“It was a very hard moment but everyone has to slow down at some point. The wheels stop for every rider. You can’t ride forever and that moment is now. If he could change it he would, but that’s how it is.”
That was Frank Schleck talking about his brother Andy’s difficulty decision to retire. Funny thing is, he could also be speaking about 43 year old Chris Horner.
The American again finds himself without a team after Lampre-Merida decided not to renew his one year contract. Horner suffered through a difficult season marked by a near-death collision with a car in a dark tunnel near Lake Como.
Months later he came down with bronchitis that limited his abilities in the Tour de France and wiped out his chances of defending his Vuelta a Espana crown. Regulations concerning his low cortical levels, depressed by meds to fight the bronchitis, prevented his start in Spain.
It appears increasingly unlikely that Horner will find a new team at this late date with most all riders already signed up. That’s not good news but we’ll let Frank Schleck do the explaining for Horner.
“I’d be lying if I said that everything for him has been good. He’s had a hard time and at moments he has been miserable,” said Schleck. “Maybe what people didn’t see is that he tried everything to come back.”
Unlike Andy Schleck, nobody has ever questioned Horner’s degree of motivation to train and race at the top level of the sport. He wants to ride until they forcibly pull him off his bike. Or more accurately, don’t let him back on the bike.
That might be happening right now. Horner may be retiring against his will even though his power meter data still says he has what it takes. Perhaps he’s down and depressed like Andy. Maybe, he’s even in a deep state of denial.
“There are moments when he’s okay but I think the second wave will come. I’ll start going to training camps and then the races, and I think it’s going to hit him again. It’s not going to be easy but there has to be acceptance.”
Acceptance is right.
Horner started his pro career with Francaise des Jeux back in 1997 and what a long game it has been. He’s won the Tour of the Basque Country, Tour of California, a top 10 on GC in the Tour de France and two stages wins and the overall in the Vuelta. Been a fantastic career but it might also be fini.
Once again Frank Schleck speaks for both brother Andy and Horner. “He is coming to terms with the situation and he is coming around to the fact that one chapter has closed but that another can begin.”
So what about that next chapter in the Book of Horner?
He has said on many occasions that he’d like to manage a pro cycling team. He’s a master tactician and his experience would be invaluable to young racers coming up the ranks. Perhaps he will get that opportunity sooner rather than later.
“I’d love for him to stay in cycling but it’s too early to talk about that. He still has to fight the emotions he’s going through before anything can be decided. He wants to stay in the sport and we’re going to see him around, he just needs more time.”
Maybe Frank should give Horner a call since he seems to know so well what Horner is feeling.