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Final climb of Pena Cabarga sees top two on GC go into final stages almost neck and neck

Team Sky's Vasil Kiryienka, a member of the team that helped Chris Froome win the Tour de France in July, went on a solo attack with 45km left of today's Vuelta Stage 18 to clinch victory on the punishing ascent of the Peña Cabarga above the port of Santander. Behind him, on ramps that went up to 20 per cent in places, RadioShack-Nissan's Chris Horner attacked race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Astana, who had led by 28 seconds this morning. That gap has now been slashed to just 3 seconds.

Horner finished sixth on the stage and Nibali, clearly in trouble on the tough, final part of the 5.9km climb, tenth. There's a Category 2 summit finish tomorrow, above the city of Oviedo in the Asturias region, but the race will most likely be decided on the fabled climb of the Angliru on Saturday.

Horner, who turns 42 next month, is seeking to become the oldest man ever to win a Grand Tour, while Nibali, winner of the Giro d'Italia in May, would become the first man since Alberto Contador completed a Giro and Vuelta double in 2008 to win two Grand Tours in the same season.

On Stage 14 of the 2010 Vuelta, Nibali, then with Liquigas, had lost 20 seconds on the Peña Cabarga to Katusha’s Joaquin Rodriguez, the stage winner.

Race leader Igor Anton of Euskaltel-Euskadi had crashed shortly before that final climb, however, and it was Nibali who took over the race lead that evening.

He would lose the red jersey to Rodriquez on Stage 16 but won it back the following day, and kept it all the way to Madrid to seal his first Grand Tour win.

Today, it was Nibali who hit the final climb in the leader’s jersey, but by the top of the ascent he would be hanging onto it by a thread.

Only the fact that four members of the day’s break crossed the line ahead of Horner prevented the American from picking up a time bonus that would have seen him move to the top of the General Classification.

Of the riders ahead of him, Saxo-Tinkoff’s Chris Anker Sorensen and Adam Hansen of Lotto Belisol finished second and third respectively to mop up the remaining bonus seconds on offer.

On the first half of the climb, where the maximum gradient was 12 per cent Nibali had tracked Horner, but it was once the overall contenders hit the last 2km following a flatter section that battle was joined in earnest.

Horner looks to get away from Nibali (© Unipublic/Graham Watson)

As they headed onto the second, and more taxing, part of that final ascent, Nibali and third placed rider overall, Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, made contact as they rounded a bend and fought to stay on Horner's wheel.

Valverde was dropped immediately, while Nibali would cling on to Horner until the American put down the hammer on the steepest section.

By the time Nibali crossed the line, Horner had taken more than 20 seconds out of him for the second time this week, and the Italian, apparently invulnerable when winning the Giro this year, had also been overhauled by a now recovered Valverde.

Reflecting on the day, Nibali said: "It’s been a very eventful stage. I was going very well today and I intended to gain some time over my rivals, but Horner has demonstrated to being too agile. I thought I had the race under control when he rode away. He got me off his wheel! At the age of 42, he’s very strong!

"For sure it’s going to be difficult to beat him if he doesn’t have any moment of weakness. Even Rodriguez has tried to drop him off and didn’t succeed. Movistar has set a very high pace. But Horner is definitely the strongest.

"I’m not optimistic, I’m not pessimistic, I take this result with philosophy. I came to the Vuelta to do my best. I also wanted to win a stage and I’ve not achieved that yet. But my condition has been excellent up to now. I’m still the race leader and I still believe in my chances.”

“Three seconds," mused Horner following the stage. "I guess if won’t matter either way if I get dropped on one of the next two stages. We’ll have to see how things go. I can’t stress on three seconds right now. 

"I made up a lot of time today and the gap is smaller; that’s what is important to me. The team is fantastic, I just can’t thank them enough."

While Nibali had ridden the Peña Cabarga climb twice before - that day he took the lead in 2010, and again the following year when Sky's Froome took the win - Horner confessed he hadn't tackled it before, despite once being a local.

"When I rode with Saunier Duval back in 2005 I lived in an apartment right over there but I never rode up this climb so I didn’t know it too well. 

"But it was so steep it didn’t matter much. 

"I let my legs recover on the one section that isn’t so steep, maybe that is where I lost three seconds. 

"I’m at my best when the climb is the steepest and there is no draft so I can just go my hardest.”

Certainly Horner seemed a lot more upeat following the stage than Nibali.

"Saturday’s climb [of the Angliru] is the better day for me, but when you are going against the best guys in the world, you have to pay attention on every stage. 

"Tomorrow could be a game of tactics. I thought I could take the jersey today but I was three seconds off. I felt confident today and very fresh from the hard work Cancellara did yesterday."

