March 13, 2012

SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO, Italy (AP) -- Vincenzo Nibali of Italy won the Tirreno-Adriatico cycling race Tuesday, overtaking 40-year-old American Chris Horner in the closing individual time trial. This was Horner's first race since his season-ending crash during last year's Tour de France.

Nibali, the 2010 Spanish Vuelta champion, is the third Italian in four years to win this race. He was six seconds behind Horner and one second behind Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic at the start of the seventh stage.

Nibali was ninth fastest in 5.8-mile time trial. The Liquigas rider had an overall time of 29 hours, 38 minutes, 8 seconds to beat Horner by 14 seconds.

"It was a great performance," Nibali said. "A great time trial, even if there was a strong opposing wind, which kept moving my front wheel. I was even forced to touch the brakes."

Horner had "no mixed feelings" about the outcome and called it 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. Tactically, I think we did a brilliant race. This is not a course that is ideal for me, but to stay on the podium is good for me," he said.

"After what happened in the Tour last year and to be out of racing for so long, for me there was always a little bit of doubt how I would feel to come back. I held the jersey for three days in my first race in eight months. I'm coming out of this very satisfied."

Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, a four-time time trial world champion and 2008 Tirreno winner, won the stage in 10:36. Teammate Daniele Bennati of Italy was 12 seconds behind in second place.

Many riders use the coast-to-coast race as a warmup for the Milan-San Remo, the season's opening single-day classic. Four Milan-San Remo contenders withdrew from the Tirreno on Monday.

World champion Mark Cavendish, the 2009 San Remo winner, pulled out midway through the stage. Dropping out before the stage were last year's San Remo winner, Matthew Goss of Australia, Belgian standout Philippe Gilbert and Edvald Boasson Hagen, the Norwegian who won Friday's third stage.

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