Tough Times in Cycling
One rider tries to secure a contract while another symbolically cuts away from it.
it didn’t come as a surprise to me that Trek Factory Team didn’t extend Horner’s contract. They have jumped onto the Fabian Cancellara bandwagon and secured his signature for 2014. Also, they kept the Schleck brothers, which I would bet my bottom dollar they got at a huge discount.
The word on the street is the recent Vuelta winner is asking for a million dollars a year. In contrast to football, baseball, or basketball, a million bucks is chump change. LeBron James probably has that rolling around under the seat of his Bentley. In cycling, and especially this year, that type of money is hard to find. There’s also the awkward Reasoned Decision letter from Levi Lepheimer’s testimony. As I’ve written before there’s a redacted name (known as Rider 15) that is speculated to be Chris Horner. Horner in a brief phone conversation with Cyclingnews wouldn’t deny the claim and instead said he had to get off the phone as he was driving. Velonews followed up with Horner but didn’t ask that question. In Horner’s defense he has denied doping and published his blood values from this year’s Vuelta to back that up. That’s a gutsy move by Chris as it leaves the interpretation of his blood work open to everyone.
Sure enough in a recent Velonation story anti-doping expert Robin Parisotto raises some questions about Horner’s blood values. Parisotto doesn’t say exactly what is suspicious about the blood values as he doesn’t want to tip off people looking to beat the blood passport system. However, he does question why Horner’s hemoglobin, which starts to decrease as the Vuelta wore on (normal), starts to return to baseline in the third week (not normal). He tells Velonation that he would request further examination of Horner’s blood. Not a smoking gun of doping, but if you’re a team manager with limited funds, do you want to take that risk?
Finally there’s the age factor. We’ve been told ad nauseam about Horner’s age - he’ll be 42 years old next season. Again, if you’re a manager do you risk a guy with hundreds of thousands of race miles on his body or go with a younger rider with potential?
It’s these scenarios that are holding up Horner from getting a contract - a contract that he deserves. There is no concrete proof that he doped during the Vuelta a Espana and the blood values, according to Parisotto, look suspicious, but are far from damning.
In the end I’m confident Chris will get a contract, just not at the dollar amount he thinks he deserves. There’s too much unexplained baggage which could lead to a public relations disaster. Maybe he’s not doping during this current phase of his career, but while he was on Saunier Duval maybe it’s discovered he was? That said, some team will take a chance on him and perhaps Chris can ride out the last years of his professional career with his head held high.
Cutting Away From The Past
One rider that did call it a day was American Christian Vande