable today, they have worked so much for me. I couldn’t be happier. Again I’m the oldest rider to win a stage in a grand tour. I don’t feel real pressure in having the jersey, but once you have it there are many things you have to do after the stage with the press so it takes up more of your time when you want to rest. But with the rest day tomorrow I feel like I can recover fine. If I lose the jersey after the time trial, I will fight again on a mountain stage to get it back.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.