This isn’t a new story. It’s been kicking around now since the end of January.
Yet there’s been very little commentary written on the deal that will see last year’s surprise Vuelta a Espana winner of 2013, Chris Horner, twinkling his little magic toes all over the World Tour again this year.
I haven’t written more than a dozen words on Horner, ever, and I wasn’t going to write anything this time. You may be of the camp that thinks ‘Good on him’ – after all there aren’t many 41-year-olds who’ve won a Grand Tour for the first time in their life.
Well, there has never been another, in fact.
The magnitude of Horner’s feat did not go unnoticed, though the reaction to it was a little less in awe than I’m sure he would have wished.
The cycling forums went mad with all kinds of allegations and suspicions that were largely to be expected.
Horner’s win though came at a point in the history of this sport when older riders were suddenly finding themselves without contracts in greater numbers than ever before.
If you were older and had any kind of suspicion of doping infringements lingering around you, like Luis Leon Sanchez, then boom, you were cut loose and cast into the wilderness.
Horner was rumoured to be going to Christina Watches for some time until the news that he was being welcomed on to Lampre-Merida, a move that some in the UCI would have been less than thrilled by.
See, there is something about Horner that just doesn’t smell right. I’m not saying anything new there, but it’s still worth looking over the reasons why for a moment.
First of all, a little known rider (outside of the USA) named Matt DiCanio went on record as far back as 2005 to say that another rider, Phil Zajicek, was offered help to purchase EPO and HGH when both rode for the American professional team Saturn.
DiCanio has also gone on record to say that Horner once said many years ago “It isn’t cheating if everyone is doing it.”
Secondly, Horner’s blood values from the 2013 Vuelta “fit with the patterns that anti-doping authorities look for as a sign of cheating.” Not my words, those of Michael Puchowicz in Outside Magazine.
The article states that Hornet’s hemoglobin concentration is simply too high to be natural. The other marker is the lowered reticulocyte count which is another sign of the use of EPO.
Puchowicz’s observations were seen by Shane Stokes of VeloNation, who passed them on to anti-doping authority Robin Parisotto, who works with the Athlete Passport Management Unit in Lausanne, France.
“It is not 100 percent clear that there is anything untoward happening,” Parisotto told Velonation, “[but] there’s certainly unusual patterns.”
He compares Horner’s bio passport to other profiles he has seen working as an anti-doping authority and concludes that “…most of those that come across to us are suspicious. Most are there for a reason. What I have seen with this particular profile is similar to those other profiles.”
Why didn’t the UCI investigate this? No idea.
Is any of this enough reason to suspend Horner? My gut says no, but if an anti-doping authority is stating that Horner’s values are suspicious why isn’t the UCI investigating?
One person who is probably asking himself these very questions and who has far more of a divested interest in all this than just about anyone else is another American rider – or should I say ex-rider – Craig Lewis.
Some of you may remember the now 29-year-old rider, who has just announced his retirement.
At 19, riding in the Tour de Georgia, Lewis was hit by a car and suffered two punctured lungs, internal bleeding and several fractures all over his body, almost passing away as a result.
Months of recovery followed before he returned to the pro ranks with Slipstream before moving on to HTC, where he won the team time trial at the 2011 Giro d’Italia. Days before the end of that race he broke a femur, forcing him out and eventually on to the Pro Continental Champion Systems team, which folded just last year.
Then he got a berth on the Lampre-Merida team. Well, he would have had a place there, had the management not decided to go and sign a 41-year-old American called Chris Horner.
The same guy who says he saw no doping on Bruyneel’s teams, the same guy who defended Armstrong until it became impossible even for his greatest apologists to do so, the same guy about whom all those rumours have been flying around.
“I thought we had already hit rock bottom, but it keeps going down,” Lewis said in an interview recently with Cyclingnews. “The sport just doesn’t market itself, and it needs some big changes – a lot has to happen for the sport to be appealing for companies to sponsor. It’s not sustainable the way it is.”
With riders like Horner still finding places to ply their trade, you’d have to agree with Lewis.
is nothing short of laziness.
or, wait some folk say… is the sincerest form of flattery. or something like that. well, check this out – CRANKPUMP!
it’ll be a huge success. cos everyone has shimano hollowtech cranks. and no one has pockets. brilliant!
click here to see the CRANKPUMP! video and to hear the voiceover from a woman who was kept in a darkened room for the past 11 years.
and what a smooth-line looking bike…
yes, a real holiday, racing the Craft TransAlp. 7 days of hell. 586km and 19,200m of climbing.
