This article was first published in 2013. For complete access to over 50 years of VeloNews content, subscribe here.
It was meant to be this way: In the ghostly mist, a red jersey draped on his shoulders, riding away with the Vuelta victory, away from the haunting traps of the past and into the eccentricity of a late-career climax.
Chris Horner hasn’t been a prototypical cyclist, ever. To the contrary, he would win his first grand tour at 41, and finally step out of the shadows cast by the rest of his generation. He was always the rider who could.
In Spain, he finally became the rider who did. Say what you will about Horner. He says plenty himself, and there’s much to say: about his age, about his odds-defying performance, about his penchant for bad luck, or his penchant for bad food, or what could have been, if only physiological gifts alone could win bike races.
But this year, all there really is to say about the 41-year-old is this: Vuelta a España champion, eldest grand tour winner in history, first American grand tour winner since … Greg LeMond.
“It’s a lifetime of hard work to get here. I’ve been professional now for 20 years. The grand tour always holds a special place for every rider to show how good of a rider he is,” Horner said after icing the win.
“The team was fantastic. The team supported me every day.”
The affable Horner authored a tale for the cycling ages this fall. He won the Vuelta against the fierce competition of Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) on the hardest of courses, littered with withering climbs — there were 13 mountain stages and 41 mountain passes. It was a course that was made for a rider like Horner — steep, with few flat time trialing kilometers — but it still took enormous talent and grit to master.