The veteran American finished second to stage-winner and new race leader Roman Kreuziger (Liquigas), with Thomas Voeckler (Bbox Bouygues) coming through third in a challenging, 175km stage finishing atop the Cat. 1 Monte Ortobene.
“I am pretty happy to have broken the ice right from the start,” Kreuziger said after the win. “I felt good right since the morning and the final climb made it happy. The day’s escape could have ruined all of our plans, but we caught them with 15km to go and we prepared the final climb. The climb required a lot of pedaling and it required a constant rhythm. Nibali and Kiserlovski did a great job to set me up, and I hung on until I was able to beat two great riders such as Horner and Voeckler.”
Horner and Kreuziger led in a group of seven in the Sardinia tour’s hardest stage. With time bonuses, Kreuziger holds a narrow, four-second lead with Voeckler at six seconds back.
It was a great result for Horner, making his season debut with RadioShack in the five-day Sardinia tour.
Liquigas will now have to control the race during the three remaining stages for Kreuziger, ninth overall in last year’s Tour de France. While there are no more mountaintop finishes or time trials, there’s plenty of uneven terrain and climbs to keep things interesting.
“The profiles of the next stages play in my favor, even though I will have to pay attention to the time bonuses, because the differences are not very great,” said Kreuziger. “It’s also important for the team to support Guarnieri and Sabatini in the sprints and I here to do that as well. My condition is every time better. The work that I did in Tenerife with sport director Paolo Slongo Pablo, who I dedicate this victory on his birthday, are paying off.”