Grand Old Men of the Grand Tours – AKA The Chris Horner problem

“Chris Horner’s recent victory at La Vuelta has made him the oldest winner of a Grand Tour stage ever. At 41 years and 307 days he eclipsed the previous record by some margin to win Stage 3. Horner is one of a few Grand Old Men still riding hard in the hardest of races at what should be long past the dusk of their careers.”

I wrote these words a couple of weeks ago on holiday thinking that I could return home and finish it off to create a piece about the wonderful remarkableness of a couple of older guys winning the odd stage in Grand Tours. The trouble is Horner has kept winning and at this moment – the morning of the last real racing day of La Vuelta – he leads by 3 seconds having distanced his younger rivals on a number of occasions to claw back the time he lost in the Individual Time Trial. Eyebrows are being raised so far they are falling off the back of some correspondents heads, and tongues are wagging so furiously that they are danger of giving their owners whiplash. Whatever the truth is about how Horner is managing such a performance, the cycling community seems desperate to avoid looking naive again.

“This years Tour de France”, I wrote “was illuminated on multiple occasions by Jens Voigt attacking from the get-go and then attacking the break again in an age-defying attempt to solo to a victory. One month older than Horner he fell just short of a win in France although he did manage a solo victory in the Tour of California earlier in the year. So what are Horner and Voigt doing still riding off the front at the wrong side of 40? What on earth keeps them going? And at what cost?”

Each day that has passed has made the implied assumption that Horner would fade and fall down the GC as the race progressed more ridiculous. But what else would have been a reasonable assumption to have made? I wrote elsewhere that Horner’s “few days in red” at the beginning of the race might even complicate his team leader Cancellara’s plans.. I did not contemplate for a second that we would still be writing about him now.

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