This article originally appeared on Cyclingnews.com
Christopher Horner (RadioShack-Leopard) pulled away in the final kilometre of the third stage of the Vuelta a Espana to claim the victory atop the category three Mirador de Lobeira. The top favourites finished only seconds behind him, with Alejandro Valverde second and Joaquim Rodriguez third.
Horner jumped from the peloton, flying past Ivan Santaromita (BMC), who had taken a lead on the group. After a stage at the Tour of Utah, it was the second season win for the 41-year-old. The effort also netted the RadioShack rider the race lead thanks to the time bonus and Vincenzo Nibali's 11th finish on the stage, six seconds back.
Horner leads Nibali by 8 seconds in the general classification, with stage 2 winner Nicolas Roche in third.
The race had been marked by a five man break group which attacked almost at the start. With just under 40 km to go, they were caught. Wind and crashes broke the peloton into various groups as it hit the coast and then the final climb. Things broke apart again on the vicious short closing climb, which saw several attacks one after another, until Horner pulled away from everyone.
How it happened
The day's break formed only minutes after the race started. Vicente Reynes (Lotto), Fabricio Ferrari (Caja Rural), Cyril Bessy (Cofidis), and Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel) were soon joined by Luca Dodi (Lampre Merida). The peloton seemed determined to keep them in check, and the lead never exceeded five minutes.
Ferrari took the first of the day's two intermediate sprints, followed by Reynes and Bessy.
Team Astana, with race leader Vincenzo Nibali, and Omega Pharma-QuickStep, hoping to set up Gianni Meersman for the stage win, shared the lead work, with BMC lending a hand as well. But with about 70 km to go, the gap had dropped to just one minute, so the peloton relaxed a bit, to let the five leaders dangle in the front a bit longer.
Nicolas Roche (Saxo-Tinkoff) celebrates after taking the white jersey for combination classification
With about 62 km to go, someone near the back of the field didn't pay attention, and about 10 riders went down, including Sky's Sergio Henao and Salvatore Puccio. No one was seriously injured and all got back on their way, although at least one Caja Rural rider paid a visit to the race doctor shortly thereafter.
Between the peloton's earlier slowdown and the crash, the gap moved back up to two and a half minutes. The second intermediate sprint came up, and this time it was Urtasun ahead of Dodi and Bessy.
The gap started dropping again, down to a minute and a half with 46 km to go. The favourites started moving into position as the stage moved to the coastline, fearing the possible effects of the wind.
A 90-degree left hand turn saw another crash near the rear of the field. Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) and Jose Azanza (Euskaltel) were amongst those who went down.
Perhaps because of the crash, the field broke into various groups. Race leader Nibali had been careful to be in the front, and the lead group with him in it kept getting closer and closer to the five leaders. With only 37km to go, the break was over. None other than Fabian Cancellara was at the head of the field, leading the way.
A Caja Rural rider, apparently Fellini, crashed on the barricades in the middle of the road, leading Cancellara to call for a slow down, or at least some calm, until the wind had died down and the various groups had come back together.
Those in the following group, which had been held up by the crash, included Bauke Mollema (Belkin), Roman Kreuziger (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Carlos Betancur (AG2R).
The wind was hard enough to make it difficult for them to catch up – and it didn't help when Astana moved to the front of the field and picked up the speed, just as the chase group caught up.
Astana didn't stay in the lead long though, as Movistar came to the front. But there was still another group trying to catch up, including Dominico Pozzovivo (AG2R) and Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel) which had trouble getting closer than 30-40 seconds.
Mollema's problems had no end, as he had a run-in with the iron railing on a bridge. It wasn't serious but it still threw him back, just when it appeared that all the groups had come together again. Eventually much of the Dutch team was back trying to pull him back up the lead group.
By this time Ivan Basso had ordered his Cannondale to the head of things. But it was Orica-GreenEdge which moved to the front at the 5km marker, with the closing climb looming.
It was a short climb, but had its effect. Riders started dropping off the back, and with 2.8km to go, Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) jumped. He was soon caught and passed by Ivan Santaromita (BMC). The Italian champion looked good but it wasn't to last
Horner was the next to go, catching and effortlessly passing Santaromita. He soloed in to the finish, as a furious chase by the top favourites bore fruit and the first chasers crossed the line only three seconds behind him.