Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Giro d'Italia

Collarbone, schmollarbone: Horner’s hauling

Chris Horner is lighting up the 2009 Giro d’Italia. Just weeks after breaking his collarbone in a horrific crash at the Vuelta al País Vasco in April, Horner is powering through the Giro. “The form’s been really good. I had fantastic legs at País Vasco,” Horner told VeloNews after Saturday’s stage. “The crash there with the broken collarbone, I thought it might knock me out of the Giro. I kept training on the home trainer all the time. I came in here with good legs.”

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Andrew Hood

2009 Giro d'Italia, stage 8: Astana's Chris Horner is on the ride of his life at the Giro.

2009 Giro d’Italia, stage 8: Astana’s Chris Horner is on the ride of his life at the Giro.

Photo: Graham Watson

Chris Horner is lighting up the 2009 Giro d’Italia.

Just weeks after breaking his collarbone in a horrific crash at the Vuelta al País Vasco in April, Horner is powering through the Giro.

“The form’s been really good. I had fantastic legs at País Vasco,” Horner told VeloNews after Saturday’s stage. “The crash there with the broken collarbone, I thought it might knock me out of the Giro. I kept training on the home trainer all the time. I came in here with good legs.”

Horner rose to the occasion during the 24km summit finish at Alpe de Suisi in stage five, climbing into the elite group of seven and providing solid support to Astana teammate and captain Levi Leipheimer.

The 37-year-old Astana rider was at it again in Saturday’s wild eighth stage into Bergamo.

Horner followed attacks by Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Stefano Garzelli (Acqua e Sapone) and then drove a promising nine-man breakaway over the Cat. 2 Colle del Gallo summit.

“Maybe we went a little too early. When Levi came across, I thought we had a good little group there. We had eight guys with a lot of power and honestly, I thought we could go the distance,” Horner said. “Unfortunately, we lost Cunego at the top. I accelerated and I should have eased up to let him stay with us. Sometimes you just get carried away.”

Horner’s efforts helped open up an encouraging 54-second gap to the chasing favorites, but the group never got fully organized and four chasing teams shut down the attack with less than 20km to go.

Horner crossed the line in Bergamo 27th with the front group of favorites and slots into eighth overall at 1:25 back after eight days of racing.

Since the start of the Giro, Horner has provided tremendous support to Leipheimer and surprised Italians not familiar with the American legend.

One person not astonished by Horner’s performances is Astana sport director Alain Gallopin, who brought Horner to Europe with Francaise des Jeux back in the late 1997.

“I’m not surprised. I knew before he would have a great Giro. I know Chris well. I brought him to Europe. When he was young, he was fantastic, but I have never seen him like this,” Gallopin said. “He’s so strong. He’s ready. He’s very professional, very motivated.”

Astana team boss Johan Bruyneel has been holding back Horner so far, but promises he’ll get his chances.

“He’s a warrior. He came into form and, at Gila, he said, ‘I am going to be there at the Giro.’ He does what he says. Respect,” Bruyneel said. “For a stage win, maybe it’s a little early for him. He will have to wait, because those guys like (race leader Danilo) Di Luca are still fighting for the bonuses.”

Horner says the best is yet to come.

“These first nine days are hard, but the real grand-tour stages are starting the day after the rest day,” he said. “Those are epic grand-tour stages. That’s when we’re going to start seeing big time gaps, big explosives, big attacks. Then we’ll find out who has legs real quick.”

Horner expressed confidence that Leipheimer has the legs to go for the overall victory. With Horner and a very strong Astana team to support him, Leipheimer will carry the team colors into the decisive second half of the Giro.

“I hope he’s here to win it. That’s the point from day one. He’s got a real good team around him. We had seven guys in the final group,” he said. “I look after myself and just float around. We’ll see what happens after the time trial.”

Horner said he’s also in it for himself and expects to have the form to carry him high in GC in addition to helping Leipheimer. He’s done it before, riding to 15th in the 2007 Tour de France while riding in support of runner-up Cadel Evans at Silence-Lotto.

The next big test will come in the highly anticipated Cinque Terre time trial on stage 12.

“No one really knows what I can do. No one’s actually seen me time trial. In the last three or four years, I’ve only put in a time trial at 100 percent at the Tour of Romandie a few years back,” he said. “You gotta give it a dig when you got good form and in the hunt for something at the Giro.”