5th day in and i am a mess of cuts, bruises, and a taint that ’tain’t no more.
hot damn, these hills are vicious. and beautiful.
full report to come soon. man, am i getting an education from these Euros…
Since I started coaching, have to say I’ve been very lucky to be working with such a great bunch of athletes. It’s been a blast, seriously.
One guy who came to me with a list of weaknesses twice as long as his list of strengths was Rafael Leyson Amorganda from the Philippines. Within a few months though Rafael’s gone from mid-pack fodder to the top of the podium, winning both stages and the GC at the recent Tour of Subic, for his age group.
His testimonial was not in fact written by me but it is so glowing that I’m just gonna add the link here to it.
thankfully, cyclingnews continues to churn out bland, boring and altogether snoozy nooz stories so at least i have something to help put me into a deep 8-hour coma of a night.
where would i be without you, cyclingnews? probably knee-deep in empty boxes of Ambien…
predictable, lumbering, devoid of any real insight (Robert Millar aside) or even the faintest whiff of journalistic flair it may be, cyclingnews, i have to admit, is not all that bad at doing what it says on the box, which is delivering news. about cycling. so, whatever.
yet where it succeeds quite spectacularly is in playing safe. like, super safe. as in, keeping advertisers happy and making sure that the boat doesn’t even get wet, never mind gets rocked. that kind of safe.
going into the first ever edition of the 3 day Tour de Tayabas (May 30th-June 1st) hosted by the rather swish Gracelands Estates Country Club in the Quezon Province of the Philippines, i had extremely low expectations. normally i’m cocky/confident/stupid enough to think i can grab a stage win at the least but this time i was looking to just get through safe and sound and for my face not to explode.
i might have to explain that last comment. on the evening of the 14th of May i felt what i thought to be a small, deep pimple growing just under the skin on my right cheek. thinking nothing of it i climbed into bed early, intending to get up early for a long training ride.
by 2am i still couldn’t get to sleep. the pimple felt bigger. on a trip to the toilet i glanced in the mirror and got a little bit of a shock – the right side of my face was visibly swollen and even though it wasn’t painful i immediately went into Man Panic Mode.
allergic reaction? i hadn’t eaten anything dodgy nor been stung by anything or taken any medication. there was this soft sponginess to the swelling that wasn’t making me feel any better about the fact that i was losing my chiseled jawline! what was worse was that it seemed to be starting over on the left side of my face too now.
reposting after a commentator pointed out that Big Georgey H must be alright because a bunch of current American professionals have attended his Gran Fondo. quite how that makes sense i am not sure…
Originally posted on crankpunk :
google ‘levi’s gran fondo’ – or click here – and check out the number of companies sponsoring this distinguished event.
26, i make it. 26 companies, from Specialized to Nissan to Francis Ford Coppola Winery to Smith Optics. what are they donating? cash? where is it going? charities?
do i care? no. the real question is what are they getting? and, if there is such a thing as an even realer question, why are they getting no sh*t for this?
hiding behind the ‘but it’s for charity’ veil has to come to an end. there are a million worthier fundraisers out there than Levi Leipheimer – whom, lest we forget, got busted last year for being a career doper. you remember that, right? he was stripped of all results from June 1, 1999 to July 30, 2006, and July 7 to July 29, 2007, the periods he admitted to being…
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yes. it is almost here. hot diggity damn.
this article originally appeared on The Roar.
“How can somebody be in love with Hell? It’s a contradiction. Makes no sense. Most would call it madness…
“In a religious context, Hell is a place of punishment in the afterlife, an endless realm of suffering for the transgressors, the evil. But not in cycling. In cycling Hell is a place for the brave and the heroes. Survive a day in the Hell of the North and you are a hero.
“Win or lose.
“For me this is the biggest, most prestigious race on the calendar. It’s made for heroes and only won by heroes. This is the race you have to have a passion for just to be able to finish, and to win it – well, you have to truly love it.
Amidst so much suffering, such beauty. This is Hell. This is Paris – Roubaix.”
Leon Van Bon, two-time winner of stages in the Tour de France and two-time 4th place at Paris-Roubaix.
Of all the Monuments, none quite seems to get hardened one-day riders like Leon and fans like me so misty-eyed. There’s just nothing like Roubaix. The cobbles of Flanders are a world apart from those that define the race that comes a week later in the calendar, smaller, smoother and far easier to navigate.
