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Tour of the Basque Country - Final Comments & Photos
By Vaughn Trevi
Date: 4/10/2010
Tour of the Basque Country - Final Comments & Photos

50th Tour of the Basque Country - Final Comments & Photos
Comments and reactions after the finish of the final stage of the Vuelta a País Vasco: Chris Horner, Alejandro Valverde, Viatcheslav Ekimov, Johann Bruyneel

Quite a week of firsts for the American Tifosi, both coming from riders from the cycling crazy Northwest states of Oregon and Washington where Chris Horner and Tyler Farrar started their racing careers.

First Tyler Farrar (26 years old) the first American rider to win the 85 year old classic Scheldeprijs  on Wednesday; and today Chris Horner now a living California, winning the final stage time trial in the Basque lands to be the first American, Oregonian or Californian to stamp his name into stone on the palmares of the demanding and tough Basque stage race. It is Horner's first victory of a European stage race.

Both riders riders gave their home town fans something to cheer about; one a young rider coming into his prime as a sprinter, and the other well, lets just say we're going to have to re-think the limits of age and a riders prime years when it comes to RadioShack's Chris Horner and Lance Armstrong as long as they have the desire to race and win.

Podium of the 50th Tour of the Vuelta a País Vasco: Alejandro Valverde, Chris Horner and Beñat Intxausti   Photo © 2010 Caisse d'Epargne & Alejandro Valverdes

Team RadioShack
Horner takes Two of three team wins this week

Three Team RadioShack victories in one week; veteran Chris Horner is responsible for two of them. Horner (38) won the last stage, a 22 kilometer time trial, as well as the overall title in the Tour of the Basque Country (ProTour). After having won 16 professional stage races in America and Asia during his career, Chris Horner won his first European stage race by taking the final victory in the challenging Vuelta a País Vasco.

Chris Horner breaking the time barrier
Photo courtesy Team RadioShack

A delighted Chis Horner after the race...

“Last year I just missed the victory in the Tour de l’Ain, because of respiratory problems. Earlier I was close too in the the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. Now finally I am on the highest place of the podium. Seventeen stage race wins is not bad, but I think this is the nicest one,"

“I had good legs today, but honestly, the whole week I had good legs. Yesterday I saved some energy because I wanted to be super today in the time trial. From day one in this race I was confident about this time trial.”

Rolling down the start ramp in Orio on Saturday Horner needed one second to catch race leader Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne). Looking steady and calm on the bike, Horner displayed laser-like focus throughout his ride and steadily gained on his Spanish rival. He stopped the clock at 32:33 for first place with only Valverde still to arrive. But Valverde struggled on the bike and lost eight seconds to Horner, dropping to second place on the general classification.

Driving the car behind Horner was Team Director Viatcheslav Ekimov, who was barely able to contain his joy at the end of the stage. “Chris is the man!” exclaimed Eki.

“When I saw Chris warming up this morning I saw what concentration he had and I thought to myself, ‘Oh boy, this is going to be good, he means business!’ He made no mistakes, showed perfect bike handling skills and was a real power house. The TT bike worked super.” Asked about his emotions behind the wheel, Eki continued with, “I couldn’t stop talking on the radio. I was yelling his split times, giving him Valverde’s times and in general just yelling ‘Go! Go! Go!’”

A delighted Chris Horner gets his yellow jersey and Basque Txapela hat - looking good Chris! Photo courtesy Team RadioShack

Team Manager Johan Bruyneel (winner of the time trial in the Tour of the Basque Country in 1991) shared the enthusiasm for the win: “I am very happy for the Team, but especially for Chris. He deserves this after all his bad luck last year. This is a big victory. After the Tour, Giro and Vuelta are Dauphiné, Switzerland and Basque Country as the hardest races to win. Chris gets better with the years.”

Looking forward to the Belgian Classics
After last year’s continuous bad luck with various crashes and injuries, Horner came storming back into the season with excellent form. Before heading to the Tour of California, Horner will participate in the Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. “With the same ambition to win," continued Horner. “I crashed very bad in Liège last year in the Tour of Spain, but that had nothing to do with ‘the’ Liège-classic. If you are not motivated for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it’s time to retire. My moment hasn’t come yet."

Alejandro waves to the crowds after taking the yellow jersey on stage  4and having received the traditional Basque hat, the Txapela. Photo © 2010 Caisse d'Epargne & Alejandro Valverdes

Caisse d'Epargne
Alejandro very Satisfied with his performance...

Alejandro Valverde, second at 8 seconds from the American Chris Horner in the final time trial of the Tour of the Basque Country which took place today in Orio, did not win the final classification of the 50th edition of the Tour of the Basque Country for only 7 seconds; but the rider from Murcia declared to be...

“very satisfied not only for what I achieved during the entire week but also for the time I did today. You must see the good part of it. Chris Horner is 38 years old and I will be 30 in two weeks."

"That’s means that I still have many years to try and win the Tour of the Basque Country for the first time! There were several very strong rivals in this race and Horner was one of them. The route of the time trial was a good one for both of us but he was a little bit faster and I want to congratulate him for that”.

“I was very regular during the whole race. I was present everyday and that means a lot to me. I believe that not only for me but also for my team this second place looks like victory”.

“I want to thank all the Basque fans who were very nice to me and support me in every moment of the week”, concluded Alejandro.

Alejandro Valverde is a picture of calm as he gets his countdown to start the time trial this afternoon. Photo © 2010 Caisse d'Epargne & Alejandro Valverdes

Alejandro in yellow on the podium in Zierbena 
Photo © 2010 Caisse d'Epargne & Alejandro Valverdes

Lampre/Farnese Vini
A good performance by Gavazzi

 A beautiful stage victory for Gavazzi, a third place in another stage and the 25th final position in the overall standing, at 11'26" to the winner Horner: the balance in Vuelta al Pais Vasco for Gavazzi it is a very good performance.

The Basque race ended with a time trial of 22 km of length in which Gavazzi recorded the best performance for Lampre-Farnese Vini (60th time, 2'49" from the winning pace  by Horner).

Also Bono, Loosli, Pietropolli and Marzano completed the race, while Spezialetti, Ponzi and Damiano Cunego quit it yesterday: Cunego, stopped by gastroenteritis, flew back to Italy  this morning.

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