Horner: soaking wet but second in Vuelta.

Horner leads Nibali up mountain.

A quick gander at the GC standings in the Helta Skelta Vuelta shows that old man Chris Horner is one stage closer to his impossible podium dream.

On a wet and miserable day reminiscent of this year’s Giro d’Italia, Horner finished in third place up the daunting Collada de la Gallina, just 2 seconds behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)

That was an impressive ride by the ancient one from RadioShack but it was even more amazing when you saw the damage to the GC hopes of his rivals.

Alejandro Valverde, a rider that Horner considers one of the smartest tactical minds in the peloton, struggled in the bad weather conditions. He managed to do some damage control but still rolled in 45 seconds behind Horner. The American now has over a minute cushion on Valverde and that will widen Horner’s signature grin even more.

Yesterday Nicholas Roche said he was afraid to get too excited about his podium chances because he’s faded in the third week of grand tours on a few occasions. He faded badly today, losing seven minutes on the final climb and dropped down to sixth overall.

We feel for the Irishman who until his power outage was having a fabulous — to use Horner’s favorite word — Vuelta a Espana. That’s two rivals that Horner has now dispatched as he attempts to prove that at almost 42 years of age, he can battle Nibali all the way to Madrid.

Right now, the math has to be encouraging for Horner. The pocket rocket Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) is 2 minutes behind and Domenico Pozzovivo is nearly three back. Based on reputation and past results, Horner has to feel confident he can keep ahead of Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Leopold Konig (NetApp-Endura) who are even further down the GC ranking.

As always with an older athlete, what you’d worry about is recovery and the worse the weather, the more we’d be concerned about Horner. In the past, injury and illness during the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta have derailed his chances. We’ll cross our fingers and hope he’s drinking plenty of hot tea. Two more stages to the second rest day and then it’s balls to the wall on the fearsome Angliru.

 

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