ANDERSON: Horner’s unexpected Vuelta win a fitting Grand Tour finale

Phil Anderson Columnist

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    Chris Horner is the favourite to take out Stage 3 of the Tour of Utah. (Image: Team Sky).

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    As the third and final Grand Tour of the 2013 season, the Vuelta a Espana provided us with some compelling racing and produced an unlikely winner in 41-year-old American Chris Horner.

    A pivotal season finale
    I was fortunate enough to be in Brescia at the Giro d’Italia when Vicenzo Nibali smoked the field to take home the title.

    The 28-year-old went into the Giro as one of the favourites but all eyes were on Sir Wiggo.

    How would he perform and what would be the likely scenario at the forthcoming Tour de France given Christopher Froome’s ambitions?

    That contest was resolved off the field, with Wiggins’ poor performance in the Giro pivotal.

    Nibali dominated the Giro and in the prime of his career, this was expected. He would be on the podium, it was just a matter of which step.

    Likewise for the Vuelta, he came into the race as a favourite, his career on path for a second Grand Tour win.

    Age versus experience
    It must have been difficult for him to lose and to lose to Chris Horner. The 41-year-old was gaining strength as the remaining contenders were slowly burying themselves.

    Horner comes from the Discovery/US Postal team – he was a teammate of Lance and even he cannot dispute that the shadow of that connection will shroud his performance. But he is entitled to a defence and is doing so.

    Horner’s performance was awesome, his win unexpected. Nibali was a little arrogant in the early stages and in the end powerless to peg Horner back.

    I think it’s great that the old man of the peleton can come back after a career of setbacks and show an entire field a clean set of wheels.

    This is the stuff dreams are made of.

    I remember so well my own Tour de France. Young, and blazing a stellar career path with a yellow jersey on my back while the old badgers waited in the wings, tactics in place and ready to pounce. Bernard Hinault won that tour by more than six minutes.

    Always a little controversy
    I can understand the general reticence to review Horner’s performance as, I guess, untainted.

    Horner is 41, I retired at 34 and was one of the oldest in the peleton at that time.

    Racing has changed considerably and the riders are getting older but a Grand Tour win is, well, amazing.

    If Horner was a decade or two younger, then there wouldn’t be a shadow of a doubt about the results.

    Cycling, fighting to reinvent the wheel, would be promoting the emergence of fresh young talent in a new era.

    Unfortunately we have all been scarred by the findings of the USADA report and we must all bea little sceptical.

    That aside, the question must be asked: is such a rider now earning the results he deserved as the remnant peleton cleans up?

    Horner has had some stellar results during his career. The bulk of his career fell in the shadow of the Lance era – he was a stalwart professional, his results not questioned until now.

    Perhaps when there is unilateral retrospective testing applied to all results we can all sleep easy again with the knowledge that the race was won amazingly by a 41-year-old.

    After a slow start to his career the investment in Michael Matthews appears to have paid off for Orica-GreenEDGE with not just one but two stage wins in this year’s Vuelta.

    Still very young, he has a good future and could become one of the peleton’s fast finishers.

    Let’s consider. Matthews is clearly talented and he has made it all the way to the end of the Vuelta and snatched a win.

    Orica-GreenEDGE have proved they excel in setting up their sprinter in the final kilometres without wasting energy.

    Let’s hope Orica-GreenEDGE don’t make the mistake of limiting this kid to a future as a sprint king. He may have more to offer.

    Phil Anderson
    Phil Anderson

    Phil Anderson cycling tours
    Phil Anderson Cycling Tours
    At Phil Anderson Cycling Tours, everything they do is about offering quality, once in a lifetime cycling experiences to their guests. Phil's tours cover the European Cycling Season and include the Grand Tours of the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana. Phil also organises custom tours around Australia as well as one-off experiences with the legend himself.

    To find out more visit Phil Anderson Cycling Tours.

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    The Crowd Says (4)

    • September 24th 2013 @ 11:07am
      Tom said | September 24th 2013 @ 11:07am | ! Report

      Nice to hear your thoughts, Phil. Think Horner’s win is ‘eyebrow-raising’ to say the very least!

    • September 25th 2013 @ 4:59pm
      The Truth will out said | September 25th 2013 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

      Is “unlikely win” code for saying he clearly doped?

      Phil, “If Horner was a decade or two younger, then there wouldn’t be a shadow of a doubt about the results” doesn’t make sense.

      That’s kind of like saying “If my Dad was a woman he’d be my mother”.

      People need to have the cojones to question this guy, instead of tip toeing around it. I’d rather read some detailed analysis of Horner, questioning the journeyman career, his role as one of Lance’s henchmen and then a stint with Astana, basically riding for and with dopers (let alone queries about his own use).

      One more, Phil it’s not “This is the stuff dreams are made of”, but rather this is a win that doping delivered.

      • September 26th 2013 @ 11:11am
        Phil Anderson said | September 26th 2013 @ 11:11am | ! Report

        Currently there is much media hyperbole to suggest the new crop of young riders are clean. A no needles policy ensures this! Like everyone else in cycling I have many reservations.

        As a professional cyclist I rode my whole career for the “dream win”.

        At Horners age, if he won clean, awesome but we must allow him the benefit of innocent until proven guilty. The fabric of our justice system is built on this ideal.

        Since Lance, the tables have turned and we are confronted with guilty until proven innocent.

        Horner is currently without a contract I believe, perhaps cyclist and teams are making their own judgements about riders.

    • September 28th 2013 @ 12:31pm
      J Miller said | September 28th 2013 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

      Horner did not come from the Discovery/US Postal team, he rode on US domestic teams most of that time.

      He was a teammate of Lance’s, but not until he was hired by Astana in 2009-2010. In the 2010 Tour, he finished 10th. This 10th place was after he lost several minutes waiting for Lance after a crash and riding in support of him for much of the race.

      Horner being on Astana was a bit of a surprise as it was well known that Horner did not get on well with the Lance crowd, and his outspokenness and criticisms hurt him in his professional career (including USA Cycling). He said in 2007 that Lance as well as the performance of Lance’s team during the various Tours was not credible. Again this was not appreciated by Horner’s team at the time and it again hurt his career in terms of races he was slated to do. That is what made his “pro-Lance” stance late last year not only puzzling, but disappointing to many of us. Maybe he decided with his contract up soon, he did not want to burn bridges in cycling once again. Maybe he decided with probably only 1-3 years reasonably being able to race on the World Tour he needed to come out loudly in support of Lance and therefore his RadioShack/Trek sponsor? Who knows, but I thought his comments were bordering on stupid.

      I do think the Vuelta was the most exciting stage race this year. The last few mountain stages were a thrill to watch and the Angliru battle was epic. To me, Horner time and again displayed better race tactics than Nibali. He kept a cool head and displayed a lot of patience, but he is known for that.

      For me, half way through, I chose to enjoy this race. I am trying to not have every last drop of joy sucked out of cycling for me. I have become tired of the instant knee jerk comments of “he’s doping” around any great performance – often while the decisive moment of the race is happening. Also tired of the “glee” (vs. disgust or sadness) displayed by some in the “he’s doping” games on twitter. I am not referring to the Comments here. I am referring to certain bloggers and twits who seem to twist any story and if any facts come out that do not support their twist, never acknowledge those facts or act as if there is some conspiracy.

      Thanks for allowing me to comment. – J

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