Chris Horner, at age 41, is old – at least, as far as world tour bicycle racing is concerned. In this year’s Vuelta Espana Horner is riding the legs off of guys in their late 20’s, including 28 year old Vincenzo Nibali who won the Giro d’ Italia in May. Curiously enough, the media has not been altogether gracious. The present culture of professional cycling is jaded, making inspired performances suspect. Chris Froome fielded his share of doping questions during the Tour de France because some considered his performance to be a little too good. Now attention has turned to Chris Horner.
Horner has not been recognized as a high profile contender in the Grand Tours. But with 80 victories to his credit, he’s been an exceptionally strong rider throughout his career. 18 of those victories were over-all stage race wins that included the Tour of California and Tour of the Basque Country. According to Radio Shack Leopard Trek team website: in his career as a professional rider, Chris Horner has been under-appreciated many times. Horner’s career has often been a brutal trade between injury and success. indeed, he battled a knee injury that sidelined him for most of his 2013 season.
Today, in stage 20 of the Vuelta, Horner was attacked six times by Nibali on the final climb. Characteristic of his form during this tour, he countered with smooth out of the saddle accelerations – neutralizing all of Nibali’s efforts. Horner sat on Nibali’s wheel until the final 23% grade, and then added 34 more seconds to his lead. Too old? Not hardly.
I prefer to push the cynicism aside. I’d rather talk about heart and hard work. To be the oldest winner of a grand tour in the history of the sport takes a special person. It takes a rider willing to descend into the darkness of the pain cave daily, recover in 18 hours, and go back the next day. Chris Horner did this for three weeks and prevailed. Chapeau to the oldest Grand Tour winner in the history of the sport. Heart and hard work are still what it’s all about.