After the second day in the Pyrenees, Chris Horner said “we just all watched each other to the line. If we keep this up, nothing will change. We might need someone to have a bad day before we can make another selection.”
On the third day in the Pyrenees something did change. Nobody had a bad day but race leader Vincenzo Nibali certainly had an off day and lost half his 50 second lead on Horner.
In the final kilometer up the climb of up to the resort town of Formigal, Nibali was unable to respond to the attacks of Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and then Chris Horner (RadioShack-Leopard Trek) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Horner is now just 28 seconds from the red leader’s jersey and if anyone was worried the old man — almost 42 — would have trouble recovering from the cold, miserable conditions this weekend, he showed he still plans to attack.
“When one guy misses just a little bit, that makes the difference. I’m a little closer now,” said Horner. “Maybe on one of the big stages if Nibali is missing something again, I can try to win the Vuelta.”
As Horner had said, the third week would be a tactical battle and along with Valverde, he is one of the smartest riders in the peloton. He and Valverde let Rodriguez to the damage, then left Nibali behind.
“On the last climb it was all fireworks. When Rodriguez went, I hesitated for a moment, but then Kišerlovski gave a big effort,” said Horner. “I heard on the radio some were in trouble so I did what I could. Valverde came up to me and we just went. It was a perfect.”
When the Vuelta restarts Wednesday after the rest day, Nibali will have a half minute on Horner and 1:14 on Valverde. No reason for panic but perhaps reason for concern because Horner shows no signs of the fade out some predicted for a guy riding his first race back after four or five months of injury.
Crazy as it seemed two weeks ago, Horner still wants all the tapas and sangria and not even Nibali scares him. “Tomorrow I will sleep and eat, plus train a little on the trainer. It’s a big four days still to come.”
In this case, for the 41 year old Horner aiming to be the oldest man to win a grand tour, “big” seems like an understatement.