What a strange, strange end to the career of Chris Horner.
His lupus Continental team has announced that the team is folding and the 44 year old former winner of the Vuelta a Espana is without a team for next season — and 2017 rosters have largely been set.
This sure feels like Horner is done — or to use his colorful description, “When you’re going 44 like I was this year, that’s eight years past the expiration date.”
There’s a bit or irony in the show ending with Lupus, a team formed to bring awareness to the auto-immune disease. Horner himself has been battling a superbug called pseudomonas aeruginosa ever since he contracted it during the 2014 Tour de France. It has affected his lungs for three years — the legs and mind are still willing but the lungs aren’t up to the task. Which is kind of a negative for a endurance athlete.
Horner must be in the Guinness Book of Records for Most Courses of Antibiotics, with nine, at last count. Our guess is he’s into double digits by now. One of the major reasons for the rise of antibiotic resistant bugs is the over-prescription of antibiotics. Horner is guinea pig-proof of that uniquely American habit of gobbling pharmaceuticals. In fact, just today the New York Times ran a story on ancient remedies and what they called the looking antibiotics crisis. Worth a serious read.
Even last year, Horner was optimistic he could finally beat the bug. “We’ll see if the latest round of antibiotics works its magic. I’d love to see how long I could race my bike for.”
Well, that time may well be up now. It’s clear that even Horner doesn’t know if the latest round of drugs would get him back to normal. “We’ll see if it works. Whatever the bug is, it’s really antibiotically distant, so they’ve had an incredibly difficult time trying to kill it.”
He said that a year ago and the lungs are still an issue. His 2016 highlights are a 9th overall in the Tour of the Gila and 15th overall in the Tour of Utah. Neither of those results are as good as his performance in those two races the season before.
It’s just a fact that Horner may have so compromised and crushed his immune system that recovery, the kind that allows you to race a bike at the highest level, is no longer possible. The cautionary tale is pro Kevin Seeldraeyers who said taking too many antibiotics basically destroyed his immune system, failed to help him recover and sidetracked his career for several years.
“The problem for me was that the last few years I was always sick,” Seeldraeyers told VeloNews. “Maybe five or six times per year and the doctors said I had no more resistance in my body because I used antibiotics too much over the last five years.”
That doesn’t make a good case for Horner’s three years and minimum nine courses of the drugs. In his day Horner was one of the great climbers in the world, an outstanding stage racer and the oldest man to win a grand tour, the Vuelta a Espana in 2013.
However it’s been a slow fade since Spain, as he moved from Lampre to the low budget development team Airgas-Safeway and finally to Lupus Racing. The expiration date appears to read September, 2016.