Let’s all let out a collective, loud and cathartic OMG.
Once again, 41 year old Chris Horner of RadioShack is leading the Vuelta a Espana. When he won stage 3 on the category three climb to the summit of Mirador de Lobeira, we all say miracle.
First race back from knee problems and the ancient one with the irrepressible smile becomes the oldest grand tour stage winner and he was in the red leader’s jersey to boot. It was the feel good story of the season so far.
Horner delivered the sequel on Monday with another impressive attack attack 4.5 kilometers from the summit of the Hazallanas. We’re talking grades of 15% with pitches at 18%. You’d think going that early was an unnecessary risk but few pros have the tactical smarts of Horner. If anybody can read a race, it’s the bad one, the guy racing since 1997.
“I saw that Valverde was suffering so I said to myself it was time to go as hard as I could. I thought if I could get a little gap that the others would play with some tactics behind me with none of them really wanting to work too hard, said Horner. “I don’t have quick acceleration, but once I get up to speed I can maintain it. So I knew if I could get a small gap I would be able to keep that speed all the way to the finish.”
By finish, Horner meant the finish the the stage — he won in brilliant solo fashion by 48 seconds — but we’re thinking finish means Madrid, final red jersey, 41 year old winner of Vuelta a Espana.
Horner is turning the last of the three grand Tours into the best show of all. The Giro d’Italia gave us apocalypic weatehr conditions and a dominant winner in Vincenzo Nibali. The Tour de France gave us a less entertaining battle and a dominant winner in Sky’s Chris Froome. The Helta Skelta Vuelta is just plain crazy dramatic everyday and nobody knows where it’s going or who will win.
Horner expects to lose the jersey to Nibali in the time trial after the rest day. But he’s planning of getting it back and that is crazy talk for a guy who turns 42 in a month. “I don’t expect to hold the jersey after the time trial – that isn’t my specialty and Nibali is a very good time trialist. I have a little bit of a time cushion now but I’m sure Nibali knew he could give me some time before the time trial and not worry about it. I can stay very close after that until we go to another mountain stage and that will decide this Vuelta. As you can see, every top rider is alone on the last climb, so it’s going to get down to tactics every time.”
Time for another loud OMG. Can Horner really take this thing all the way to Madrid? Will he rewrite what’s possible for an endurance athlete in his forties? “I don’t feel real pressure in having the jersey, but once you have it there are many things you have to do after the stage with the press so it takes up more of your time when you want to rest. But with the rest day tomorrow I feel like I can recover fine. If I lose the jersey after the time trial, I will fight again on a mountain stage to get it back.”
Sounds like Chris Horner wants to win this Vuelta and blow the minds of every cycling fan in the world.