After paying tribute to the team mates who had worked for him during the stage, he added: "It was a good day, I enjoyed it. 

"I just need to keep my form for another few days to get the red jersey and take it to Madrid.”

Away from the drama of the General Classification, Kiryienka, who had taken a solo victory on Stage 20 of the 2011 Giro d’Italia when riding for Caisse d’Epargne, rode strongly up the final climb to take a convincing victory, Sorensen crossing the line nearly half a minute behind him.

Kiryienka, who had helped set up Froome’s convincing victory at Ax 3 Domaines on Stage 8 of the Tour de France but found himself out of the race after missing the time limit the following day as Movistar launched a wave of attacks, had been in a group of 15 riders that got away 18km into today’s 186.5km stage from Burgos.

At one point the escapees had a lead of around 10 minutes on a stage with a route featuring a trio of Category 3 climbs followed by the Category 2 Alto del Caracol, crested around 40km from the finish, and it was on that climb that Kiryienka made what would be his stage winning move.

“I knew that my lead at the bottom of the final climb allowed me to win but I had to keep a steady pace, without thinking too much of what was happening behind," said the Belarusian afterwards.

"The fans [who packed the climb and were overexuberant at times] gave me a hard time.

"This is my third Vuelta. I had won stages at the Giro and the Tour but I only came second here. I badly wanted to win. That’s done.

"All my wins have come the same way from long breakaways. They’re due to an honest work and the trust of my team.

"My kisses on the finishing line were for my wife and kids but I dedicate this stage to Daniele Tortoli.

"He was my directeur sportif in the amateur ranks, he helped me turn pro and he died in July.

"I also had a bad time at Tour de France but I thank my team for having kept my morale high.”

 

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.

27 comments

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 2 years ago
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Oldest man in the pelaton ripping it up and tearing strips off of Nibali.
Now call me an old cynic but whats he having on his porridge each mornin  7 g?

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Lifer [20 posts] 2 years ago
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gareth2510 wrote:

Oldest man in the pelaton ripping it up and tearing strips off of Nibali.
Now call me an old cynic but whats he having on his porridge each mornin  7 g?

http://inrng.com/2013/09/vuelta-chris-horner-performance-age/

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Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 2 years ago
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Lifer wrote:
gareth2510 wrote:

Oldest man in the pelaton ripping it up and tearing strips off of Nibali.
Now call me an old cynic but whats he having on his porridge each mornin  7 g?

http://inrng.com/2013/09/vuelta-chris-horner-performance-age/

Not a great repost from that magazine. It is largely unquestioning of the facts, and largely questioning of the questioners!

Age is a massive factor. The way he 'powered' up those climbs today was a joke. At his age he maybe able to maintain a high level performance, but he should not be able to improve on his previous, show good spurts of speed, and it is highly unlikely that he could out perform the majority of athletes on a Grand Tour.

People are going to say 'Why can't he defy out expectations?' And the answer is 'Human Biology'. We are biological self repairing machines. We have the benefit of being able to stave off the ageing process. This means that we can minimise it's well recorded effects, but (naturally) we cannot defy them.

Horner's performances are uncharacteristic compared to his previous record. I must admit I've been following the Tour for years and only now am I familiar with his face.

If he wins it pours more water on the cleanliness of the peloton, though I would not say it has ever been clean.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Can't wait to see to night's highlights! Wonder if Gkam84 will be watching?

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam was watching it live and saw nowt wrong. Nibali was put under pressure by the Movistar lot, Kiverlowski did a bit of work and with no team mates left, it was a straight fight up the climb between Horner, Valverde, Nibali and J-Rod. Horner went off, Valverde and J-Rod looked decent and Nibali looked totally shagged, he's going to lose the race if he looks the same tomorrow.

Horner is just taking advantage of Nibali's tiredness. Simple as. You can go feed the troll's elsewhere with your shite talk about doping.

Innocent until proven guilty....oh no, I forgot, the troll's of Road.cc call everyone who happens to do well for once a doper....YAWN

Have you ever STOPPED for a moment and thought...hang on, they are weeding out the dopers and now we are seeing riders who have been there or there abouts for a number of years....

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Gkam was watching it live and saw nowt wrong. Nibali was put under pressure by the Movistar lot, Kiverlowski did a bit of work and with no team mates left, it was a straight fight up the climb between Horner, Valverde, Nibali and J-Rod. Horner went off, Valverde and J-Rod looked decent and Nibali looked totally shagged, he's going to lose the race if he looks the same tomorrow.

Horner is just taking advantage of Nibali's tiredness. Simple as. You can go feed the troll's elsewhere with your shite talk about doping.

