NICOLAS ROCHE IS on course for his best ever finish in Vuelta a Espana but a podium place seems out of reach.
The Irish cyclist finished three minutes and forty two seconds back from Stage 20 winner Kenny Elissonde. Notably, Roche lost time on the four riders placed ahead of him in the General Classification. He is now 7.11 behind tour leader, Christian Horner.
The American moved to within touching distance of becoming the oldest ever winner of a grand tour as he extended his lead in the Tour of Spain to 37 seconds in Saturday’s penultimate stage.
Frenchman Elissonde took the 142.2km stage from Aviles to Alto de L’Angliru ahead of Horner in second and Alejandro Valverde in third.
However, the 41-year-old Horner pulled away from Vincenzo Nibali in the final 2km to leave the Italian 28sec behind in fourth and ensure he will cruise to victory in the procession around Madrid in the final stage on Sunday.
“I don’t need any time for it to sink in,” the RadioShack rider told TVE. “I had a long time to think about what an accomplishment it would be today and how hard it would be, but it will be something that lasts a lifetime.”
Horner had to withstand a series of attacks by Nibali on the 12.2km climb up the Alto de L’Angliru to the finish with gradients of over 20% in places.
Nibali though couldn’t open up a significant gap on Horner and eventually paid the price for his incessant attacks as he was left without the strength to follow Horner in the final couple of kilometres.
“Nibali was amazing,” continued Horner. “To win here for me is unbelievable with such great champions like Nibali and Valverde.
“I could only hope that Nibali would put in an attack like that at the end to make it so epic for the fans. To see him attack 10 or 15 times, I’m sure the fans must have been on the edge of their seat.” Horner added:
I think it is an amazing moment, everyone at home got to watch a legendary moment which we may never see again in a guy of my age winning a grand tour.
“I hope everyone that watched it enjoyed every pedal stroke and all the suffering I had to the finish line just as much as I did.”
The Tour of Spain concludes later today.