If Chris Horner (RadioShack) is ever in need of work, he could do worse than go into fortune telling. The 41-year-old American put up the best defence he could of his overall lead in the Vuelta a España, but failed - as he had predicted 48 hours earlier after winning at Hazallanas - in a time trial that did climbers like him no favours.
Horner finally finished 20th in the time trial, with his time loss on Nibali pegged to 1:29. He is now fourth overall, 46 seconds behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) along with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), while Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) slotted into second place with a fifth place on the day, now 33 seconds behind in the GC.
Unlike on his two mountain top stage breakaways, and unlike a surprisingly strong Valverde, Horner never looked wholly at ease on the windy, 38 kilometre time trial course. However, as the ever upbeat American said, it could have been worse.
"I liked the route, I’m sure if it was flatter then I would have lost a lot more time," Horner said afterwards. "I thought I would lose about a minute or so."
However, in the grand scheme of things, Horner feels that the time trial may have a limited impact on such a hard course: "The rider with the best luck and the best legs in the mountains will be getting the win for sure," he said.
But Horner remains defiant, insisting that his battle for the Vuelta lead is far from over. Asked if he thought he could get the red jersey for a third time in the race, he answered with a single, emphatic answer: ‘yes.’
"Maybe this morning when I had very good legs, I got the illusion that I could keep the red jersey but this is where I wanted to be: between one and half and two minutes down on Vincenzo.
"Now I believe the race will be won in the mountains with tactics and luck, when there will be no teammates left. I've had a really good shot at the red jersey and I want it back."
The rider who took the red jersey on the Vuelta's only time trial, Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), had an 'insect issue' when he was stung by a wasp on the rest-day, but he was not alone: Horner all but swallowed a bee early on in the stage.
"At the beginning of the race, I got a bee in my mouth," Horner said, before adding, with a certain degree of understatement, that "It was disturbing and scary."
"I couldn't get it out. I also tried to swallow it. Eventually I coughed it up," he explained.
Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. Apart from working for Cyclingnews.com, he is also the cycling correspondent for The Independent and The Independent on Sunday.
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