Innocent until proven guilty....oh no, I forgot, the troll's of Road.cc call everyone who happens to do well for once a doper....YAWN

Have you ever STOPPED for a moment and thought...hang on, they are weeding out the dopers and now we are seeing riders who have been there or there abouts for a number of years....

who are 'they'? The same UCI that covered up LA (and goodness knows how many other doped riders)? You need to sniff some coffee!

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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"they" would be the teams and riders they have turned on each other and also the one's that "admitted" to it before they were caught.

I'd be more inclined to believe that Nibali was a doper, Valverde defiantly was and J-Rod is just a decent rider.

I truly believe that Wiggo will be the next Armstrong

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

I truly believe that Wiggo will be the next Armstrong

 13 so you don't believe in fairy tales after all!

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700c [889 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

I truly believe that Wiggo will be the next Armstrong

What?

You'd sooner believe Wiggins, with his poor run of form recently, British cycling background and track record of being anti doping, is a doper than the suspicious 41 YO pro who's suddenly attacking the best, young riders in the world and winning?!

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Gkam84 [9086 posts] 2 years ago
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The best young riders were in the TdF, Vuelta has a five groups.

Winners, Has been, Never been, Always trying to be and Never will be.

I think Horner coming under the Always trying to be. Now that some of the "bigger" names are not around through retirements and doping. He's finally showing what he can do as a CLEAN rider, without having to go up against a host of dopers.

The fact that I can't remember Horner and Nibali ever going head to head should also be taken in.

If you think of the way Wiggo climbs vs Froome. I think the same applies to Horner (Froome) and Nibali (Wiggo) the problem being, Nibali just hasn't had the team to set a tempo and get him back. Where Horner doesn't need one to blast off and hold the gap

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700c [889 posts] 2 years ago
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@GKam I still don't follow the logic about Wiggins being a doper in the points you've made, you seem to contradict that.

I'm not saying anyone specifically is doping, there is no evidence yet it's just speculation. However you are just being obtuse by suggesting Wiggins is more likely a doper than Horner!

Is it an anti English thing? In other matters you seen quite reasonable and knowledgeable!

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Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

The best young riders were in the TdF, Vuelta has a five groups.

Winners, Has been, Never been, Always trying to be and Never will be.

I think Horner coming under the Always trying to be. Now that some of the "bigger" names are not around through retirements and doping. He's finally showing what he can do as a CLEAN rider, without having to go up against a host of dopers.

The fact that I can't remember Horner and Nibali ever going head to head should also be taken in.

If you think of the way Wiggo climbs vs Froome. I think the same applies to Horner (Froome) and Nibali (Wiggo) the problem being, Nibali just hasn't had the team to set a tempo and get him back. Where Horner doesn't need one to blast off and hold the gap

And the fact that Armstrong was never caught from a positive test means all is right with cycling? You can't cut it both ways. There's a problem in sport and performances like Horner's, which don't make sense are a product of that. The Vuelta is probably the most juiced of the the GTs anyway given their stance to PEDs.

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Super Domestique [1596 posts] 2 years ago
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Finally a bit of 'noise' about Horner. There seems very little compared to what Froome got still though. Less popular race, yes, but which is the bigger shock / achievement?

Yet no rider from Sky has been caught doping (ok, yet, to satisfy the cynics) but Horner comes from a team which has a (or half of it at least) doping entrenched past.

FWIW I'd love to find out he is clean though.

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bauchlebastart [99 posts] 2 years ago
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The thing that struck me watching Horner cross the line yesterday was that he hardly looked out of breath, he looked like he had alot more in the tank but was tempering his effort. Maybe that just the way he carries himself, but when you compare this to the way other riders appear after such a grueling climb, it looks a little weird.

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700c [889 posts] 2 years ago
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Yes, in the interview with itv he said he could have gone harder and made up the three secs!

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

Gkam was watching it live and saw nowt wrong. Nibali was put under pressure by the Movistar lot, Kiverlowski did a bit of work and with no team mates left, it was a straight fight up the climb between Horner, Valverde, Nibali and J-Rod. Horner went off, Valverde and J-Rod looked decent and Nibali looked totally shagged, he's going to lose the race if he looks the same tomorrow.

Horner is just taking advantage of Nibali's tiredness. Simple as. You can go feed the troll's elsewhere with your shite talk about doping.

Innocent until proven guilty....oh no, I forgot, the troll's of Road.cc call everyone who happens to do well for once a doper....YAWN

Have you ever STOPPED for a moment and thought...hang on, they are weeding out the dopers and now we are seeing riders who have been there or there abouts for a number of years....

