Horner. Does he have lungs for Utah?
The 43 year old Chris Horner say he’s ready for the Tour of Utah.
Well, what he actually said, just to be precise, is that his legs are ready, his form is formed up, he’s mentally focused and primed for action.
What he didn’t mention is his cyclingnews interview was whether he has finally gotten rid of the bronchial problems he had for pretty much 12 months since the 2014 Tour de France.
If you’re a regular reader of Twisted Spoke then you know we have a strong appreciation for Horner, who stunned the entire universe at age 41 by winning the Vuelta over an aggressive Vincenzo Nibali and becoming the oldest grand tour winner ever.
That said, we’ve been deeply concerned about the Smiler ever since, in particular his apparent willingness to gobble antibiotics at what we consider an alarming rate. If memory serves, he did three courses just at the Tour and immediately after.
As recently as a month or two ago, Horner was still saying he was missing that last 5% of race power with lingering lung and breathing issues. He was still taking more courses of antibiotics, hopeful that a new doctor had a new pharma fix.
The season and the sport has not been kind to Horner since his Vuelta win. The Cycling Gods tried to send the go-out-on-top message but a Vuelta win encouraged Horner to push for one last big payday.
He didn’t get it.
He signed with Airbags-Safeway as a high profile baby sitter for some development kids and his lungs still haven’t come around. Results have been as disappointing as the races where his team has gained entry. No Tour of California for Airgas-Safeway despite Horner being a former winner.
The Tour of Utah will be Horner’s big stage in the US, other than perhaps a run at the US Pro Cycling Challenge — teams yet to be announced for the Colorado stage race in mid August.
Still, we’re not sure Horner is up to the challenge of taking on two-time winner Tom Danielson of Cannonade-Garmin. Yes, he’s also an older and highly experienced vet, but Tommy D has no lung problems or a compromised immune system or 43 year old legs.
Horner is talking the talk of a guy ready for the challenge of beating last year’s winner Danielson. “Anytime you’re coming back to a race you’ve won, you’re always super motivated,” Horner said. “Clearly he likes Utah and it suits him well, so it should be a good battle between him and I,” said the aged one.
Besides questions about his lungs and legs, there is also the issue of team strength. But the ever-optimistic Horner doesn’t see that much difference between the WorldTour Lampre-Merida squad he brought with him to Utah last year and the kids he has in the school bus for this edition.
“Actually this year will be exactly the same as last year,” he said. “I went into the race with Lampre last year, but they were all 20-year-old kids, give or take. So it’s really almost the same scenario. The only thing that changed is the budget size of the team.”
Well, let’s hope so. The money here says that the year-long Tour de Pharma is still going to cost Horner.