Friday, June 26, 2009

On Behalf of Chris Horner

I just have to comment on Astana's decision to leave Chris Horner off their Tour de France roster.

I just read Horner's blog in the Oregonian here, and I have to say that I really, really respect the calm, mature way he's analyzed and then accepted his situation.

It surprised me in reading the comments on the Oregonian site, that so many blame Alberto Contador for Horner's exclusion, because Contador insisted on taking ONE of his guys, Sergio Paulinho.

This seems ridiculous to me. Before Lance Armstrong decided to come back, Contador was the unquestioned captain of that team. It's only subsequent to LA's comeback that Contador lost so much political juice in the squad, and it's sort of an insult, for the top stage racer in the world, to be relegated to only brining ONE of his preferred domestiques.

If you want to blame someone for Horner's exclusion, I'd look first to his friend Lance (for throwing the team into relative chaos), then to Levi Leipheimer (whose fatigue after racing for too many GCs already this season probably warrants a rest), and then to Andreas Kloeden (who hasn't been in such dazzling form and has doping allegations hanging over his head back in Germany).

To my mind, as much as Leipheimer's form might be in question after a gruelling Giro, Kloeden's exclusion makes the most sense to me given the doping cloud hanging over his head. Two years removed from Astana's removal from the TdF after Alexandre Vinokourov's disgrace, I would have expected team management to be a little more sensitive to sending guys with any dubious doping problems to the sport's signature event.

And let me just say I have no idea what Kloeden did or didn't do. I've always liked him as a rider. I'm just saying, if I'm putting together a Tour roster from the Astana payroll I send Horner before I send Kloeden. Horner is in good form. He's incredibly astute tactically. He will kill himself for his captain, and he's shown he has a lot of gas left in the tank, a crash at the Giro notwithstanding.

And at 37 (my age too), this may be Horner's last chance to ride the Tour, and that makes me sad.

No comments: