Who isn’t amazed at what RadioShack’s Chris Horner has been up to in Spain?
Past the retirement age at 41, the guy from Bend, Oregon and San Diego, California is lighting up the Helta Skelta Vuelta.
Honestly, we though his time was up after his latest physical setback kept him off the bike for about four months. The accumulated aches and pains of racing since about 1997 were finally slowing him down.
He claimed he wasn’t losing much on his power meter but his body was saying “enough, buddy, we don’t care what your SRM says, we’re done, get us a six pack of beer, willy ya?”
He missed his beloved Tour of California that he won back in 2011 and couldn’t make his first appearance at the US Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado.
No Tour de France, no nothing. He still had his irrepressible smile but a full recovery didn’t seem possible. We were expecting the “hanging up the wheels” press release any day.
Then Horner comes back and in his first race, in a grand Tour, up against Vincenzo Nibali and Joaquin Rodriguez and Ivan Basso, he takes a stage win — his first in a grand tour and slips on the leader’s red jersey. You figure, hey, beautiful, swan song, one last special memory.
But we were wrong again or rather he fooled us once more. No, he isn’t satisfied with the measly stage win — he wants to win the whole shebang, he intends to win the 2013 Vuelta a Espana.
At that 41 years of age, he’s confident enough to openly speak of beating Vincenzo Nibali. That’s thinking big. He is going to smile and fight all the way to Madrid or wherever the Helta Skelta Vuelta ends this year.
RadioShack’s other geezer, Jens Voigt, is still defying age and odds by winning a stage in this year’s Tour of California and nearly pulling off another victory in the US Pro Challenge in Colorado. But that’s picking your day and targeting a stage, then recovering at the back of the peloton the next.
Contrast that effort with what Horner is attempting. Three weeks, no bad days, riding the front and attacking his way to victory in the third week when he should laying on a couch back home, telling stories about how he used to race in the pros.
Chris Horner wants another story, the biggest and grandest and maybe the boldest. The old guy is gunning for the overall in the Vuelta! He’s already the oldest grand tour stage winner — imagine if he pulled off this crazy plan.
When Allen Lim was the team physiologist for RadioShack a few years back, he told me Horner was one of those rare athletes who could rewrite the conventions on aging and high performance. He’s doing exactly that in Spain.
It would be the most magnificent win by anyone this season. Chris Froome won the Tour, another Chris, this one a lot older, wants the Vuelta.