Being a 1st time Road.CC 'troll' i take umbridge at this.. you are seriously telling me that the only person fit, strong and powerful enough to make up so much ground on Nib's 'tiredness' over the last few days is a 42 yr old at the arse end of his career?
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Tovarishch [59 posts] 2 years ago
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2010 – Rodriguez 17:06,Nibali 17:26

2011 – FROOME 17:23

2013 – Rodriguez 17:04,Nibali 17:09.

Chris Horner did the climb in 16:44!

Thank you Cycling Mole

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Nzlucas [123 posts] 2 years ago
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at this point you have to hope that the biological passport and social incentives within the peloton will bring it out if he is doping.

In his defence:

He has not raced over the last few yrs (less wear and tear)

As others have mentioned less dopers means fairer racing and better chance to rise to top.

Others have grand tours under their belts already this season where he has not... Just look at Contedor at last yrs Vaulta fresh from a enforced rest period.

In the mean time let's enjoy the next stages racing, a nice change from the sky train.....

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700c [889 posts] 2 years ago
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Yeah I have to admit it made for good watching, didn't it!

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What Mid Life Crisis [26 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm 42, and I'd love it to be true, but I can't stop thinking about his former teammates at Radio Shack. I know he has good form in the mountains, and showed in the Tour of California that he can blast up a slope, but it doesn't feel right. That said, I'm with Gkam on Wiggins, although I hope I'm wrong

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700c [889 posts] 2 years ago
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So you Wiggins doubters think he got his gold medals doping then?

Bet you don't think the same about Hoy, do you?

I honestly don't understand how people would doubt Wiggins sooner than they would doubt Horner

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Ghedebrav [1100 posts] 2 years ago
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Gkam84 wrote:

The best young riders were in the TdF, Vuelta has a five groups.

Winners, Has been, Never been, Always trying to be and Never will be.

Bit harsh on Warren Barguil? Unless he's already in the 'winner' category?

Which reminds me, far more puzzling than all these doping issues is how a Frenchman comes to be called 'Warren'.

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What Mid Life Crisis [26 posts] 2 years ago
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I have no evidence, and come with far less knowledge of what is possible than many on the forum. But to answer your question, Hoy won all his medals on the track and at no point shed 20% of his body mass for no loss in power or strength. I accept that Wiggins was pretty much dragged to 2012 victory by his team and then won on the TT, but even so, I find that level of body change suspiscous. I would love to be wrong, not for Britain but for cycling generally. I am far more convinced by Froome (which may just go to show that I really am naive or ill-informed)

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Simon E [2682 posts] 2 years ago
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I read the Inrng piece and understand his point but after Thursday's performance by Horner I am no less suspicious than before.

I disagree with you Keith about describing people's suspicion as trolling, I think that's very unfair. Have you read this?
http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?sl=da&tl=en&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF...

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Colin Peyresourde [1719 posts] 2 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

I read the Inrng piece and understand his point but after Thursday's performance by Horner I am no less suspicious than before.

I disagree with you Keith about describing people's suspicion as trolling, I think that's very unfair. Have you read this?
http://translate.google.co.uk/translate?sl=da&tl=en&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF...

The use of the word trolling in the sense used by Gkam is inaccurate and pejorative. Anonymous attacks by individuals who do so for no other reason than to insult the individual or individuals concerned in a hurtful manner.

We are discussing the likelihood of Horner's success, and it is an open debating point until there is a drug testing system which can adequately test for PED drugs.

Unfortunately no sporting organisation can afford the £65,000 required to do so. The blood passport control is just that, a control, not a prevention. All you have to do is show consistency with your training and improvement through the season and you're clear. It doesn't actually test for the PEDs themselves. There is a direct analogy to the 50% hematocrit level. It was/is very basic and easy to test - note the expense is a factor. But it doesn't actually tell you what is underlying in the blood (PEDs or no PEDs). Like the 50% level, the passport is just a limiter to prevent taking too much PEDs all the time. We know Armstrong knew how to work around the blood passport - part of which was agreeing an initial dispensation to the test, but once he returned he continued to evade testers - you cannot tell me that an unreformed Armstrong when back into competition without taking PEDs because he felt as an older athlete he could compete fairly with the modern bunch - that just doesn't make sense.

Looking at the timings of Nibali and Horner on that climb and comparing them to others makes a very striking and interesting statement.

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gareth2510 [167 posts] 2 years ago
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Tovarishch wrote:

2010 – Rodriguez 17:06,Nibali 17:26

2011 – FROOME 17:23

2013 – Rodriguez 17:04,Nibali 17:09.

Chris Horner did the climb in 16:44!

Thank you Cycling Mole

Hes 42 and hasnt raced for months.
The court rest its case your Honour.  41

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Super Domestique [1596 posts] 2 years ago
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Sadly all the talk of Horner ignores a stunning ride by Vasil.

Congrats to the guy.