Chris Horner

Grand Tour Winner

I feel that I should be pleased that Chris Horner has won the Vuelta a Espana. Stage in, stage out, a superlative race.

Gilbert & Stybar’s frenetic dash for the line through the tight streets and roundabouts of Mairena de Aljafare may be the best grand tour stage I’ve ever seen, following on the heels of Tony Martin’s day long break. Attacking riding from the red jersey, Nico Roche, and the race decided on the last stage that counts.

All this and the fact that he’s 42 the same week I am. His steady pedaling style, appearing slow, traveling fast. His forensic analysis of the race. These are the things that make me want to be pleased.

Yet every time Nibali made a move I was hoping for the gap to open.

It seems to me that there’s a lack of authenticity about his win.

Why is this? Would he really have doped to finish his career on a high, seems unlikely. Has he ridden like this before? Yes, in the high mountains of California with Leipheimmer (unfortunate considering…).

On reflection it’s more about an American winning a Grand Tour. This should bring pleasure to all those who remember Robert Millar and, more recently, Chris Froome being rough-housed by Spanish teams. Particularly in the light of the other contenders, some of whom have less than unblemished records, having the face to question his performance!

The Armstrong affair still drags cynicism in its wake, and this is unfair and frustrating. It’s not Lance though that leaves the bad taste, but rather the legacy of Tyler Hamilton. The USPS debacle turned out to just be a publicity stunt for Hamilton’s writing career. Whilst all were horrified that Lance could stoop so low, the book brings to light the fact that although Lance was naughty, he was not alone.

Poor Tyler was forced, or chose, to dope, and although Lance took the flak, it seems the same was happening at Phonak, where there was no Lance. So well done Tyler for earning money, both through doping, and then bringing doping to light. This is the sort of positioning that almost forces us to favour the ‘omerta’. This absurd moral cleansing, which makes all things equally dirty, does no-one any favours, so let’s treat it with the disdain it deserves.

Of course we want dope free riding, we want validity, we want honesty, and we want racing like the Vuelta. So thanks to the course designers at ASO who run the Vuelta, thanks to the riders who pushed themselves to destruction, and above all, thanks to Chris Horner for showing that a stubborn old bastard can come out on top!