The Roar
The Roar


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

Chris Horner is the favourite to take out Stage 3 of the Tour of Utah. (Image: Team Sky).
23rd September, 2013

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.