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American Chris Horner has become the oldest winner of a Grand Tour after clinching victory in the Vuelta a Espana at the age of 41.
The Team Radioshack rider held off the challenge of Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali on the final day to win by 37 seconds, with Spain’s Alejandro Valverde taking third.
The win is the biggest of Horner’s career and he could not hide his delight after seeing off a quality field including top riders much younger than him.
“I knew how hard it was going to be for this team to win the Tour of Spain,” he said
“I have faced younger, great riders like Nibali, [Alejandro] Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez. They have had a great tour so, for me, it is a legendary moment that may not be repeated.
“I know I am also the first North American to win the Tour of Spain and this makes me very proud of my work and, above all, that of my team-mates.”
Horner had made his move much earlier in the race when winning stage three but he did not hang on to the red jersey for long as Nibali regained the lead a day later.
Horner edged in front again with victory on stage 10 before Nibali, who won the Giro D’Italia earlier in the year, responded again and headed into the last week with a 50-second lead in the general classification.
However, Horner refused to give up and after chipping away at the advantage on stages 16 and 18, he moved back ahead on Friday’s 19th stage and was not to be passed again.
“I can’t complain with how my year has gone,” Nibali said. “I won the Giro and I came here with the intention to win again in the Tour of Spain.
“I gave everything I had to wear the red jersey and defend it, but perhaps our strategy wasn’t correct.”
Meanwhile, Australia’s Michael Matthews, of Orica-GreenEdge, won the final stage, defeating American Tyler Farrar and Nikias Arndt of Germany in a bunch sprint.