Paris-Roubaix’s pave sections look like they’ve been dropped from a great height with the intention of bringing great pain to anyone mad enough to ride over them.
It’s difficult to explain fully just how jagged and huge these things are to anyone who hasn’t ridden over them. You get up on the crest thinking that is the best place to be but after having your brain just about shaken from your skull you start looking for alternative routes. Yet once you leave the crown the cobbles that have been pounded by decades of tractors and trucks rear up like the sharp, jagged teeth of a subterranean monster hell-bent on consuming riders.
Each hundred meters or so brings a fresh burst of lactic acid and, slowly but surely, your speed begins to fall even though it’s completely flat. Once traversed, your respect for them professionals who win or even just rider here goes up tenfold.
The combination of elements that make a winner here are complex. They need a bike rider’s DNA, first of all, as well as power in spades, strength, courage, flat line speed, immense handling skills and, as if all that were not enough, the final and most important factor is that they actually have to enjoy riding over the cobbles.
The courage factor should also not be underestimated. These guys don’t just accept that they may well come clattering down over the stones but embrace that fact.
Which brings us to the potential winners of this year’s race. Chatting to three-time winner Johan Museeuw on Wednesday at Scheldeprijs, he said that it was hard to choose a winner but that “it will be one of the usual names,” by which he meant, basically, Fabian Cancellara or Tom Boonen.
Can these two win again this year? Of course they can, but can they win in as spectacular a fashion as they have in the past?
Tom Boonen was under form at the Tour of Flanders though he did a nice chunk of work at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday, which was good training for Roubaix.
Boonen spoke before the star at Scheldeprijs about his form and he sounded optimistic.
“I was very happy afterwards [after Flanders]. I have very good sensations until the last 30 or 40 minutes,” he said.
“This week will give me maybe that little bit extra. Plus, Roubaix is a different race. Flanders was really hard this year. It’ll be easier to save more energy for the final in Roubaix.”
Can he break Cancellara if the Swiss rider gets away with him? I very much doubt it. Cancellara’s win at Flanders was truly one for the memory banks and I think that he is a notch and a half above the Belgian at the moment.
Of the other contenders it comes as no surprise to see Peter Sagan’s name up there in most people’s list.
“I don’t know, I’m not thinking about Sunday right now,” he said on Wednesaday. “If I find myself in front it will be the same – everybody will know that I’m there. We’ll see.”
And that might be just why Sagan didn’t figure in the finale at Flanders, and why he’s had a string of nearly-there’s in the classics in the past two seasons. He seems to do too much work at crucial points in these races, and whilst no one would deny the immense talent he has, others will point to the tactical naivety that informs his riding.
He is brilliant though, and he can win in Roubaix -one day.
One other rider in great form is Sep Vanmarcke. The Belkin rider was 2nd last season to Cancellara and is a very serious threat to the two big men. He love the cobbles too, but he’ll have to stop leading stronger men out in the sprints if wants to get the win his talent deserves.
Greg Van Avermaet of BMC is another nearly man as he proved last week at Flanders where he was 2nd, and though also very talented I cannot see him winning this Sunday. Roubaix is fundamentally different to Flanders and much better suited to the tall, muscular rider than the smaller man. Van Avermaet is 5’11, not exactly tiny, but he has a slightness about him that means hs is not ideally suited to Paris-Roubaix’s much tougher cobbles.
How about Marcel Kittel, the Giant-Shimano rider who won on Wednesday at Scheldeprijs? Some may scoff at the suggestion that he could ever do well here but I believe he can, though admittedly not this year. Like Hushovd was, he’s a big guy with a great sprint but as he loses some of that power in his later 20s he might just become a great cobbles rider.
One other mention before my prediction for the winner: Bradley Wiggins.
He says now that he is ready to take more risks on these roads as he is no longer focused on the Tour de France, but can he actually be there at the end?
I doubt it. Too frail, too flighty, too liable to get irritated by the whole shebang that is Paris-Roubaix.
So, who’s going to win on Sunday?
Tough call. I’m going to go for Taylor Phinney of BMC. I can’t quite say why. I just get ‘that feeling’ that it’s his time. We shall see.
Leon Van Bon, by the way, is going for Cancellara.
Predictable, Leon, predictable!
read my take on the race here on The Roar.