Christopher Horner of the Radioshack team won Stage 3 of the Vuelta a España Monday to gain possession of the red jersey, finishing ahead of Spanish title contenders Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Purito Rodríguez (Katusha).
On a day marked by strong winds on the Galician coast, Horner, at 41 the oldest participant in this year's race, attacked on the final climb of the 172km stage between Vigo and the Mirador de Lobeira, in Vilagarcía de Arousa. The swirling winds caused a huge pile-up among the peloton during the stage.
The time bonus earned by Horner for crossing the line first was sufficient to earn him the leader's jersey after Radioshack's strong performance in the opening time trial. Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali, a leading candidate to lift the title, finished 11th on Monday and relinquished the overall lead. Horner thus becomes the oldest racer in history to hold the lead of one of the three Grand Tours.
"My last race in Europe was five months ago in the Tirreno-Adriatico, but I feel strong and I'm very happy with this win," said Horner, who is from the US. "I'm in good shape and I like the route. My goal is to be a challenger. I won the Vuelta al País Vasco and I think I'm capable of doing something big."
"It was a difficult day because of the wind," said Valverde, who, with Rodríguez, crossed the line three seconds behind Horner. "It's a shame we couldn't get the win, but the important thing is that I'm feeling good. You have to be up there, and Purito was third as he deserved to be. It's important for the bonus points."
Horner leads Nibali in the overall classification by eight seconds, with Stage 2 winner Nicolas Roche in third, 14 seconds adrift. Valverde sits in sixth, 24 seconds off the pace ahead of Tuesday's 189km slog to Finisterra, "The End of the World."