Americans in Spain
Chris Horner wins the Vuelta amid the drama. There was another American too.
This year’s Vuelta was arguably the most exciting grand tour we’ve had this season. My memories of the Giro d’Italia is mostly riders wearing rain capes. The Tour de France was, as expected, a Team Sky domination game. Everyone was waiting for the moment that Chris Froome took the yellow jersey. When he did, the race became a 14-day victory lap around France. However, the 2013 Vuelta a Espana was a tough course that was, in theory designed for Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha). We had several leadership changes and breakaways that actually stayed away! The last stages of the race were dramatic – was Chris Horner going to beat Vincenzo Nibali? When the Vuelta finished, standing on the podium in Madrid as the overall winner was 41 year old Horner.
I won’t beat this topic too much, but to say Horner’s win was unexpected is the understatement of the year. Other than Rodriguez, the other favorite for victory was Nibali and he provided the drama. The Italian took the leader’s red jersey and then saw his lead chipped away until he only had 3 a second advantage. Would Horner overtake the Italian on the final climb of the Vuelta – L’Angliru? That was drama!
Even after the race was done and the barricades were taken down, the drama didn’t stop. Of course it turned out to be a tempest in a tea pot, but USADA’s anti-doping tester went to the wrong hotel which set off alarms everywhere in the cycling world. Turns out Horner had updated his whereabouts form, but that information hadn’t been relayed to the Spanish anti-doping tester. So the tester couldn’t find Horner, who, like any guy given the chance after being on the road for several weeks, decided to stay with his wife after the race at another hotel for some “alone time.” Obviously Horner subscribes to the Sean Kelly theory of no hanky-panky during a stage race.
USADA recognized it was their mistake and Horner wasn’t charged with a missed test. Unfortunately the “missed test” was leaked to a newspaper which ran the story. By now this story has died down, and rightfully so, but it stirred up the ongoing speculation that surrounds winners of grand tours. Was he trying to dodge the tester? Why wasn’t he staying with the team? How could someone of his age win a grand tour?
Now Team RadioShack has threatened to sue for damages. I’m hoping this is just bluster by The Shack management because it could set a dangerous precedent. USADA has a limited budget and if RadioShack-Leopard were successful in suing it could limit the amount of tests they conduct. Sure, there needs to be responsibility from USADA when they screw up, but it needs to be a two-way street. While some athletes have deserved the suspensions/bans due to infractions, there have also been questionable cases as well, which USADA have acknowledged to not having been entirely the athlete’s fault. The cases of Scott Moniger and Tom Zirbel spring to mind. Both were popped due to contaminated supplements. They did