Chris Horner Just Can't Get a Break!

by Jack  

Chris Horner just can't get a break! One of the best domestic racers, just after and before he went to race in Europe, has been having a horrible season thanks to a lot of bad luck. Poised to really make his mark in the pro European peloton this year, Chris has been plagued with injury after injury that seem to occur just when his form was at the top of the charts.

Originally from Bend, Oregon, Chris began his career way back in 1995. After a very successful domestic stint, Chris moved across the pond to join the French team, Fran├žaise des Jeux. Not able to acclimate himself to being away from home or the European scene, Chris returned to American soil and began to dominate the US circuit. He won almost every major race there is to win in America, including duking it out with Lance Armstrong at the 2004 Tour de Georgia and a solid top ten finish at the UCI World Road Race Championships that year. The top Pro teams in Europe noticed again and he was offered a contract to join the Spanish team, Saunier Duval - Prodir. This was Chris' second chance at racing with the big boys, Chris was confident that this time would be a success.

After starting out slow, his 2005 season began to take shape just before the Tour de France. Chris dreamed of riding the Tour and he needed to show his team that he was in form in order to be selected. Riding the Tour de Suisse, Chris proved that he was up to the task by soloing to a magnificent victory on Stage 6, a mountain top finish. This was Chris' ticket to the big dance. Chris never looked back again.



Chris' victory salute at the finish line of Stage 6, 2005 Tour de Suisse.

Chris continues to be a major player in the hilly spring Ardennes classics as well as the hilly fall classics and has ridden for Davitamon-Lotto (now, Silence-Lotto) as well as his current team, Astana.

Now turn the page to the 2009 season. The 2009 season was supposed to be a great season for Chris. He was in his 2nd year at Astana and quickly established himself as a would-be leader for the spring classics. In addition to his leadership qualities for those races, he can also be counted on as a top domestique for the 3-week grand Tours, especially the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. In addition, the return of Lance Armstrong brought additional life and excitement to the team which no doubt would motivate anyone. Then the bad luck started.

Soon after the season clicked into gear, Chris had a bad fall at the Tour of California's stage 3 (bad break #1, pun intended). Although he didn't know it at the time since he continued and finished the race in 22nd place, this fall would derail his entire spring campaign. Sidelined for a few months, Chris began to set his sights on goals further down the calendar, including riding the Giro with Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong.

Chris arrived at the Giro in top form, clearly showing he was one of the 10 strongest riders in the race. But alas, his luck hadn't changed at all. Chris crashed again on Stage 10 and was forced to abandon (bad break #2). He returned home to Oregon to recoup in hopes of regaining his form for a spot on the Tour de France roster.

During the lead up to the Tour, Chris trained in Aspen with teammates Levi and Lance, publicly showing a connection with his 2 American teammates. Nicknamed "red neck" for his truck driving and hamburger eating habits, Horner quickly regained form and showed he was ready for 3 weeks in July. Then came word from Astana's director, Johann Bruyneel that he was not chosen as part of the 9 man roster for the Tour. He was passed up in favor of riders that would satisfy the sponsor. This decision was not based on sport but based on politics (bad break #3). Disappointed, Chris packed his bags and returned home to plan for the 2nd half of the season with a shot at the Vuelta and the fall classics.

As August rolled around, Chris was planning a run at the overall classification at the Tour of Spain (Vuelta). This would be one of the very few shots Chris would have at riding for the overall since his team is stacked with GC contenders for the other Grand Tours. This would be Chris' chance to shine and show the world what he can do in a 3 week race. He would have full support and be given every opportunity to ride his race. Chris went into the 64th Vuelta as one of the dark horse favorites but then his bad luck struck again. Even before the Vuelta was one week old, a terrible crash on stage 4 took out more than half the peloton. Unfortunately, Chris was one of the riders that got worse for the wear. Chris finished the stage but found out later that he broke his hand and had to abandon the race (bad break #4).

So this brings us to today. Most people thought his season was over. It's early September and only about a month left to go for the season, possibly a good time to call it quits for 2009 and look forward to 2010. But no, Chris will not end his season on a down note. He is determined to not let all of the bad luck affect his entire season. Chris hopes to recover in time to race his beloved fall classic, the Giro di Lombardia, one of cycling's monuments. Chris has come close to winning this race before and we hope that it will bring a huge high for an otherwise down year. Good luck to Chris Horner! The 2009 Giro di Lombardia is Saturday, October 17th.

You can follow Chris on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/hornerakg.


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