RadioShack’s Chris Horner found a little bit extra in his legs in the closing meters of Stage 19 of the 2013 Vuelta a España, surging ahead of race leader Vincenzo Nibali of Astana to cross the finish line six seconds ahead, earning the race leader’s red jersey for the third and no doubt final time.
Horner has to hold off his tired rival over four more mountains to become the oldest Grand Tour winner in history, and the 41-year-old American looks stronger every day, while Vincenzo Nibali, who won the Giro d’Italia in may, has never regained his form and might be in danger of finishing off the podium.
Horner first won red with an uphill attack in Stage Three, retook it in Stage Ten with a longer, more powerful charge to a summit finish, and in Stage 19 in the tenth of eleven summit finishes, again proved to be the best climber in the field.
Horner will be tested sorely by Stage 20, with Cat Three, Two and One climbs before the summit finish on the feared Alto del Angliru, a 7.6-mile haul with pitches of up to 23 percent, but the RadioShack rider has been ascending effortlessly while Nibali and all his other rivals have been struggling.
Chris Horner seems poised to win not only his first Grand Tour but also to make cycling history—and perhaps more important, to earn himself a contract for 2104, something he lacks right now. The oldest Grand Tour winner right now is France’s Firmin Lambot, who won in 1922 at the age of 36. Horner is three weeks from his 42nd birthday.
Purito Lights it Up
The stage win went to Joaquin Rodriguez, the Katusha climber who podiumed art the Tour de France but had been strangely silent in the Vuelta. Usually considered to be a steep-climb and summit-finish specialist, “Purito” as he is known hadn’t been a factor in a race full of finishes tailor-made for his skills.
He made his move in Stage 19 a kilometer from the finish, looking like his old self for the first time in the race—he attacked strongly and gapped the field immediately, gaining a hundred meters in a few seconds.
He finished the race eleven seconds ahead of three chasers—enough to show who was strongest on the day, but not enough to move up in the General Classification.
Going into the final mountain stage, Chris Horner leads Vincenzo Nibali by three seconds. Alejandro Valverde of Movistar is third by just over a minute, and Purito is fourth by just under two minutes.
Judging by his form over the last two stages, Nibali could well crack on the Angliru; Valverde has made a few moves, but has shown some weakness as well. Joaquin Rodriguez will likely finish on the podium again, possibly even as runner-up, but unless Chris Horner oversleeps and misses the race, he will wear the red jersey into Madrid on Sunday, and earn himself a bit of cycling immortality.