A one-two-three punch from the old men from Radio Shack.
Three weeks ago, 39 year old Chris Horner won the Tour of California with teammate Levi Leipheimer a close second. Today it was the 37 year old Leipheimer’s turn to top with bottom with a thrilling come-from-behind win in the Tour de Suisse. Leipheimer beat out the Little Prince, Damiano Cunego by four seconds on the 32.1k time trial.
Johan Bruyneel has to be feeling much better about his Radio Shack squad heading into the Tour de France — especially with old man Andreas Kloden coming within nine seconds of beating winner Fabian Cancellara in that same time trial. That’s a lot of what Radio Shack physiologist Allen Lim calls “old man diesel power.”
If you’re a car guy, you know 200,000 miles is just the “breaking in” mileage for a diesel. A ’76 Mercedes clocked over 2.8 million miles before retiring to the German automative company’s museum.
These kind of results also make a far better case for the bean counters and marketing guys at Radio Shack who are in the middle of deciding the future of their team sponsorship. Wins are good for sales, losses are good for, uhh, lost sales.
Coming out of the Tour of California, Horner was as confident and vocal as he’s ever been, saying he has a realistic shot at a top five in France, with the podium a possibility. Which reminds us of our favorite line from the Western film True Grit where bad guy Robert Duval squares off against an aging John Wayne wearing an eye patch. When sheriff Wayne declares he aims to take Duval in, the bad guy replies, “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed, fat man.”
Then there’s Leipheimer, who has been on the Tour de France podium once before back in 2007. Since then the man from Montana has always had a bad day or two in the Tour. In last year’s Grand Boucle, Horner finished an impressive 10th while still working for Lance Armstrong; Leipheimer took 13th and Kloden 14th.
As Horner put it after California, the podium in France is “definitely available.” With Ivan Basso crashing on his face and Russian Denis Menchov without a race invite, that’s two guys crossed off the list behind Contador and Schleck.
How far can the old man diesels go in the 2011 Tour de France? Hard to really say but the good news for Radio Shack is that while the mileage on the odometer is super high, all three engines are definitely warmed up.