Vuelta reward: Christina Watches?
The black comedy over Vuelta winner Chris Horner’s search for a new team hits a new low.
After failing to secure a new contract with Radioshack — now the re-cast Trek squad, Horner has dangled in the win for over three months as nearly every team closed their rosters.
Now Horner finds himself in a truly sad situation that borders on cruel and unusual punishment. In order to get a ride for 2014, he may be forced to sign with Danish Continental squad Christina Watches. For a man who’s 42 years of age, that’s an irony that says “your time is up.”
The kooky team most well-known for ex-dopers Michael Rasmussen and Stefan Schumacher would seem to be an ignominious end to Horner’s long and success career — one capped by his amazing defeat of Vincenzo Nibali in this years’ Vuelta.
Imagine you’ve just had your career defining victory, becoming the first American to win the Vuelta a Espana and your reward is a salary cut and banishment to a squad that gets excited about the Tour of Denmark. The rider nicknamed the Smiler may need a new moniker: the Frowner.
Manager Claus Hembo has confirmed there is interest on both sides and that he’s digging in his sponsors pockets for the extra $273,000 to help fund adding Horner to the roster. Maybe it’s a nice PR move and maybe this is scary real.
After riding the biggest grand tours and most prestigious stage races on the UCI calendar, Horner could look forward this year to riding the Tour d’Algérie, Tour de Tipaza and the Tour of Estonia. Those ain’t exactly highlights and it would feel more like exile to the pro cycling gulag. No Tour of California, no Basque Country, no Tour, Giro or Vuelta. He can tick those races off his wish list.
It’s been well-documented that Horner is the victim of a perfect storm of unfortunate circumstances: his age, salary level, crashing economies, folding teams, devalued UCI points and the rumors (fair or unfair) that no rider a month shy of his 42nd birthday wins the Vuelta without illegal means.
From reading the news, it appears that Horner and his agent have made the rounds at every WorldTour and Continental squad on the planet. Maybe he even does something crazy like join Francisco Mancebo over in Dubai at the Sky Dive team. Another metaphor for a career that has suddenly take a precipitous fall.
We hope to see Horner pull a miracle out of his Bell helmet, but it doesn’t seem too likely at this point. Will he be forced into retirement like his old teammate and rival Levi Leipheimer? Things look pretty dark and desperate when the only lifeline is a Christina Watches team best known for the crazy Chicken Michael Rasmussen.
Perhaps, that’s the ultimate signal to Horner that his time is simply up.