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Vuelta a Espana

Vuelta notebook: Horner can’t wait for sunny Spain

Chris Horner cannot wait to get to the warmer climes of Spain. It’s not that the Astana captain doesn’t like bumping shoulders on the narrow, rainy roads of Holland, but he knows that the real battle won’t begin until the Vuelta a España transfers down to the Iberian peninsula next week. In the meantime, it’s about gritting the teeth and avoiding a costly mishap.

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By Andrew Hood

2009 Vuelta a España, Stage 2: Saxo Bank’s Fabian Cancellara plans to defend his golden jersey.

Photo: Graham Watson

Chris Horner cannot wait to get to the warmer climes of Spain.

It’s not that the Astana captain doesn’t like bumping shoulders on the narrow, rainy roads of Holland, but he knows that the real battle won’t begin until the Vuelta a España transfers down to the Iberian peninsula next week.

In the meantime, it’s about gritting the teeth and avoiding a costly mishap.

“The form is good, but we’ll see when we get to the mountains,” Horner told VeloNews after Sunday’s stage. “We need to get out of these first few days here. One down, two more to go, but I think the form’s good. We just gotta get out of here intact.”

Horner starts the 64th Vuelta as a dark horse, but he could surprise the favorites if he has the same legs he showed earlier this season before a pair of crashes.

Horner said he expected more in Saturday’s prologue, when he stopped the clock 23 seconds slower for 26th.

“It wasn’t a bad ride, but for me personally, I just couldn’t keep the bike under control in the wind,” Horner said. “I had more or less dry roads, not too bad, but the wind was too strong. I chose the wrong equipment for that, I was having a little bit of problem controlling the bike.”

In Sunday’s flat but challenging stage on narrow roads, it was mission accomplished as Horner made it safely to the line with the other GC favorites.

“It was crazy all day. You’re always fighting for position. Everyone fought for the cobblestones and then we came out of the cobblestones, and nothing happened!” he said. “I’m looking forward getting back to Spain, on some calm roads and some big mountains.”

Rubiera confirms RadioShack move

José Luís Rubiera wants to retire and work on his golf game, but Lance Armstrong just won’t let him.

The 37-year-old Spaniard confirmed to VeloNews that he will ride with Armstrong at the new RadioShack team for the 2010 season.

“Yes, Johan (Bruyneel )called me and said that Lance wanted me on RadioShack next year,” Rubiera said. “I have a lot of motivation to race one more year with Lance.”

The veteran Spanish climber has been “trying” to retire since the end of the 2007 season.

When Discovery Channel folded at the end of that year, Rubiera decided it was a good moment to hang up the cleats, until Bruyneel made a deal to take over Astana and persuaded him to race one more season.

That additional season was extended yet again last fall when Armstrong announced his return to competition. A key member of Armstrong’s “blue train” at Discovery Channel, Rubiera didn’t want to miss the opportunity, even though he ended up not racing the Tour with Astana this summer.

Now, his retirement is postponed yet again, once again at the request of Armstrong, who wants the well-liked and popular Rubiera to help fill out the squad in its debut season in 2010.

“I agreed to race, but I said I wanted to do a reduced calendar,” Rubiera said. “Maybe I will do one grand tour, but no way will I race two.”

Cancellara is fifth golden Swiss

Fabian Cancellara’s winning ride Saturday put him into the Vuelta’s golden leader’s jersey, making him the fifth Swiss rider to wear the leader’s tunic.

Others include Alex Zulle and Tony Rominger (two former winners), as well as Laurent Dufaux and Marcus Zberg.

Valverde pleased with opening

Pre-race favorite Alejandro Valverde says he’s pleased with the opening weekend of the Vuelta a España.

Valverde avoided trouble in Sunday’s tricky second stage and rode well in Saturday’s short prologue in Assen, finishing with the same time as arch-rivals Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) and Ivan Basso (Liquigas).

“I already knew that Cancellara was a big specialist and with him there was little I could do, but my ‘war’ wasn’t with him, but with my direct rivals,” Valverde said. “In that sense, things turned out well enough.

“I have pressure, but I always have pressure. The most important thing is that I feel up to the task, I’m in going into the Vuelta feeling good.”