Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) struck for a tough stage win at the Prati di Tivo ski station in the Apennine mountains of Italy Sunday. American Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) was isolated late in the stage, but limited his losses to defend the blue leader’s jersey with two stages remaining at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Roman Kreuziger (Astana) pipped Horner at the line to maintain his second-place overall position.
“I knew the central part of the climb was the hardest,” said Nibali. “Horner went hard there and made a selection. When we caught him I saw that everyone else was catching their breath, so I went for it. I felt good and so did the same effort I did to win the stage in [the Tour of] Oman. I’ve been focused on winning Tirreno-Adriatico all week and I want to win it.”
Horner looked ahead to the final-stage time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto on Tuesday.
“It’ll be close for sure. Kreuziger and I are very close on the time trial bike and I only have a five-second lead,” he said. “I think the time trial can go either way. I know I just need to go incredibly hard for the 9km of the race.”
Nibali looked past Horner, however, toward a showdown with Kreuzinger on the Adriatic coast.
“I’m happy to win today. But we’ll have to wait for the time trial to see who wins overall. Twelve seconds is a lot to pull back, but we’ll see what happens,” Nibali said. “I’ve got a great team that will help me during Monday’s stage but I think the time trial will decide things. I think it’ll be more difficult to beat Kreuziger than Horner.”