Nibali overhauls Horner to win Tirreno
Italian Vincenzo Nibali of the Liquigas team overcame a six-second deficit to American Chris Horner to triumph at Tirreno-Adriatico on Tuesday.
Switzerland's Olympic time-trial champion Fabian Cancellara of RadioShack won the final stage time-trial, held over 9.3km around San Benedetto del Tronto.
In a seven-stage race that dozens of riders use to rack up the kilometres ahead of the gruelling Milan-SanRemo one-day classic this weekend, the battle for overall victory came down to Nibali, Horner and Czech Roman Kreuziger.
RadioShack allrounder Horner came up short, finishing 20sec adrift of Nibali in the race against the clock to drop to second overall at 14sec back. Kreuziger, of Astana, was third at 26.
"I have no mixed feelings about this," Horner said after the stage.
"It's been a fantastic week. The team did a great team time-trial to set me up to take the jersey and I defended it for a few days.
"This is not a course that is ideal for me, but to stay on the podium is good for me. The only feeling I have about this is one of feeling great – great about the way the team worked this week and great about the way my legs feel.
"I held the jersey for three days in my first race in eight months. I'm coming out of this very satisfied."
Nibali's victory hoists him up to second place in the UCI WorldTour rankings, behind Spain's Alejandro Valverde and alongside Paris-Nice winner Bradley Wiggins of Britain.
"I'm very happy, I felt good all morning and was confident," Nibali, the 2010 Tour of Spain winner, told RAI Sport.
"This season I had a lot more races in my legs than a lot of riders going into Tirreno-Adriatico, and the team was perfect."
Although succeeding Australian Cadel Evans, who went on to win his maiden Tour de France last July, Nibali was cautious about declaring his podium ambitions for the three-week epic.
He added: "I'm not hiding the fact the Tour (de France) is on my race programme, but we're talking about time-trials that are 50km long, which is a different story altogether.
"This year it will be a lot more open in the absence of (Alberto) Contador (who is suspended for doping). But hopefully we can have some real ambitions."
Cancellara, a four-time world time-trial champion, clocked 10min 36sec to finish 12sec ahead of Italian teammate Daniele Bennati.
The Swiss, who triumphed last week at the gruelling Italian race Strade Bianche, has thus confirmed his form ahead of the first-one day classic of the season.
"It was a tough one, especially when I had in mind my best time from last year," said Cancellara.
"I see that I did three seconds slower than last year's ride but I still think I did a great ride. I also wanted to provide good split times for Chris to compare.
"I didn't feel under pressure to win this. I know where my form is now after 30 hours on the bike in this race and I have a lot of confidence."
Cameron Meyer, meanwhile, put in a notable performance for GreenEdge, the Australian finishing third at only 16sec off the pace.
1. Fabian Cancellara (Switzerland / RadioShack) 10:36"
2. Daniele Bennati (Italy / RadioShack) +12"
3. Cameron Meyer (Australia / GreenEdge) +16"
4. Svein Tuft (Canada / GreenEdge)
5. Manuele Boaro (Italy / Saxo Bank)
6. Hayden Roulston (New Zealand / RadioShack) +17"
7. Ian Stannard (Britain / Team Sky) +18"
8. Peter Velits (Slovakia / Omega Pharma - Quick-Step) +20"
9. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Liquigas)
10. Marco Pinotti (Italy / BMC Racing) +21"
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy / Liquigas) 29:38:08"
2. Chris Horner (US / RadioShack) +14"
3. Roman Kreuziger (Czech Republic / Astana) +26"
4. Rinaldo Nocentini (Italy / AG2R) +53"
5. Johnny Hoogerland (Netherlands / Vacansoleil) +1:00"
6. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain / Katusha) +1:16"
7. Michele Scarponi (Italy / Lampre)
8. Wout Poels (Netherlands / Vacansoleil) +1:25"
9. Christophe Riblon (France / AG2R) +1:31"
10. Cameron Meyer (Australia / GreenEdge) +1:33"