Horner & Leipheimer. The ups and downs of two bald men.

 

Horner takes lead in Italy.

 

It was a good news and bad news day for the two seniors of the peloton, 40 year old Chris Horner (RadioShack Nissan Trek) and 38 year old Levi Leipheimer (Omega-Pharma-Quick Step.

On the same day that Horner put himself into the leader’s jersey at Tirreno Adriatico, Leipheimer crashed three times in Paris-Nice and lost his shot at a podium.

It was the first stage race for Horner since his terrible crash in stage seven of last year’s Tour de France. He got a concussion, cracked ribs, a broken nose and a blood clot in his lungs. When we interviewed him for Cycle Sport magazine in San Diego in late December he was still on blood thinners.

Meanwhile Leipherimer, a former teammate of Horners’ at The Shack, moved on to his new Belgian squad. His seasons started fast and furious beating Alberto Contador in the Tour of San Luis. The man from Butte, Montana has brought new life and new ideas to Omega Pharma Quickstep.

However, his luck didn’t hold on the penultimate stage in Paris Nice. He’s fortunate he didn’t break any bones crashing into a teammate.  ”In the right corner there was a motorbike protecting someone from Lampre who crashed. We couldn’t avoid them. I think everyone passed except Dries and I couldn’t avoid it, and I crashed into him,” said Leipheimer. “It was just bad luck.”

Just the opposite for Horner who slipped on the leader’s jersey in Italy after making the front group of five on the tough climb to the finish in Chieti. He was already in good position as RadioShack Nissan Trek had finished second in the opening team time trial. He now holds a seven second lead over Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and a 13-second lead on third-placed Cameron Meyer (GreenEdge).

“I’m sure many people doubted my fitness after my embolism but it shows today that it didn’t effect my form,” Horner said. “The team asked which races I wanted to do this year. I told [director sportif)] Dirk Demol that Tirreno-Adriatico would be a big objective and he supported me. ”

One of the intriguing and anticipated battles this season will be the former teammates fighting it out in May at the Tour of California. Horner won last year while Levi, who’s won the race three times, finished second. These two guys are consummate professionals but my sense is they’re not big pals. It’s going to be a slugfest on wheels.
Horner will bring a powerful squad to California although it’s doubtful Andy Schleck will make the trip this year. Fabian Cancellara might come but he’ll be burned out from the classics and in vacation mode. Nobody knows at this point who Leipheimer will have backing him up from Omega Pharma Quickstep.
Horner is clearly back in form and we can be sure Leipheimer will also be ready for California. As Johan Bruyneel tweeted today “Some older riders are like good wine… Better as they age.” The two bald riders will go head to head and most likely the winner in California will be decided with beautiful symbolism: who will climb Mount Baldy faster.
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