16 September 2013

41 year old Oregonian with trick knee wins the Vuelta!

In case you did not notice, the Vuelta a Espana, last of this year's grand tours, finished on Sunday in Madrid.

The winner: Chris Horner, a pro cyclist for over 20 years, winner of many races in the U.S.A. before moving to the European scene and riding mostly as a domestique during his 30s.  Native and resident of Bend, Oregon.  The first North American winner of the Vuelta ever, and the first U.S. grand tour victor since ... Greg Lemond.  Horner is more than 5 years older than the next oldest winner of any of cycling's grand tours (Fermin Lambot, winner of the 1922 Tour de France).

Now, at age 41, after skipping the 2013 Tour de France due to (yet another) knee injury, Horner somehow managed to be defeat (28-year-old) Vincenzo Nibali, the favorite and winner of this year's Giro d'Italia, out-climbing him on each of the last 3 stages to regain a lead he had held once early in the race.

Informed commentators say that Horner seemed to catch fire only during the last segment of his Stage 10 victory in the Sierra Nevada, from Torredelcampo to Alto de Hazallanas.  Indeed, Horner seemed inspired just as he passed through Pinos Genil and briefly crossed the route taken by the gracefully aging team Positivo Espresso a few weeks earlier on their ascent of Pico de Veleta.  He flew away from Nibali and the others in the leading group on the following climb, dancing out of the saddle, "grinding a huge gear and making light work of a gradient that topped out at 18%, and regularly hit 15%."  After that, no one could have been surprised at his climbing on the last 3 stages.

Alejandro Valverde, who returned to the pro peleton in 2012 from his Operacion Puerto-related suspension (blood doping, Dr. Fuentes), and over the hill though 8 years younger (age 33) than Horner, rounds out the podium in 3rd.


No comments: