The Problem With Chris Horner

Some are having trouble enjoying Chris Horner’s ride in the Vuelta this year. The 41 year old is riding high in the Vuelta. It’s attracting attention and praise but also questions because of his age and he seems to be performing at a level higher than before.

But what if the anxiety and suspicion expressed by some say more about the sport and how fans are still struggling to believe what they see, a mirror to reflect the viewer rather than the rider?

I get “is Chris Horner doping” emails but how am I supposed to know? It’s the same and only answer available for any rider. Earlier this year I wrote we can never know as a piece to frame a stock response to these emails. But back to the Vuelta and in the trial of Chris Horner the case for the prosecution is rather simple: he’s 41 and has never ridden as good as this before. Interestingly this time we’re not seeing as much analysis of actual performance, for example comparative times on the climbs or discussion over Watts per kilogram ratios. Maybe that’s just the Vuelta and fewer people are following?

The Man and not the Athlete?
Perhaps Horner has not helped his image with supportive quotes for Lance Armstrong, for example here is one from

Look, I’m certainly old enough and wise enough to understand the magnitude of the situation, but in the end he’s still getting prosecuted with no positive test. A lot of guys say they saw him and a lot say he did this and he did that, but I look at it and say: ‘USADA, WADA, UCI, they’re saying that the tests are worthless.’ So do you take all the tests, 500, 1000, I don’t know the number I’ve done in my own career and you basically say, that you took them for no reason?

But he’s given other quotes where he’s raised doubts about doping and the practices of some teams, telling the same website in 2007:

It is impossible to ride the front with your whole team and get to the final climb with most of your team still on the front — and be ready to come back and do it day-in and day-out

In other words what we saw from some teams was “not normal”.

What would you say?

Some say Horner should state out loud that he’s riding clean, apparently he hasn’t said this. But he could shout this out loud from the top of the Angliru or write it down 100 times on paper and some would retort that “he would say that, wouldn’t he.” Words can help but the risk is this becomes a test of personality, articulation and verbal dexterity rather than substance.

The Winner’s Curse
The problem with some people’s doubts over Chris Horner is not really for Horner or the race, it’s become a systemic issue with the sport where some feel unable to trust the anti-doping controls. It happens elsewhere and particularly during a grand tour. You’ll remember Chris Froome got the treatment on a much bigger scale. But we had the same in the Giro where Vincenzo Nibali’s dominance got assessed by Andrew Hood on Velonews.

It’s understandable in the context of history where riders have aced anti-doping controls for years and if past precedent isn’t convincing enough we know that it’s still possible to microdose with EPO or use blood doping to evade detection. Worse there’s the simple matter of timing where concern over the likes of Mauro Santambrogio or Mustafa Sayar proves to be a matter of time. Cyclists risk being treated like politicians where many assume they are lying.

Is Age an Issue?
Amid the subjective matters of performance or media quotes Horner’s age is the one certainty and at 41 he is old enough to have fathered several of his rivals in the top-10. But surely the date of birth is the only factual element? If it’s unusual for a forty-something rider to do this we should be careful with assumptions that it’s impossible. In a large population it is still possible for someone to perform at a later age. Of course in a population of pro cyclists its possible for other factors to explain this.

The Problem is Your Problem
The more you look at it the more it’s your problem. If you are surprised by a rider’s improvement or even their age then you’re then left make up your own mind because there’s nothing else to do. In fact it’s like a mirror, as any suspicion and doubt reflects your view of the world rather than the truth. You could be right, you could be wrong.

Got a problem with Chris Horner? If so then it’s your problem. It might also be a collective challenge for the sport to restore faith so that racing can be enjoyed. But there’s not much Horner can do about it.

The past goes a long way to explaining the present day suspicion directed to those leading a grand tour, especially as the pendulum is swinging back. Chris Horner is in the hotseat of suspicion but others have been before. Take whatever view you want on Horner or any other rider in the Vuelta but it has to be just that, nobody can prove anything. The only safe prediction is that this phenomenon will continue in 2014.

240 thoughts on “The Problem With Chris Horner”

  1. How ironic, we weed out the cheats like Contador, and as their performance diminishes as they either leave the sport or cannot compete at the levels they used to whilst doping, we then become suspicious of the riders who then emerge as the genuine clean winners, because ‘they didn’t do that well before’.

    Someone has to win, Horner and Nibali are both riders who a couple of years ago were looking like nearly men, now that the field has been cleared is it any surprise that they have emerged as leading contenders? If not them, who can win and not be accused of cheating?

    • Erm. Lumping Horner with Nibali is disingenuous – Nibali is now only 28 and hitting the years at which GC winners tend to peak. Nibali has always finished in the top 20 of GTs. At the age of 25 he was third in the Giro and won the Vuelta!

      Contrast that with Horner, whose highest in a GT is 9th (in 2010 at the age of 38) and who has only finished in the top 20 of a GT on four occasions out of 10.

      Nibali has always looked like a GT contender from an early age, Horner hasn’t. Not that that means he is doping now!

      • Not disingenuous, im not saying Horner and Nibali are equal prospects, but given their different flight paths this year, one already a GT winner and the other out for months with time to build where others have spent, its not so surprising they are contenders at this point. My general point is that several riders who may have been nearly men before – either super-domestiques to the drug lords or second tier podium chasers can now be expected to achieve a lot more than they did while doping was rampant. Im not adamant that all these riders are clean, i just think its moronic to remove cheats and then suspect the riders left for their newfound ‘success’.

        • Is there a problem with Chris Horner? You mean Rider 15?

          The fact that there are unrepentant (former?) dopers riding around in the peloton like Contador and Valverde, and quite possibly Horner, isn’t necessarily a problem. Contests are made more interesting when there are not only hero to cheers for, but also villians to cheer against.

          As for the suspicion, to me it adds another level of intrigue to an already interesting sport where so much of what goes on lies beneath the surface, whether it be on-road tactics, pre-race training, team dynamics, etc.

          • Yes, there is a big problem with Rider-15. It might just be my problem, but I really don’t want to watch pantomine masquerading itself as sport. Similarly, I don’t want to hear of young, talented riders facing the faustian bargain set out in front of them, to either do what’s required of a ‘good pro’, or step aside for the next talented rider who’ll take your place. I accept it is my problem and I don’t like it. In fact, at times it outrages me.

            I’d like to think maybe Levi might also be suitably annoyed to watch someone who featured in his affidavit, still making a good living out of the ‘sport’ and apparently enjoying the plaudits of fans?

          • It isn’t my problem, it is Horner’s and any other drug cheat who ruins this sport.
            Rider 15 aka Chris Horner is a joke, but he’s playing it on us fans.
            Worse, he’s killing the hopes and prospects of clean riders. Have we learned nothing from the biggest fraud of all Lance “I never tested positive” Armstrong? Jeez, wasn’t he enough to nearly kill the sport?
            He’s a joke. Stop pretending he is ok.

      • Nibali has been team leader over those years. Chris has not. Chris has been a climbing support rider. It’s not like Chris has failed as a team leader year after year like say, the Schlecks.

    • Horner also obliterated some of the record times of these known cheaters from the past on some of the most challenging climbs in the world at this year’s Vuelta. Where do we file this at?

  2. You could also add that it’s about relative performance and that Chris Horner is not riding massively better just that those around him are not at their best for varying reasons. You’re right about the mirror. When Sayer rode away on that stage in Turkey I knew that it was going to end in tears but when Froome flew up mountains during the tour I was sure he was clean. My bias, my perspective and my instinct drew those conclusions. It will just always be a shame that any top class performance will be accompanied with thoughts of foul play. But as you say, that’s my problem.

    • Exactly. I just looked at the GC and I can’t see many obvious choices for riders who should be ahead of Horner. Sky’s Columbians are somehow doing bad, König is a real discovery and Valleverde and Rodriguez are performing surprisingly well compared to the other riders who contested the TdF GC (in fact that raises more questions for me than Horner’s performance) Otherwise everyone is more or less where you expect them to be.

      Another thing is that tougher races seem to favour older riders. Paris – Roubaix is the most obvious example. The young guys might be able to ride faster, but the grizzled veterans seem to be able take more pain. And this Vuelta has been very tough.

  3. Suppose that cycling, while not necessarily 100% clean, is cleaner now than it was 10 years ago. Suppose a rider, not Horner necessarily, but anyone of his generation, is among the best GC riders of his age cohort. Is it plausible that such a rider might be able to have a career competing on Continental teams and races without doping during an era when many (most?) others were, but not make it to the top level of the sport as a result? Is is further plausible that such a rider could then move to the top level and achieve some great results very late in his career after doping problems at the top level have been mitigated? I don’t have any way of knowing whether Horner is clean or not, but I find such an explanation of his late career success at least plausible.

    • I had a similar thought process as well. Let’s say they have managed to clean up the sport a bit. Now with a more level playing field we see riders coming to the fore because they are able to compete based on skill (including tactics) not influenced by doping… I prefer to stick with innocent until proven guilty.

  4. I think you could have made a couple more relevant points about Horner – lack of competition this year in tested events, past teams, managers etc. etc.

    Nobody knows the answer, and everyone with any common sense will try to make some sort of judgement, based on recorded evidence. What other instant option is there ? What a troubled and unfair sport we all follow.

    Every rider should be given credit for his/her performance, with the proviso that sometimes/often things are not what they appear to be. A truly sorry state of affairs for our sport. Our ‘voice in the wilderness’ LM, will surely point out that because of the magnificent efforts of one PMQ and the UCI, we should all rest easily.

    If only it were so !

    • I didn’t want to make this the trial of Horner, weighing up his state of freshness vs his bad diet or do other things. More to say fans have to watch but can’t get much further and that there’s “winner’s curse” where success brings scrutiny and suspicion.

      • I am finding it difficult to watch Horners success in the Vuelta. Isn’t it suspicious when someone comes from nowhere and then rides like a god? Kobo in a previous Vuelts? Does his lack of competition during the year mean that he escaped a lot of testing? How come he can’t get a contract for next year? Do the teams suspect he’s doping? Why isn’t he being snapped up?

  5. Having followed Chris Horner’s career, I am not surprised at all by his performance. I think there have always been evidence that if he could put it all together, with some good luck thrown in, that he could compete in and possibly win a grand tour.

    I would also guess that his performance in the TT probably quieted a number of doubters. When I see climbers his size dominating relatively flat time trials (Contador anyone?) the red flags start popping up in my mind. I also think we are not seeing the wattage per weight issue raised because the numbers, whatever they are, are probably not out of the ordinary.

  6. I think that instead of putting a booster on our suspicions, how about we use 40+ Horner’s (and Voigt and McCarthy and Myerson and I’m sure several others) example as a de-facto debunk on the adage that riders slow down with age? And aside of making sure a certain team has several young riders (as they should), it might be a good idea to keep aging good performers around. They ride well, and their experience can be inspiring for riders/racers of all ages. I’d love to see a study on the physiology of older athletes just to prove that physical ability doesn’t diminish that dramatically over the years, or that proper and wise training can take care of the rider’s speed.

      • That study does fuel a larger discussion, but does not directly apply to this discussion as we would need to know Horner’s numbers to see if he fits into the predictable decline, or is an outlier. Vo2max is only part of the discussion though. In a grand tour, day to day recovery may trump Vo2 max once a certain threshold is passed to provide elite level performance. The peloton is littered with elite riders who posses off the chart numbers, but do not have either the physical or mental ability to recover on a daily basis that is required to win a grand tour.

  7. Is it safe to assume he and most other top contenders particularly in stage races and their teammates are still doping now but perhaps at a lower level than in the recent, say a few years, past? There’s no doubt in my mind that Horner was doping in the early 2000’s when he was winning everything under the sun in the US calendar against heavily doped competitors. No one doubts he is a big talent also. Perhaps through so many years of diligent training and racing, great natural talent, and micro-refined doping regimens for performance and recovery, Horner, like Levi Leipheimer, figured out how to compete at the highest level of what is now somewhat restricted doping. Does anyone think Horner or Levi wasn’t doping in the past few years? As a fan, should I feel comforted by the reasonable assumption that these top competitors are doping less than years past but still doping nonetheless? I doubt we will ever know the truth completely.

  8. Inner Ring’s point, to me, is that it is not about Horner. It is not about Froome. It is about us. What brings any of us to assume the worst? When we assume Horner is anything but our entertainment, what assumptions are we making?

    The discussion is a mirror into our own assumptions. The value of the conversation is like the value of riding – it illuminates how we choose to approach our own lives.

    The Horner question is about me, not about him. I get that. I accept it, and I will gain from it.

    Inner Ring – Thank you for a very nice column.

  9. If the feverish and -oh-so-desperate to try and prove that ride X or Y is dirty or clean, could knock off pounding out VAM and k/wg estimates (usually involving guessing a rider’s weight, as well as all kinds of other factors) as soon as a race has finished, and breathlessly presenting the results as incontrovertible proof of ‘something’…that would also be just a little more enjoyable.

  10. My problem is not that it is obvious that you can dope without getting caught. It is not with Chris Horner.
    It is that everyone is still counting on the testers to catch anyone but small fry! Give me a break.
    Yes, Horner is likely juicing — its just the fact that when we say that, journos respond: “hey you can’t prove it so shut up!” The point is no one can prove anything in cycling short of a judicial investigation. So come on, stop with this constant invocation of the presumption of innocence in a universe where it has been used and abused by the worse, most egregious cheats out there to get away with it.

  11. I go along with the assessment that in years gone by Horner would have had a good handful of doped rivals besting him in the top 10 of the GC. Valverde, Scarponi etc were all above Horner in the pre-cleanup era. Results this and last year may be reflecting a cleaner peloton.

    Having said that, it would surprise no-one if it turns out Horner’s ‘done a Sayer’. But INRG is right, the viewpoint you take is at the end of the day down to you and your own interpretation of the world. You can put across completely legit arguments for both cases. Do you see great achievement or great skulduggery? The day I see skulduggery will be the day I no longer have any reason to watch cycling.

  12. To truly love something you have to expose yourself to the consequences of it letting you down and that’s a difficult leap of faith. I think a lot of fans can’t bring themselves to open up again to that commitment and that’s bad territory commercially for a sport. ‘Love is blind’ might explain why other huge sports get to gloss over their endemic PED problems because fans don’t want to see it.

    • The individual nature of Cycling may have something to do with this – we cheer teams in NFL, MLB etc so can disassociate the cheating from what we really ‘love’. In cycling people do that too – say they ‘love’ the sport but think that everyone competing is a cheat. But the sport is nothing without it’s characters – is it right to dismiss Froome, Nibali and Horner as sordid hustlers?

      • There was a major investigation in the AFL (Australian Rules Football) that took some scalps in one of the biggest clubs – including the coach / favourite son.

        Fans of the club still refuse to believe that the coach did anything wrong.

        • Yes, it’s true there is a core group of Lance acolytes (and James Hird devotees) but they are like the crazy Japanese soldier found in the jungle 10 years after the war ended.

          The fans on the mountain booing the drug cheats and waving pretend syringes in their faces are getting more and more. So too are the silent ‘majority’ who simply stay away…

  13. Here’s hoping this gives Tommy Danielson a fighting chance as he ages. Been expecting results from him since forever. It is my personal position to disassociate the dopage with cycling, just watch it for the beauty of the sport. I think he could be clean, but we’ll never know, until we know.

  14. Horner has always been a great climbing talent that just hasn’t had much of an opportunity to prove himself. I saw him win the San Francisco Grand Prix (a great race that I wish was still around) in 2003 with its multiple ascents of Fillmore & Taylor Street and their brutal 24% gradients. That dude can climb.

    • I’m glad you brought this up — among the many valid points made here, this Vuelta seems particularly suited to Horner’s strengths. Almost tailor made course and competition.

  15. ” My bias, my perspective and my instinct drew those conclusions. It will just always be a shame that any top class performance will be accompanied with thoughts of foul play. But as you say, that’s my problem.” Comment made by another that reflects my thinking .

    Recall my first meeting with Chris at the start of a Tour de Suisse etappe , sat in the Pullman chatting about what i was doing with ” Physically Challenged Sport “. Told him thast when he was standing on the Podium that night he should say ” Aider Handi sport ” since the area was French Speaking . Well he was in the lead , so i sat in a Cafe awaiting the finish and the interview , no such luck . Having won the day he stumbled through an effort to please his Sponsors , no doubt he hadn’t believed his good fortune ?

    Over the years since i have enjoyed meeting him at a variety of Tours but the last indepth occasion was at the London Olympic Site on Box Hill Hotel with his wife . Every time we meet , i am conscious of aLL the speculation that is in the Media . He is relaxed , friendly & easygoing , there is no sign of tension that other ” Racers ” tend to have , when they are of questionable ethics .

    With his attack of Pulminary Embulisms in recent past/ last season , it would be hard to believe that he would not be doing what he can to ensure his Blood does not cause a repeat ? You should see the “Smackdown thread ” elsewhere , toxic material BUT without a shread of evidence .

    With the recent exposure of the ” Bergen Report ” , the next days will be interesting and i hope i have covered most aspects in my recent blog . With the election of Thomas Bach at the IOC , one hopes he will move quickly , to kick the step ladder out from under phat the rat , when he attempts to brown nose ! How can any of the IOC Members stand to have dealings with a person banned in the 1970’s from Olympic Competition ? Knowing this was the case , one wonders what the Athletes were thinking, as they stood on their Podium to receive Medals from this fan of mugabe & the dear leader ?

    • Skippy. The “Clinic Thread” in the Cycling News Forum is full of conjecture, speculation, libelous, slanderous, ageist, distasteful, ignorant, prejudicial, abusive, sometimes racist, defamatory, petulant, idiotic, inane, unsubstantiated accusations, etc etc. That so called “Smackdown Thread”
      and the “Clinic” should be closed. It is vile and toxic environment. The posters who frequent it are not cycling fans but a “Stalking Mob” who have nothing better to do with their lives only to sit in front of a computer and post absolute nonsense that if said or published in public would have them walking right up the steps to the nearest court house. If those threads that are posted in the clinic were posted in most other forums on the Internet, then the moderators would ban you immediately, and inform you to get a Blog , post your assumptions there, and then hire a good lawyer. Cheers.

      • Hear, hear! Really well said.

        And it has been actively encouraged by employees of Cyclingnews who as moderators ban those that fight fire with fire and protect while letting the old guard get away with murder. I’ve never seen anything like it.

        I think many of the doping trolls here cut their teeth there.

  16. I have ridden with Mr Horner at his Cascade Gran Fondo event for the last two years. I got my picture taken with him both years and was lucky enough to have a few moments to exchange a few words. While I don’t have any tremedous insight I did immediately notice how skinny he was this year. I mentioned it right off the bat “Chris, you are looking lean!” and he grinned big. He said something to the effect that as his race calendar had been so empty up this point this year [something much different for a domestique rider like him in the past] he had nothing else to do but work hard on dropping weight and polishing his climbing. I went back and gauged the photos too, he’s significantly skinnier this year than last. As others have said he just doesn’t have the wear on his legs like most other riders. As others have said, it may not be a case of him rising so high – not to say he’s not riding exceptionally well, but he also doesn’t suffer from the attrition of a full season of competition most of his closest rivals have. I dunno, I’m not in a position to put him on trial – as inrng point out, none of us are. So I’ll root for him instead.

  17. One thing is different with Horner, I guy I used to enjoy watching back in the days before he was pretty much muzzled by his employer. Sure he’s almost 42 but with injuries and the periods he spent racing domestically in far less demanding events, he likely has less truly taxing racing kilometers in his legs than competitors much younger. This is the first Grand Tour I can recall where he’s (so far) avoided sickness or injury and been the designated GC guy…so maybe his success shouldn’t be such a surprise?
    As an American I’d love to see another American winner of a Grand Tour to join LeMond (Tour) and Hampsten (Giro) and complete the trifecta…but ……because of so much chicanery in the past…something about the possibility of success makes me uneasy…….just as when tiny Pozzovivo almost won the chrono stage.

  18. The problem with Chris Horner.. is.. Well, he is Chris Horner.

    Team History: Astana, Saunier Duval, Lotto. Question Marks.
    2007: Says teams were doping to win Grand Tours, fast forward a few years and he joins Astana and suddenly, Lance never tested positive, Lance didnt cheat.
    USADA Documents: Allegedly, Horner is redacted rider number 15 who allegedly took EPO in 2005 and allegedly told Levi about it.

    Something about Horners past smells. But of course that doesnt mean his present smells, or his performance in the Vuelta smells.

    Its not hard to dislike the guy, he comes across as rude in interviews, there have been many whispers about his attitude, coupled with his dubious past, support of Armstrong hes really easy to dislike. So of course, when at the grand old age of 42, with no contract for 2014 and allegedly hankering for a $1m contract for next year, he suddenly looks like a GC contender is probably the most suspicious race of any calendar year, people will ask questions.

    Do I think Horner is doping? I dont know, and I dont really care. I have enough reasons to dislike him, without hating on him for possibly cheating..

    • Apart from anything else that can be said about Chris Horner, I have always thought him to be one of the most engaging and gracious of interviews. I remember seeing him interviewed once at some length before the start of a start (I think it was Basques Country, but I could be wrong). The reporter was asking the typical inane questions about how he felt and what did he expect in the day’s stage, etc. etc. when the starting whistle sounded and the peloton rolled out. “Sorry, got to go to work” he said as he casually got on the bike and chased off after the group.

      Refreshing and seemingly candid is my take on him in the interviews. And a sharp wit.

    • More mindless hyperbole. The most suspicious race of any calendar year is the Tour of Turkey, not the Vuelta. And Horner comes across rude in interviews? That’s a new one.

      Your post should begin and end with “I don’t like Horner.” The rest is meaningless filler.

  19. All fairly simple, do I know if Horner is doping? No, because that is factual, I don’t have proof. Do I believe he is clean? No, that is my opinion. Having seen n called out Basso, Ricco, Schumacher, Piepoli, Armstrong, Sella etc for exceptional performances my suspicions and opinions have served me quite well. It is rare that these exceptional perfs don’t turn out to be doping. I am gonna rely on my judgement thanks!

  20. An interview with Chris Horner in June 2012

    Riding for Johan Bruyneel (especially on a Grand Tour squad) immediately arouses suspicion for me. The USADA investigation clearly showed that doping was systematic and encouraged under Bruyneel.

    Is Chris Horner doping this year at the Vuelta. Who knows? Maybe/Maybe not, but for me the level of doubt is high.

    The Vuelta has been entertaining though, I am looking forward to the last few days.

  21. He’s been a very good climber in the past, e.g. at the Tour of California, and now he has slimmed down and is riding for a contract which must be especially motivating. Plus he hasn’t really been riding away from the other GC contenders, it is more that he’s managed to be consistent. He did lose time to Nibali on the TT as you’d expect, and he’s had his team working hard well for him.

    • I really dont think we should be citing the Tour of California as proof of climbing talent. Once up Mt Baldy is not the same as riding multiple cols, on multiple days in a three week grand tour. Just sayin’

      • I watched Chris Horner for years, primarily because he was the Domestique for Cadel Evans. Evans has a really high opinion of Horner, because Evans rode in a sprinters team and Horner bent himself backwards for Evans in all those tours where he kept coming in last.
        Horner was an also-ran who never had the US-Cycling support, AND THAT is a GLOWING COMMENDATION for me. Everyone who did, got the GOLD STANDARD of medical support that the US always gives it’s athletes
        The reason he has never figured very highly is that he spent most of his career working for others. Now that his team actually have no-one performing well, he has his own chances. When you are protected, in the bunch and lead up to Mountains, especially by Cancellara, you perform better than ever. You have the reserve to push the pedals down when the stages get near the end.

        Horner spends most his time training at home, uses his prefered routes as a gauge and has always been open about his development and performance. IF there was one yank of the “good old days not cheating” (including amateurs) ITS HORNER.

        • Ask Matt DeCanio about Horner. As far back as 2005 DeCanio was very vocal in saying that Saturn were doping, he even accused Horner of having EPO, HGH and Testosterone in his fridge (he got that from Phil Z). DeCanio had a big mouth, and was a little crazy, but most of what he was ranting about is now known to be true.

  22. ”Interestingly this time we’re not seeing as much analysis of actual performance, for example comparative times on the climbs or discussion over Watts per kilogram ratios”

    Could it be that the fascination with w/kg as a ‘doping detection tool’ has now run its course, due to the various analyses that have shown there to be so many conflicting variables, unknowns and innaccuracies in the figures published that w/kg data in fact leave us no better informed than before, perhaps worse?

    • It may not be attracting the same attention, but the Doc is still running the numbers on the Vuelta climbers through his model. The short answer is that Horner’s performances are fast in recent (post 2007) historical terms, even ignoring questions about his age.

      Interestingly, and almost uniquely among those at the very pointy end of a GT, Horner himself has released some power meter data from the Vuelta. It indicates that the estimates based on climb time are pretty close to the mark.

      None of this is proof of anything. But it does make you wonder – if he’s this good clean at 41, how many GTs would he have won in his late twenties and early thirties in a clean peloton.

      • They have to keep referencing pre EPO era for relevant figures. But riders were just blood doping back then (though we are told that it was not in favour).
        The Power to weight figures are excellent, because you can prove if someone is
        SUPERHUMAN. ie if the equations show you have a VO2Max somewhere in the 90’s then you are using blood boosters, because human physiology wants you to operate below that mark and adjusts your blood to keep you there. If you are any higher, it ill show in the Haemo associative markers becuse your blood stops making RBC’s

    • Heh, never noticed that. Makes sense though since he likes to stand so much while climbing. Thanks for another great discussion Mr. Ring! My bias is that for the last 3 years or so it has been possible for a clean rider to win a Grand Tour. I like to believe that among the top riders the kind of “microdosing” and so forth that can pass muster vs. the bio passport may not be enough to make the difference, at least for the time being, and so the top riders may not feel it is worth it. I do put quite a lot of faith in the testing authorities and their methods, though certainly not in the UCI. At the same time I think we have begun to see that marginal riders will continue to feel they have nothing to lose by doping. But that threshold of “possible to win clean” is crucial. In the past (I’d arbitrarily say beginning with Indurain) clean riders stood virtually no chance of winning. That situation amounted to an incentive to dope that was all but irresistible. Conversely when (if) there is a general belief that trying to win clean is not a fool’s errand, I think there are plenty of guys who like it that way and will play it straight. I would not have returned as a fan of the sport if I did not believe this, and I won’t be hanging around if I find I am wrong.

  23. I’m sitting back and enjoying a good competitive race. If Horner or anyone else is found cheating, ban him, hang him, whatever. Until then, I’ll just watch. It’s a sport, not a morality play.

    • On one level I agree with you.

      But then sport *is* a morality play to some degree. Sport is about competition and winning; and competition, if it’s to be meaningful, needs to be fair and honest. If fans don’t believe a sport is fair, with the majority sticking to the rules and no unfair advantages, it becomes spectacle rather than sport.

  24. To believe – accept as true – that riders are not doping after the Armstrong era is tough.
    Horner rode through those years – 1990’s to 2010 approximately – when EPO and other drugs were consumed, years when he was barely making results and not shining like some. So, to finally be emerging from those years with good results may be an indication that he is coming into his own, even at 41, it could be possible.
    Unfortunately, it’s still too early to forget the past and honestly, I do not know what a clean rider looks like. Hesjedahl, Horner, Cancellara, Martin, Nibali?
    I want to believe …

  25. Wonderful topic Inring,

    To the broad point of looking into the mirror, I believe that we have to try and avoid the leaps to conclusions in order to be able to explain/make sense of what we are witnessing.

    Yes, Horner is old, beat up, and has keep some lousy company! But he is still a very capable bike racer.
    He rides everyday with the best, he rides the distance, suffers more or less the same and when the road raises up it’s to his advantage.

    Please lets break it down for what it is and not for what we think it might be.
    It’s an awesome sport and we are lucky to have such a great site in which to discuss and find pleasure.

  26. A podium finisher like Horner will certainly have another few years of highest level pro cycling in them… he’ll be 44 by then.
    Ekimov- of USPS fame and praised by Armstrong for his strength despite his advancing years- retired at 39 years. Jens Voigt now at 41 yrs last won a multi-day stage race at 37 yrs.
    We want to believe Horner, but 2 weeks ago he became the oldest ever to win a grand tour stage, which is an incredibly rare probability. Mathematically, he was supposed to revert back down to the average performance of that age group. Let’s hope he’s clean.

  27. “Interestingly this time we’re not seeing as much analysis of actual performance, for example comparative times on the climbs or discussion over Watts per kilogram ratios. Maybe that’s just the Vuelta and fewer people are following?”

    I think Veloclinic has been doing the analysis pretty regularly for the Vuelta.

  28. If there is one race this year that CH was going to do well in, its the Vuelta and for various reasons. Christ if you feel the need to email Inrng about your suspicions of CH then go follow another sport. Its your problem.

      • Yes, it’s not really about Horner but the rider who leads a race or surprises with an improvement. Horner is just the vehicle for this although his age and improvement are added points of interest.

        We’ve seen the same with Quintana who “came from nowhere” and attracted suspicion after winning the Tour of the Basque Country.

        • I only half-agree with you – it’s not about any leader, it’s about individuals for me. I rate Quintanna very highly as a genuine talent who has always shone every time he’s swun his leg over a bike. Guys who suddenly make marked improvements should not be surprised that they get asked tough questions. If there’s been a ‘genuine’ improvement, then it could even be taken as a compliment. Wiggins, Froome and Horner (for example) have all made staggering improvements which seem to be down to… 1) racing less, 2) pineapple juice, 3) weight loss and, 4) recovery from a fairly trivial parasite.

          Probably all useful and quite helpful, but enough to transform someone’s ability? All 3 have also been on teams with (proven) dodgy doctors and (proven) dodgy management who have all been at the epicentre of systematic team doping and sporting fraud on a level that scares the bejesus out of most normal people.

          I think it’s appropriate to question anyone’s marked improvements, moreso if their background looks bad, and even moreso if their ‘reasons’ for the marked improvement look like a complete insult to anyone’s intelligence. I do also appreciate that given the current mire of pro cycling, that pretty much anyone who has a marked improvement will probably fall under suspicion, as it’s really not that hard to link almost any team/rider directly to doping – one day that might actually chance, but only if we chose to not ignore it….

        • Only disagree about Horner surprising with improvement. He was the closest to Rodriguez and Nibali this year in the Tour of the Basque Country. He was racing in top 10 in Tour de France when he crashed and ended the race with a concussion last year (I think it was last year). He went on a monsterous suicide atack last year at the Tour of California that would have been stunning had it worked. For folks who follow him, he is certainly not a new thing.

          • I guess I’m 100% guilty of taking a slightly wider optic – not just looking at Horner’s last 12 months of racing as a guide to 20+ years of athletic peformance. Likwise, I’m guilty of looking at Chris Froome’s athletic prowess for anything longer than from his breakthrough in the Vuelta, or post Bilharzia as it may become known in time? Maybe if I had only considered Armstrong’s reign from post-cancer to retirement v1, I’d be a far happier sports fan…

            Chris Horner has always been a decent pro. Perhpas one of the best water-carriers around. He is not a grand tour winner.

  29. I think it’s also worth considering what stops riders from doping – i.e. liklihood of getting caught and consequences if you do – as well as the broader context of their career. So in Horner’s case, the consequences of getting caught are that his career would likely end. But it’s already at the very end anyway, and he is out of contract at the end of the year. He has stating an intention to snag another 2 year contract, but in order to do he would need to ride exceptionally well. So, unlike Froome at the TdF, there appears to be substantially less downside to Horner doping. Get caught and retire (a ban being virtually meaningless in practical terms) or win and potentially snag another contract. The upside outweighs the downside at this stage of his career.

    • Unless a doper gets awful advice, there is a huge opportunity to dope below “getting caught” levels.

      One example is testosterone. The test normally used examines Test/Epitest. If the athlete fail, then and only then is the analysis for artificial Test is run. An athlete can take Testosterone on a daily basis and get real performance benefits and never test positive. The athlete just gets their ratios checked.

      • I don’t think a lot of athletes even see that as a boost? Why would you perform at 1:1, when everyone around you is topping-up? It’s perfectly within the rules to perform at 3:1, so you’re actually not maximising your performance to be at less than 3:1 – would you only have 3 hrs sleep the night before, or show up dehydrated?

        • you’re actually not maximising your performance to be at less than 3:1

          A perfectly valid point. That is why the rules as designed and implemented by the IOC enable doping. The problem with the IOC’s rules is they lead to uncontrolled human experimentation. They manage doping controversy well though!

  30. Being no fan of Horner, I do see the point in your blog post and it can be applied (as you mention) in many instances in pro cycling. I do, however, take issue with one statement: “If it’s unusual for a forty-something rider to do this we should be careful with assumptions that it’s impossible. In a large population it is still possible for someone to perform at a later age.”

    I’m afraid as stated, the argument appears to be presented in a vacuum. The true question should be: “Is it unusual for a professional athlete, having competed for most of his adult life, to naturally peak at the age of 41?” I have a hard time answering this in the affirmative considering how it would defy human biological development.

    • Well, Horner hasn’t had anything like a normal career. So, you can’t say he should have peaked at around this or that time, like the other riders who’ve had more normal Euro pro careers.

    • It is unusual for sure and that’s one reason people are talking. But the explanation behind it can vary. Like I said to gus cinci above, it could be a survivor bias thing, we notice him because he is the exception whilst his peers are driving a team car or doing ordinary jobs by now.

  31. Several years ago when the biological passport was still new, a list ranking the suspicion of the riders was released ranking them from 0 to 10. I’ve tried to find it with no luck. If I recall correctly, Horner was one of the riders listed with 0 suspicion of doping. It would seem to me that if he were to dope now, his baseline in his biological passport would show a significant change. In other words, if I understand the system correctly, he has a baseline in the program that shows little likelihood of doping, so it would seem to me that it would be easier to catch Horner because the change in his biological passport would be obvious.

    I am not an expert on these matters I should add.

  32. Not exactly, there were a number of criteria for the appalingly titled “index of suspicion”. things like how often a rider had been tested, how recently he had been tested were taken into account so if a rider had not been tested for 8 months they would appear higher on the list irrespective of wether they were beleived to be doping or not, than a rider who had just finished a stage race and had been tested three times during that race. }
    For reference Horner has been tested 8 times in 2013 by USADA (some of those will be BP tests). 16 times in 2012, 6 times in 2011, 7 times in 2010, 7,3,1 and 2 in the preceding years. So Horner was tested an awful lot in 2012 for some reason.

    • Thanks for the reply.

      While I don’t know the criteria for the index of suspicion, the article says that it was based on the results of the biological passport up to the 2011 Tour de France. My limited understanding of the biological passport is that it creates markers of values and that if these biological values change in a manner consistent with how most humans respond to training and racing, you are not suspected of doping. If the values change in an abnormal manner, then that can be an indication of suspicion.

      It appears that he was only tested a few times in 2010 and 2011, so a low number of tests should increase his index of suspicion for this list. Since he is listed at 0 for suspicion, that would indicate his level of suspicion is low because of the results of the tests, not because he was only tested a few times. It would still seem to reason that if his biological markers change in a very predictable fashion similar to most of the population, changes in his markers would be noticeable. If he created a baseline that was completely normal, it would seem that changes from that baseline would be more noticeable than changes from someone’s passport who is outside the norm for the population.

      It is interesting that he was tested many more times in 2012 than in other years. He results in 2012 are not as impressive as the previous two years. In 2012 wore the leader’s jersey for two days at Tirreno-Adriatico and finished second, but that was the highlight of the year. In 2011 he won California, was second at the Basque Country, and third in Catalunya. In 2010, he appears to have many more days of racing including winning the Basque Country and finishing 9th at the Tour. The increase in the number of tests may be random, it may be a function of the budget for testing, or there may be other reasons.

      • the tests i listed there were purely the testing done by USADA, so primerily out of competition testing in the USA. He would have been tested in Europe by the relevant agency. Worth noting that USADA were blocked by the UCI of testing at some of the big races in the US, so it seems USADA upped their testing in 2012 (the same can actually be said for several of the riders implicated in the USADA investigation of cycling).

  33. For those who say ‘he hasn’t performed like this in the past, and he is now older, he is therefore doping”, I would say that they are missing a significant premise: That for most of his career, he was contending with a peloton where doping was ubiquitous.

    So it is a fair assumption to say that if he was clean the whole time, it would make sense that he would be improving RELATIVE to the peloton, given the assumption that the percentage of dopers in the peloton decreases as we approach the present day. It may even follow that despite him being the slowest he is now compared to his peak, it is more visible now because he isn’t being overshadowed by dopers.

    Of course, these assumptions may be wrong. But if we accept them, then these conclusion may follow, given the logic.

  34. We don’t know what Chris could have done before because he’s never been the guy others are riding for in a Grand Tour. It has always been a clear leader HE has been riding for so his efforts have to be looked at in that context. I’ve been a fan and have watched him be in the right place at the right time doing the smartest thing time after time. This is his first shot at riding for himself with a good team in a 3 week race. Don’t discount his Tour of California win or the times he helped Levi win it. They beat a lot of good riders.

    Chris was right about the way they got Lance being an admission that the testing system was useless. He’s talking about the 7 year run, not the comeback. Lance did NOT dope in the comeback years and the evidence saying is mostly specious and the rest could have been debunked by more qualified expert testimony. Yes, I’m saying the “experts” claiming they see doping in his blood work are NOT the best in their field. The first one I read about back during those days was a graduate student that still needed approval form a PHD in his department to even release his “opinion”. I figured it was the reason nobody but the cranks were paying any attention to him. But then USADA WERE the cranks. The testing in the comeback is pretty much the same as we have now, and if you’ve been watching the racing it’s pretty damned obvious that they are clean. They now have to ride to power tap numbers and the era of big attacks is over. Whatever your stance on doping, and nobody can really be for it, the racing itself is clearly less interesting than it was.

    Chris’s approach plays right into that. You’ll see no glorious attacks from him. Just a tempo that preempts attacks from others. In stage 16, I think it was Nibali that slowed for more than it was Chris attacking. His approach is to, with the help of a good team (good riddance Fabian), is to grind you down and crack you. Not with attacks, but with not slowing down as much the steeper it gets.

    I’m excited about the finish of Stage 18.

      • I have watched every stage of this Vuelta. My definition of attack must be different than yours. An attack is where some finds a time to jump up and sprint away to create a quick gap. Now in the bread and water era those kinds of attacks in the steep parts almost always fail. Chris’s style has been just to increase his pace more gradually after creating a pace that makes it hard for the other guy to do an attack. In the real steep stuff where you see a drop in speed, Chris will slow less than the others.

        I think he’s getting an advantage out of the fact he hasn’t done a Grand Tour this race. He’s been able to train properly for the first time in a long time because the knee isn’t killing him anymore, and his weight is down. I think he’s as light or lighter than I’ve ever seen him. He’s cool with the fact that he suffers for a living and knows how to train. He’s had this one goal this year and Nibali can’t take the miles he’s done out of his legs. Plus, I don’t think he’s got his weight down where it belongs.

        My hope is the miles in his legs and a bit of weight will conspire against him on that 7 mile horrendous finish to the last mountain stage. 28 seconds will be a lot to get, but I’d bet Chris will get part of it even if he doesn’t get it all. RS is going to have to bust the pace from the very start of the last climb and put hurt into Nibali early and see if they can get him to overreact and forget he can manage his lead. After that it’s watts/kg to the top. The “brutally steep Anglirú, infamous for its 24-percent grades. The 12.2km Anglirú climb is feared throughout the peloton, and most of the pack rides with gearing more suited for mountain biking.”

        The more it turns a war of attrition the more I like Chris’s chances.

        I think it’s very exciting and a great story for cycling even if he ends up just short.

    • Pseudo-scientific analysis is proof of nothing, and such analyses are exactly pseudo-scientific. There are far too many unknowns in such analyses. That so many people invest so much in such analyses just shows a great misunderstanding of science and the power of confirmation bias.

      • Pseudo-science is a term coined by Karl Popper. It means drawing conclusions to suit your view, he looked at the world around him and saw Marxists and their “political science”, Freudians with their psychology and so on. The more he looked at this, the more he saw people looking for evidence to confirm their original stance rather than being willing to change their mind.

        The short take is that pseudo-science involves looking for evidence to fit the pattern you’ve got in mind.

        The use of power analysis is fine but keep an open mind and check things. What I find interesting is that it’s not getting the traction/coverage/conversation it had in the Tour but Froome’s comparisons to Armstrong probably helped make the subject more accessible compared to discussing ratios.

        • The use of power analysis is fine but keep an open mind and check things.

          Exactly. Pro Cycling has a grave credibility problem. Condemning the effort to validate performance does not get athletics anywhere.

          I follow veloclinic with great interest, knowing the analysis could be wrong. It could be right too. It’s very important work because if his current models are not sufficient, or just plain wrong, it’s good knowledge that contributes to developing a better model.

  35. Sometimes I’m not sure which is worse for cycling, the doping or the reaction of the public. So many cast doubts on virtually every performance that I wonder why those people continue to follow the sport. Granted, the history of doping in cycling encourages skepticism, but skepticism does not preclude critical thought. What seems to be on display by some is not actual skepticism but rather cynicism and incredulity.

  36. A few comments on Chris Horner:

    1) I don’t think he’s ever been suspected of doping or tied to any investigations or rumors.

    2) The Vuelta this year seems to favor his style of climbing.

    3) In previous GTs he’s been riding for others, not the same as this year.

    4) He’s not suffering season-long racing fatigue like the rest of the peloton.

    Go Chris!

    • re 1. As dimspace pointed out in his post yesterday, he’s reputed to be rider 15 redacted in Leipheimer’s USADA statement, who – according to Leipheimer – told him that he doped in the lead up to the 05 Tour de Suisse.

      I’m not saying this as a reason to claim that Horner’s doping now – just responding to your point (1).

      Its also claimed that Horner was invited by USADA to talk to them, but refused.

  37. the real problem is this, and if Chris Horner can avoid this, all suspicions will disappear-he smiles way too much, especially when every buddy else is suffering like a dog.

  38. I agree with you that none of us know for sure that Horner is doping. But I disagree it is my problem. At least not wholly. As they say “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” And we’ve been fooled a fair few times. I think it is a totally normal response for cycling fans to be suspicious of Horner. He may very well be clean but there are so many circumstantial pointers; he’s performing above his usual at an age most riders are in decline. He’s ridden for quite a few dodgy teams. He’s been an Armstrong apologist. And he’s a rider from the bad old days. None of these alone make him a doper. But together they look suspicious enough for us to at least have doubts. Our doubts come from the past. It is wrong to heap the sins of the previous generation on this one, but Horner IS the last generation.

    Saying all that, I really hope he is clean. Not only because it makes exciting racing but it gives old blokes like me hope that I have a few good years left in me!

    • A few people have asked me about this on Twitter. What I mean is that it’s your problem to deal with the during Vuelta. But like I say above it’s the challenge for the sport to address but this can’t be done during the race. We need to spend more on anti-doping, examine new fields like power-profiling and more. It won’t fix things but it will help with confidence and reassurance.

      • Yes, I agree. It’s clear that blood and urine tests are not all that good at catching the cheats. So, it’s no surprise we turn to more anecdotal methods. It’s not just that we need to do more to catch the cheats but the teams and riders need to get better at handling the suspicion, and reassuring the fans. I think Froome did a pretty good job of this at the Tour, but others have faired less well; Contador for example. Perhaps the teams need to add a little media training for their riders, and also help them to say the right things when questioned. I don’t mean the right spin though. I mean not to take it personally, to be open and honest, and to address doping directly. Coming out with a Horner-like “I’ve been tested 500 or 1,00 times” just makes him sound like Armstrong.

  39. The problem with Chris Horner is that, even in the best-case scenario where you argue his late blooming is down to natural, clean talent being masked by the doping of others for most his career, only being able to compete now with a cleaner peloton, then you’re still left with an all-but-42 year old man out-competing a bunch of late 20-somethings. Which we know, from GT history and from the science, seems to be the peak age for GT cyclists and aerobic endurance. We also know athletic performance, other than outright strength, steadily drops from the mid-30s onwards. Further, Chris isn’t just a little bit older than the previous “oldest GT stage winner” record holders, but a whopping 4+ years older.

    There is no need to rely on personal biases – Chris Horner’s results are statistically, *objectively*, highly, highly,”not normal”. That can’t be ignored and such outliers, rightly, will attract much scrutiny.

  40. In civilised society the only reasonable answers to ‘is Horner doping?’ are; I don’t know, and he’s innocent until proven guilty. Anything else is just unreasonable and unfair. For sure cycling and other sports only have themselves to blame for making us all super cynical about outlying performances, but it’s still wrong to convict someone without tangible credible evidence. Or for the anonymous to use the free-speech gift of the internet to broadcast personal suspicion in a way that would be libelous if done by someone with a prominent public profile.

    But there is a subset of society, the inhabitants of which are forced to make a call on ‘is Horner doping?’ for whom fence-sitting is not an option. It’s the world of professional betting. This is distinct from the much larger community of amateur bettors, who love a conspiracy theory (especially to explain their losses) and who don’t have to work out the ‘true’ likelihood of events occurring – they just bet on their hunches as a hobby.

    Betting professionals (bookmakers and pro punters) don’t (contrary to popular myth) make predictions about what will happen. They work out how likely the possible outcomes are to occur, and set odds/place bets accordingly. So, ‘innocent until proven guilty’ doesn’t work. They would be skint long before the evidence emerged that some horse trainers don’t always run their charges completely on their merits, and that Italian teams just above the relegation zone sometimes don’t try very hard to avoid drawing a game. They have to make a call.

    Surveying this year’s Vuelta they need to make a calculation (Sean Kelly would approve) – how likely is it that Horner juiced during his off-period earlier in the year to get prepared? And given that he did, how likely is he now to overhaul Nibali and hold off the Spaniards to win the GC?

    My best guess is 95% juiced, 5% clean. So my calculations would be;

    95% x 35% (chance of H winning riding juiced) = 33.3%
    5% x 15% (chance of H winning if he’s clean) = 0.7%
    33.3% + 0.7% = 34%. Expressed as decimal odds that’s 2.94 (or just under 2/1 as a fraction).

    Some bookmakers this morning will give you 3.5 (5/2). Personally I don’t think those bookmakers are being cynical enough – and that’s not something you hear every day.

    • Got to love this as it all looks all so scientific, even with decimal pionts! God knows where the actual numbers come from though:) Of course, this is not to say these calculations are wrong. Rather without some attempt at justifying them they are just meaningless figures pretending to be fact.

      • 100% opinion, 0% fact. Numbers come from weighing up the available evidence, including circumstantial, inadmissible gossip. Pro bettors DON’T have to justify their opinions. They merely express them in their prices/decisions. And then they either make a profit or a loss.

  41. Apart from Horner’s performances, why on earth would he be defending Armstrong as emphatically as he was? This as late as his interview of last December in Cycling News. Either he has been lobotomised at some stage & hence still saw Armstrong as a credible clean winner, or else he sees nothing wrong with doping. I would struggle very hard to put a positive slant on the stuff he was coming out with. And now at 41, with one top ten GT in his career, he looks like he might well win. Afraid I very much hope Horner doesn’t win this Vuelta.

  42. Obviously none of us know who is doping and who isn’t, and we know that the testing process isn’t enough to guarantee that those who do dope are caught, but if we obsess about it too much then it defeats the object of watching cycling at all.

    Having said that, I recall Bradley Wiggins’ description of a Cofidis rider (Christian Moreni?) testing postive during his time on the tour, and how he wasn’t surprised as that rider fitted the bill of an aging guy looking for one last fat contract. It is difficult watching Chris Horner riding the race of his life as his contract peters out, and not wondering about it.

  43. I think that Horner’s performance is credible, although of course I really don’t know.

    Most of his career he has riden as a super domestic for some one else so he hasn’t really been given the option for riding for the GC. This year he is the team leader only because Radioshack didn’t really have any one else.

    The other thing that I think is really telling is that he didn’t perform particularly well in the ITT. In the past riders who have been doping have been at the top of the field on every stage. The fact that he was almost 3 minutes down on Cancellara and a minute and a half on Nibali is significant.

  44. Two of the last 3 comments by Andrew – mine was the earlier 11.15am one. To ask Andrew above, or anyone else for that matter, since it was utterly blatant to an outsider who made any kind of effort to educate himself that USADA’s treatment of Armstrong was not a fabricaated witchhunt, & as a pro-cyclist from that very era, what slant should one take on Horner championing Armstrong’s innocence, – the “no failed tests” garbage?
    If Horner was interested in clean riding, why would he defend a very dirty rider whose guilt really was established to the point of certainty by then.

    • I agree entirely: no one, including Horner, should be defending Armstrong or anyone else who doped. By doing so the most logical conclusion is that they are, or have, themselves doped. I don’t remember reading about these comments of Honer’s – except above – so my comments don’t take them into account.

      Another good question, I think, is why haven’t certain riders who have a reputation of being clean, and so who have presumably suffered because of dopers, come out and strongly condemed Armstrong and company? As I am Australian, Cadel Evans comes to mind…

      • In terms of clean riders or allegedly clean not condemning dirty ones, I wouldn’t be getting too excited about implications. If we associate a willingness to ride clean with being a good person, then an aspect of that may likely be a lack of desire to judge others, or simply not wanting to waste energy on dwelling on that infuriating stuff.

        Otoh, I’ve seen the fiery off-the-cuff character of Mark Cavendish has lashed out at dopers in a very convincing manner a few times, & yes, that seems very much the natural human reaction.

        Given the way cycling was – though hopefully changing much for the better now – I personally don’t dwell too much on riders’ pasts, once I hope that they’re clean now. And I consider a line should be drawn in the sand that doping is an absolute No No now – “F off & you’re not coming back & here’s a criminal persecution for fraud while you’re at it.”

        But, & I’m wandering around a bit here, there’s a big difference between not attacking dirty riders & actively defending them, particularly when that defence has gone well beyond all credibility. And that’s what Horner has done with Armstrong, and how anyone could lean towards awarding Horner the benefit of the doubt seems far from justified to me.

  45. I’d be interested to know why Horner jumped on Hincapie’s wheel when he went to lead the peloton onto the Champs last year. Or to use the phrase others including Vaughters has used, why Horner ‘chased him down’

  46. I am absolutely amazed at how this column has blown up. Most days I have been following the Vuelta blog and usually see about 15 – 20 comments. I figure no one cares about the Vuelta. Then an article relating to doping and the the rats come out of the wood work.

    Are we interested in the sport of cycling or in the innuendo and gossip surrounding the doping question ?

    To me it seems the latter.

    What a sorry state of affairs.

    • I have not noticed many rats or trolls in this thread, but maybe a few. As to whether we are interested in the sport of cycling, see Salsiccia’s comment above. Some of us are interested only to the extent that it IS a sport, rather than a spectacle. And the topic here is not doping per se, but how we as fans deal with the issue. It’s been much more worthwhile than the usual churning of innuendo and gossip.

  47. Maybe it’s not just my problem. Maybe it’s the sponsors’ problem too…
    If I had a pro team, I certainly wouldn’t hire him for next year even if he wins this Vuelta.

    What does is say about the level of the competion that a guy over 40 can win it?

    • Horner says he will just keep on racing, no plans for retirement. And why should he? We all ought to suspend disbelief until he wins a GT at age 45 or 50. :eyeroll:

      • Yeah, I would love to believe too, but been burned too many times – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
        The human species hits it’s physical peak sometime around the late-20s. With good training, perhaps an athlete can maintain fitness for a few more years…but 42 – c’mon. What was he doing when he was 30?
        It just doesn’t happen – except with extraordinary help – Clemens, Armstrong, Marion Jones, etc.

        • Grand Tours are endurance sport. Older athletes have done well in endurance sport for a long time. In cycling Jens Voigt is a week from age 42. Ekimov raced the TDF at age 40. Hincape raced until age 38. If you want a real eye opener look at the list of winners of the Hawaii Ironman. 2 1/2 mile open ocean swim, 125 miles on a bike, followed by a full frickin marathon. Craig Alexander broke a long standing record of 8:03:56 at age 38. Dave Scott finished second at age 40. I think it’s because you can learn to suffer more the older you get.

          So on that last 7 miles, Chris Horner will put a smile on his face and see if he can out suffer a young guy by 30 seconds.

          • >”Craig Alexander broke a long standing record of 8:03:56 at age 38. Dave Scott finished second at age 40. ”
            So? Do we know that they’re clean? 😉 Sure, only cyclist dope. And maybe some track&field athletes. Not swimmers, definitely no, and especially not Americans! 🙂

  48. Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat (the burden of proof lies with who declares, not who denies). This principle works in reverse in pro cycling, these days. One is considered guilty until proven innocent…

    • The reason riders stopped publishing their blood work was what happened to Lance when he started publishing his in 09. He quickly found that out of 6 billion people on the planet there we hundreds that could write things that sounded true, but in fact were not. I think it’s called specious arguments. There was no way to bat them away as fast as they came, and all you had to do is let one that Cyclingnews, L’Équipe or Velo printed, and they published one seemingly every day, go unchallenged, and you were presumed guilty. BTW, I think that’s called a smear campaign and the cycling press, mainly L’Équipe and Cyclingnews are real pros at it, and always have been throughout the entire history of the tour.

  49. As for Horner questioning Armstongs’s team in 2007, then backing him later on. He (coincidentally?) changed his tune after Radioshack picked him up and he was riding alongside Armstrong.

    • yea, what’s he doing smart guy? You’re all mouth and not substance. A water cooler outrage holier than thou bottom feeder. Comparing him now to anyone from the EPO era is brainless. I’m sick of cheap shot artists like you popping in just long enough to leave your stink in the place and off to the next forum. I don’t think you are a fan. If you are and this is such a big deal to you? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out, and I’m not the only one that going to shout GOOD RIDDANCE!

    • More obvious than Ricco? Really?
      He beat a second tier field, and being accused of being another Ricco? Who were there other than Rodriquez and Nibali? There where no other legitimate GC guys in the field. Rodriguez was post tour, and Nibali has done almost nothing since the Giro. This is a depleted field, with many traing for the worlds. Valverede has never been a GC guy, so count him out. Now, who did he beat? Roche? With this parcourse all he needed to do was not crash, and Horner would be close to the top.
      Honestly, this anti doping sentiment is starting to make me laugh. Where were you years ago? Like 30 years ago. Need to find a different sport if this results bothers you so much. I’ve seen it from the inside and out. Just enjoy it.
      The general indignation is getting silly. Welcome to big time sports, with big money, big pressure.

      • Valverde never a GC guy! Look at his results brother. Look, taken in isolation, whoever else is in the field, a man of Horner’s age just isn’t able to recuperate overnight in the same way as younger men. Yet every day he’s up there covering the field (like Armstrong used to do) ready to flit away when he wishes. Christ on a bike! Have you ever heard that a good big guy will always beat a good small guy? The general indignation isn’t perplexing – you and most of the other correspondents on here are Yanks – you like the idea of a 40+ Yankee beating the home boys – just like Lance stuck it to the home boys – whether Italian, Spanish, German or French. Believe me it’s hero-worship over here for Americans – Armstrong, Evans, Hamilton, Leipheimer and now Farrar, Talansky and van Garderen. Anyone who drawls English – they’d lick the sweat of ’em. So don’t be so supercilious eh? Anyone who dopes is a thief – stealing time and plaudits and money from those who don’t.

  50. I am reminded of the great Tom Simpson who died 13 July 1967 on Mont Ventoux during the T-de-France, his last words, ‘Put me back on my bike’. Heat Exhaustion thay called it, no, he was on drugs but why?

    He was world road race champion and a great rider.

    To paraphrase, he said, ‘I get beaten by riders who are not as good as me because they are on drugs. This is my living, what do I do?’ Helluva problem for a pro who absolutely does not want to but needs to compete. So sad. Think and pray Horner’s clean.

    • Apparently the “put me back on my back” quote is a myth and the journalist who wrote this was not on Mont Ventoux. Instead his last words were “my straps” as he called to his mechanic to help him with his toestraps as he wobbled in a daze.

  51. I read these comments with great sadness. It reminds me why I no longer race and probably never will again. Even at club level it not worth being good because some idiot will just say ”what’s he taking”. Cyclists can’t seem to accept someone is better than them without being on drugs. No wonder the press is obsessed with drugs in cycling rather then the sport. Just shut up and enjoy the race.

    • Your last sentence is the idea that caused the mess pro cycling is currently fighting. Pretty much what Mr. Mars and the Mad Hatter (along with plenty of those who came before them) wished would happen – except it didn’t. Sport by definition, is a contest under an arbitrary set of rules (that’s why motorcycles are not allowed in cycling) and not taking dope is one of those rules.

      • the mess pro cycling faces now is people like you that won’t shut up about it. At some point, shut up or quit watching. the sport is cleaner in recent years than it has EVER been. people like you just get off on talking about it. If you condition for being a fan is to get riders to prove to you they are clean, minute by minute, being in the position of proving a negative then the sport can do without you. i’m sick of you trying to make reality tv/daytime smackdown tv out this sport.

  52. A weird part of me wants Horner to get caught, just so we know for sure one way or the other. If he’s 100% innocent, we’ll never know. There is not test for innocence. I believe there are enough variables to make his achievement plausible. I also believe that there is at least a 50/50 chance he’s doping. The ‘peloton’ on here seems split too.

    Angliru should be a banger. Nibali needs a pick-me-up.

    • Honestly, I’m a little surprised by the amount of skepticism. The Vuelta is very difficult to really determine who has showed up to ride or just stamp the card for the sponsor. Noone doubts that he can climb, and as many have stated In this discussion he is fresh, motivated and in need of a contract. But comparing him to Sellla and others is inaccurate. Apart from Nibali, the whole race is a second or third group peleton. That is his level. BTW Nibali, an Italian riding for Astana is getting a free ride in the suspicion category.

      • that’s a backhanded insult. who’s that leave for your first tier. Definitely don’t understand your free ride comment unless it’s you faux sophisticated humor. Astana and it’s mob influenced sponsors are as suspect as you can get. Vino was the most hideous of unapologetic dopers I ever saw.

  53. CH did an interview before the season about which races he will be riding and which races he would rather be riding. Because of sponsor obligations he will be at Tour of California instead of the Giro and US Pro Challenge instead of the Vuelta. He said he’s more suited for the steep climbs of the Vuelta rather than the slopes of Colorado. He also liked his odds at ToC. Anyone have a link to that video??

  54. The road kicked up hard and cruel today and the one I said could suffer best kicked butt.

    The only thing that worries me now is talk of the weather.

  55. Some interesting comments – about the lack of “taxing” miles in his legs – the received wisdom is that a rider has to ‘get the miles in’. He is leaner – according to an acquaintance who has commented on the is page. Wiggins lost weight in order to climb better. He’s 42 – and leaving riders 10 years younger in his wake – and riding out of the saddle a la Contador, Virenque and Armstrong – but that”s no inference – he seems to have lots of available energy in order to do that – for an ‘old man’ as well. Maybe, like Sky, Radioshack has gotten into optimising training and recovery techniques and it’s working for him. I don’t think the other GC contenders are ‘off the boil’ this year – that’s a ridiculous comment. He’s 42 – nearing the end of his career – if he’s found, at sometime in the future, to have been doping, then he’s going to have made the bucks and received the accolades before that happens. Armstrong milked the plaudits and the fame for years – it took years to find out the reality.
    One big, last payday for a rider who’s never had a really big win. Maybe he’s weighed up the possibilities and said ok, I’ll risk it. The big thing though is that he must have found a way to mask whatever he’s doing (if he’s doing it). But to me it stinks of unfair ‘assistance’ – in whatever manner.

  56. Whatever way you look at it Horner’s performance is barely credible, and it is yet another catalyst that will turn people away from the sport given what we already know.

    The people with the problem are the believers, not the skeptics.

    • Absolutely agree with that. Also i don’t think it’s my problem when i’m seeing something clearly unbelievable. Sad days for cycling, once again.

        • Indeed, what exactly can you do?

          Raise a cold, indifferent eyebrow in disdain and disbelief that Horner (given his age and history) is at the forefront of the GC in a Grand Tour, turn off, turn away, and make more productive use of your time than:

          a) try your best to convince yourself that everything is perfectly OK and that he’s lost the weight and has been able to recover day after day because he’s fresher than all the other riders 10 years or more his junior ;


          b) get riled and pissed off because you’re sure he must be on something and you can’t convince blinkered, gormless cretins like Justjack otherwise?

          You can’t do anything but be ambivalent to the freakshow they expect us to laud unconditional praise upon.

          Wake up. They take us for fools.

          • Couldn’t agree more. This Vuelta is proving to be one of the most embarrassing races I’ve seen. I just feel sorry for those trying to race clean – it feels like it’s 1999 all over again.

            As for testing – it’s pretty obvious that the testers (despite all the hot air) will always be a few bike lengths behind the peloton, pretty much like all the journos, or ostriches, as I now think of them.

  57. I am really getting sick of this. It’s really easy to make any rider seem suspect.
    “This Nibali, he got his ass handed to him a couple of weeks back in the Tour of Poland by – of all people – Pieter Weening and now I must believe he can battle for the lead in the Vuelta? Ha, he must have had some ‘tips’ from Vinokourov.”
    “Why can Rodriguez and Valleverde still compete for the GC after an exhausting Tour de France, while Kreuziger, Mollema and Fuglsang are nowhere to be seen? Guess the Spaniards are still up to their old tricks.”

    The way I see it, is like this: Horner usually is a solid top 10 candidate, but this time he is the only one of the GC-contenders who has not started in another grand tour and there are a lot of steep climbs, which are his speciality.

    • I am not a die hard Horner fan or anything, but I think you have put it well. I’d also add two other factors that add a bit more credibility. First, there were very few time trial miles in this Vuelta and the one ITT there was had enough of a climb to at least make him lose less time than if it were flat. Second, this is the Vuelta and not the Tour or even the Giro; the field is not all the top contenders (no Froome, Contador, Quintana, Evans, etc).

      Also, I don’t know if I want to call someone a cheater because he is a few years older than the other competitors. That doesn’t seem like quite enough.

      • Froome had a very impressive team in the Tour which was one of the major reasons he had time advantage – in the team time trial and pulling a train in the stages. When he was exposed he was less impressive. Contador, now exposed as a doper, is somewhat less of a performer. Evans I think is now a busted flush. Only Quintana would have really thickened the cream. Remember too that Valverde (doper too) and Rodriguez have had the spirit to do both the Tour and the Vuelta. I think your premise is a tad thin. To see Horner shoot away from Rodriguez on Thursday doesn’t ring true. Something’s amiss here.

  58. And other sports fans have all this joy to come. Athletics, for one. Right now, athletics is at best where cycling was in 2006, maybe further behind than that. Track and field competitors are getting done left right and centre – in comp, out of comp, bio passport, retro testing – and to a great extent media and fans are burying their heads in the sand.

    We might be driven crazy – and driving each other crazy – over every exceptional performance – but at least we’re discussing them.

  59. Horner set the record time up the last climb yesterday. Beat Purito’s time from 2010 (when he was riding fresh). It’s not about his performace relative to the current field, he’s outclimbing a pure bred climber who was fresh and motivated in 2010.

  60. It is very well documented that Horner did use many many drugs when he was racing in the US. To me that is enough. He may be clean now but he never paid for his past cheating.

  61. A few things worth pointing out here:

    There is no legitimate documentation to link Chris Horner to any known drug scandal. Anyone who says otherwise needs to back it up with a link to a legit source.

    Horner did not ride under Bruyneel for long. He was never offered a contract buy Johan until after Armstrong’s retirement. If you think that’s a coincidence, you’re the one taking the drugs.

    The height of the known drug/Armstrong era saw the exclusion of Horner from the Pro Tour, almost entirely. They guy was stuck on Division 3 teams in the U.S. until he could find a minimum wage job with Suanier Duval, for whom he won exactly one stage of one protour race. He meanwhile proceeded to live in a trailer when at home in Oregon.

    That was 2005. Then the big names started getting popped – Landis, Vinokourov, Rasmussen, et. all. Average TT speeds slowed. Horner began snagging (temporary) race leads in races like Tour of Romandie.

    06/07 He was the key Lotto domestique for Cadel Evans at the tour. Big names continued to get nipped on positive tests, and Horner’s results improved because of it. When his contract at Lotto was up, Bruyneel offered him a contract for the first time ever.

    As of Armstrong’s re-insertion into the sport in late 2008, Horner’s contract was already secure, but he still did not ride the ’09 tour. Again, not a coincidence. He was on Radioshack’s 2010 TDF team only because he managed to win the Basque tour and get Top-10 finishes in every one of the classics he raced. More big names tested positive (Valverde, Contador). He squeaked out a 10th place overall at the TDF that year, even while working his arse off for other teammates throughout most of the race. He was strong as shit that year, and we barely got to see it.

    Fast forward through a few unlucky years of injuries and internal drama with his team, and we see a guy who is fresh off of several months of training his way, stress free.

    In this 2013 Vuelta, Nibali is not at his best. This year’s Giro hurt the fuck out of him. On top of that, Horner is much, much smarter. Like, Horner is a freaking Genius by comparison. His greatest gift is his ability to read a bike race like the back of a cereal box. This is the guy who got the Webcore Cycling team to win San Francisco Grand Prix. Nobody in this race can compete with a mind like that.

    Horner has had none of the mental and physical stresses of racing the Grand Tours that most of his closest competitors have had to deal with. It’s not that he’s exhibiting unusual form. Horner is showing his usual top form at a time of year when everybody else is mentally worn and physically dulled by a long, hard season.

    It just might be that he’s been this good all along. It’s just that everybody else wasted their A-game on the Giro and the Tour.

  62. There’s lots of discussion here about if its fair to judge Horner without any kind of proof. To me it doesn’t matter. I have no business interests in the sport and I’m not a lawyer ; I’m a former fan of the sport. I used to pay rapt attention to the grand tours and after the last few years have completely switched off of the sport. I didn’t even know that Horner was riding the Vuelta much less winning until a friend told me today – and I’m from Bend, Oregon! Whether this is fair or not is irrelevant. As a fan, I follow what interests me and that doesn’t require application of the same standards applied to friendship, business, or a court room. For now, I enjoy the simple pleasure of riding with my friends – and ignore the world of professional cycling.

  63. Can someone explain me why Dirk Demol, team manager of Lance Armstrong for years, is still allowed to work for a cycling team? (I suspect because other heads might roll too)
    Anyway, this is the guy we are supposed to believe when it comes to Horner: “Dope? That’s a stupid question.”
    Excuse me for being skeptical.

    • Just another doping ghoul. Why don’t you keep your puke to yourself. You think everyone Lance even glanced at is guilty of something. You are useless to me.

      • jj any chance of a serious discussion point from you, with facts, rather than just being rude to people that express and opinion you don’t like – they’re not getting at you personally, just stating what they believe the facts in front of them show!you do yourself no credit by defending Lance in one breath and Horner in the next – the fact that ‘everyone was doping’ back in the Lance era, doesn’t excuse him, especially as the others (maybe including Horner) were possibly doping because they were bullied into it by Lance and his machine!

  64. I’m taken back to the 2010 TdF, Armstrong crashes out at speed on a roundabout, and Horner is the man tasked with looking after rhim. This is a time before I lost the faith, before realising that many were ‘not natural’, from that time I remember thinking if Horner would be allowed off the leish the tour would be his.

    Now we know that Armstrong was doping, how could Horner look so comfortable.

    • You do not “know” he doped in 2010.

      Lance was tried mainly in the court of public opinion without being able to defend any of the charges. They got testimonies from many riders that he, AND THEY AND EVERY OTHER GC CONTENDER used EPO in his 7 year run. There are no testimonies against him regarding 2009-10. The documents tried in the court of public opinion rely on his blood work. Much of which HE POSTED ONLINE HIM SELF. I saw them.

      Tell me how it makes sense to dope and put your blood work online.

      A specious argument is one that sounds plausible, has the sound of being true, and makes sense when you hear it, especially if you’re not an expert in the field, but the argument fails closer scrutiny by people that are more qualified than the one who wrote the opinion. What USADA wrote about is comeback blood work is a classic specious argument that could have been easily proved wrong if Lance would have had the chance to actually offer a defense. USADA knew he wouldn’t accept hearings in their kangaroo court so they knew the opinions about his blood profiles would never have to stand up to scrutiny.

      Yes he doped. He was a doper among dopers, but he seriously wanted to prove he could ride without it.

      Chis may have been dirty in those years to. People fail to understand that you had no real choice about it. That does not mean he’s dirty now. Read how passport works and tell me how they could dope now. It’s pretty simple. Blood cells have to carry oxegen to the cells. Tell me how you affect that and not have it show up in blood an/or urine tests? Hit me with your critical thinking skills. I’m all ears. I’ve done this before and the doping vultures ignore the question and go back to puking all over the place.

      An old lawyer rule is “When the facts are on your side, argue the facts. When the facts are not on your side, pound on the table”.

      I hear lots of pounding on the table.

      Chris has done something incredible. I am a skeptic. A skeptic isn’t someone who doubts everything. A skeptic is someone who questions everything to himself and lets the facts tell the story. There is no evidence Chris is dirty. The absence of evidence is not evidence of anything.

  65. The real question here is how the Vuelta differs from the tour. It’s important to remember that the Vuelta historically was a pre- Giro race. The idea that GC guys from the tour will automatically have the same level of performance is no longer worthy of debate. They don’t. For years the Giro was prep for the tour. This is no longer true. Last year, Froome, arguably the strongest rider in the tour could maintain that level in September. At this level, even 5% drop in performance make a difference. Just because Horner out climbs Rodriquez is fun fodder for a discussion, but in NO WAY MEANS DOPING. Anyone who thinks they know his true firm is delusional.

    • Well said. In the mostly bread and water era I think we’ll see almost no one be competitive in more than one grand tour. And this years Vuelta with sooo many mountaintop finishes did Nibali in. I love Chris I’m not sure he could beat Nibali if Nibali had shown up in the kind of shape Chris was in. I LOVES me some mountaintop finishes. The more the better! This Vuelta was awesome. It will be truely heroic now to win 2 Grand Tours. One could argue that we’ll never see it.

  66. I think the question I’d like answered is – OK Horner will be being tested now, and must be riding clean in the Vuelta, but he has had 5 months out of competition this year, so how many OOC tests has he done and what were their results? Has anyone else ever come back from 5 months not racing and has this form? He may be clean, but those are genuine questions!

    • There is public information about UCI’s testing and monitoring program called Passport. You should know what you are talking about before you go popping off and showing your ignorance. There is not only out of competition testing, there are the whereabouts rules. UCI knows exactly where he is 24/7, just like they do every registered rider. You ask questions you could have easily answered yourself if you did more reading a less typing. Start being a fan and stop being a doping vulture.

      • So the question still stands – you haven;t exactly pointed me to an answer, just said there is one! Are you saying the UCI publishes this whereabouts and OOC testing results – if so you may be able to point us to it rather than just being a rude idiot!

  67. Chris Horner ground away at Nibali’s faux attacks knowing he could handle the steepest part near the end better than anyone. What’s he’s done will be legendary.

    Astana played their tactics perfectly. Nibali knew if he was going to crack Horner it would have to be before he got to the 20%+ part of the climb. Chris kept grinding his high pace and would reel Nibali in every time. Nibali is a hard man and his brave attacks were his only choice. He went down fighting and deserves credit for that.

    But Chris was sensational. I’m a longtime fan of his and knew in my bones coming in that he had a chance to put on a good showing here, but winning it is a dream come true for him and his fans.

    Many people are saying Chris didn’t race for many months. It is not true. He racing the Tour of Utah that ended just one month ago and finished second while winning its hardest mountain stage. For those that might discount that imaging a raced that takes place where the lowest altitudes are near 5000ft. Imagine flat sprint stage entirely at around 4800ft. Imagine mountain stages that take you over 9000ft five times. Imagine a race that starts at 10000ft. Imagine a queen stage that starts at 5000ft, goes over a pass at 9700 ft, the has a finishing kick that has a 3000ft climb, but that 3000 feet is from 5000 up to 8000ft. That is the tour of Utah. Yes, it’s only a one week race, but in order to be at all competitive you have to train on the mountains at altitude for 2 or 3 weeks to adapt, which in my mind makes it close to a 3 or more week race at insane altitudes. Riders that showed up just a few days before the race got buried.

    This is what he did to prepare, plus he trains as hard and smart on his own than anyone.

    He showed up in the right condition, and very importantly, at the right weight to contend.

    The rest should be spoken of with a sense of awe.

    • I have been thinking about this thread a bit , and have been struggling to be exicted about hornets win , but then today I realized today , he has only beaten Nibali, Nibali couldn’t beat wiggins and wiggins (who I am a big fan of) is no great GC rider either, dominating the veulta against Nibali and 4 others guys who rode the tour makes me think(hope) he’s not juiced

  68. aside from horner,

    cycling has always had doping, if you think that its gone now after lance, you nieve

    but with so many doping protagonists still involved in the sport,

    team managers – ochowicz, riis, vaughters
    uci – mcquaid
    riders – contador, valverde, danielson and possibly horner
    and riders like Santambrogio having storming early season form

    is the wider issue that only the surface of the doping underbelly of cycling or / and sport in general, has been scratched with the lance fallout?

    • Since you haven’t said a single intelligent thing, or show that you know the slightest thing about actual bike racing and you are dope dope dope, you can blow it out your *ss. has a forum with a section called “the clinic”. There you will find plenty of people who talk dope dope dope dope until their empty heats content.

      Please, do the rest of us that want to talk bike racing a favor and to there. Please, go there and stay there. It’s the only place you have anything to offer.

      • Justjack: please leave the personal insults out. By all means debate ideas with others but there’s no need to be personally aggressive to someone asking a question.

        Further rude comments will just get deleted.

      • Has Justjack actually contributed any ideas or arguments so far? – all I’ve seen is insults to people who happen to provide an idea he disagrees with! Certainly very thin on facts!

    • and you aren’t worth the dirt on his cleats. You stupid puke. The only thing you prove is you aren’t smart enough to talk about 3 weeks of bike racing.

  69. When Horner says things like “he passed all the tests” he sounds like the punch drunk Indurian. Plus I can’t stand that doper Kelly…just hate hearing his commentary.

    But I keep on watching.

    • why would you criticize a doper using the name of a doper.?

      Maybe Chris wasn’t as competitive in the golden era of EPO because he didn’t use and now the field has come back to him in the new bread and water era.

  70. I tried to be rational- but watching a 41 year old stick man grimacing his way up a mountain ruined the Vuelta for me. He is too old- I’m 49, so it’s not an agism problem. There are just too many suspicions. It’s not good for the sport- I agree that Nibali is tired- Purito is tired- there are so many explanations. Chris Froome wasn’t allowed to move an inch without ‘proving’ his innocence- it seems that Horner is getting a free ride because it’s the Vuelta. It is not a good way to end the grand tours. I don’t think that cycling cares about its reputation anyway.

    I did enjoy all of the young French stage winners- please, let them be clean. But I have no illusions and never will!

    The problem is that Horner winning sucked the FUN out of the Vuelta. Like a big preying mantis.

    Sorry Chris.

    • “Grimacing”?!? Did you even watch the Vuelta? Chris had a smile on his face the whole time. His prosecutors use that as another proof that he is doping. And how is he getting a free ride? If you read the news, there are numerous stories questioning his potential use of PEDs. With all his resources, Chris Froome was unable to ‘prove’ his innocence. Why are you critical of Chris Horner for also being unable to prove a negative?

      Speaking of facts, the insect is known as a praying mantis.

      • Quite – I agree with the questioning because that’s what keeps sport honest, and would like to see answers about the testing he underwent during his 5 months out of competition – so that we don’t end like Tennis with a massive carpet under which all the issues are swept! However, I don’t agree that his ride has diminished the Vuelta or my enjoyment of it. I believe in innocent until proved guilty, and will be more than happy to accept his win if nothing comes to light.

    • This has got to be one of the most ignorant comments I’ve seen in a long time and that’s saying something. If you didn’t enjoy the penultimate day of the Vuelta this year then you’re just not a race fan. Go rent a Chippendale’s video if all you’re interested in is watching young guys in tight pants.

  71. Congratulations Rider 15, unless you fall off the bike today you will have won the Vuelta. Since you have been able to beat every drug test so far, the title is yours. The true test is if you still hold this title ten years from now or if better testing figures out how you did it. Good luck.

  72. There are two diseases infecting my sport. PEDs and worse cyclists fascination with spreading rumour and accusation with no evidence. It’s too easy to post unproven accusations on a forum with no chance of being held accountable. Cowards.
    Of course long before the internet cyclists have engaged in this kind of spineless chitchat. I recall Chris Boardman’s first national 25 win. The mumblings from disgruntled testers not fit do do up Chris’s toe straps. People nearly ten minutes slower who could only put his performance down to unnatural help. They could not understand he was world class and just better then them. Pathetic. The same people still see drugs in every decent performance from local races to the vuelta .
    Shut up or get out of my sport because you are ruining it. What parent would encourage the children to take up cycling now .

      • Many cyclists see drugs everywhere that’s the point. To condemn Horner with no proof is libellous. His only crime is winning. Innocent until proven guilty is the only sane way forward.

        • I don’t see dopers everywhere (but maybe you see people accusing everyone everywhere), but Horner’s performance at his age is just not credible to me, I guess we’ll know more within a few years, probably faster

  73. Valentino, let me clarify. I think Froome, Wiggins, Evans, Contador and Andy Schleck are doping too, I don’t want you to think I was just picking on Chris.

      • It’s the guys going for GC places in grand tours that have had to blood dope since 1991 to be competitive. If I am one of those guys but now I want to ride clean, I have to assume all of the guys I’m competing against have also stopped doping. If one of those competitors does not stop doping I’m handing him my finishing place, my money, my big contract and the kisses from the podium girls. Since don’t know if everyone else has stopped doping, I have to continue doping, even if I don’t want to. I think this is the dilemma GC riders face now.

  74. Am I surprised Chris Horner won? No. Is he doping? No again. 13 out of 21 stages in this year’s Vuelta were mountain climbs and Chris Horner has always been an excellent climber. He also has much fresher legs than his competitors given all the time he took off earlier in the year. Now if all of a sudden he started winning time trials and sprint finishes then yeah, I’d be real suspicious. But his performance in the Vuelta isn’t real surprising given the circumstances and race profile and his abilities as a climber. Horner has been nothing but squeaky clean his entire career and I would be shocked if he suddenly decided on Breaking Bad at 40. Congrats on a great win Chris.

      • And sorry to have to invoke someone like Stuey O’Grady…but exactly the same was said of him till the French senate report and his confession

        I’m not claiming he’s doping now, but let’s get our arguments straight

      • Well yeah, and you haven’t committed murder . . . yet. Does that make you a probable murderer in the future? No positive tests means no positive tests, I don’t what else anyone could do to prove innocence.

  75. Chris Horner’s win is sooo far from his previous performance it inevitably strains credulity beyond normal limits.
    NIbali after being passed said ‘ I was climbing at 450W, and he went past me. I cannot climb at 500W’

    There is a fishy smell

    • Nibali’s 450 watts only apply to his weight and or accuracy of his power meter. Horner looks much lighter than Nibali and could therfore climb faster at the “same 450 watts” Nibali reported. In fact, depending on how much lighter Horner is, he could conceivably climb at 420 or 430 watts and equal or better Nibali on his “450”. See how easy this is?

      Then there is the whole “VAM” argument for a steady state issue… If they all climbed for one hour steady, it would be easy to compare watts per kilogram. Truth is, they dont. They surge, they slow, they sprint, all while riding a road that also undulates. I applaud Horner for releasing his numbers when so many haven’t. All you critics need to get over yourselves.

    • It all depends if it’s a simple admin “no-show” or he fled the scene. Many athletes get no-shows, it’s happened to plenty. Of course it’s different if he was spotted running down the fire-escape in a bid to evade the testers.

      • The Guardian’s take on it is here:

        “RadioShack later issued a statement, accompanied by screenshots of emails sent by the American, to clarify that the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency is at fault.

        “Chris Horner updated his whereabouts with United States Anti-Doping Agency before the start of the final stage,” the statement read. “He gave USADA the name of his hotel for the night, phone number and room number for his one-hour window between 6 to 7am.

        “This is all according to the rules and Chris Horner received a confirmation email. The anti-doping inspectors from the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency that were asked to do the test by USADA showed up at the wrong hotel in Madrid, where the team was staying, but Horner was obviously not to be found.”

        RadioShack are frustrated that news of the missed test was made public. “The team believes the communication between the Spanish Anti-Doping Agency and the media is a violation of the privacy of Chris Horner, especially since it comes down to a clear mistake by the tester,” the statement added. “The team will seek compensation for this matter with the responsible anti-doping agencies.””

    • He’s not a no show. The Spanish Doping Agency went to the wrong hotel even though Chris Horner had notified USADA he would be staying in a different hotel with his wife. What’s more fishy is the news story was leaked even though it was the testing official’s mistake.

  76. “Horner has been nothing but squeaky clean his entire career and I would be shocked if he suddenly decided on Breaking Bad at 40. ” Cmon he was part of Armstrong’s team

    • Exactly. And Leipheimer’s teammate too. And neither of those turncoat ratty snitches who threw a bunch of people under the bus said a word about Chris Horner. Squeaky clean.

  77. So let’s review. Vayer says Horner rode Pena Cabarga at 487. Gazetto De La Sporta claims 437. These numbers are widely reported as proof that his performance is unbelievable. Now he releases his SRM data which shows 425 and it is widely ignored. Or according to his critics, he must be lying about his weight. Unlike Froome, Nibali, and pretty much everyone else who has won a major race, he has released his race data. But this is immediately discounted because it doesn’t fit the narrative. Meanwhile, Nibali, who just a few months ago, it was claimed, because of his dominant performance in the Giro, was obviously doped, is held up as the benchmark for a clean performance because it now fits the narrative.

    But none of that matters because he’s 41 years old and out of contract so it’s obvious right? It simply defies belief that anyone could perform at this level at that age. Except that he finished on the podium at Tirreno earlier this year at the same age. And he won Basque Country and TOC at 39. So unless there is some natural limit that allows one to win major stage races at 39 but not at 41 the claim that 41 is impossible is belied by Horner’s own history.

    I have no idea whether Horner has doped, or if Froome or Wiggins or Nibali did either. One can construct a plausible case for or against all of them. And partisans of one or the other will object that the evidence for or against that they cherry pick is proof while the evidence that others cherry pick isn’t. But at the end of the day, it is irresolvable at present and if you are going to insist that one of these guys is obviously doped then its really hard to turn around and claim that the others aren’t. Ultimately, you either think that you still need to dope to win a grand tour or you don’t. Splitting hairs about whether one guy did and the other didn’t is pretty pointless.

    • One of the more balanced and well thought out comments on here – as you say people cherry pick their ‘evidence’ to suit their stand point. i think it is important to be open to questions and possibilities that need answering, but that riders are innocent until proven guilty or at least admitted guilt. That’s the only basis on which we can proceed and enjoy this superb sport. Where someone questions something in all sincerity it shouldn’t provoke mud slinging and blind entrenchment one way or the other – surely with some objective thinking we can all enlighten each other. I’ve certainly learnt a lot about the science and pseudo-science people are using to back their ideas/

  78. just COME ON. I can buy the fairy tales about someone that was never ever before even close to winning a big tour, but …

    when someone at 41 years, on the last ascent, breaks the world VAM (average ascent speed) record, it can only be doped like a horse. All the cycling becomes more and more ridiculous every year. And I’m not talking only about pro’s. I saw amateur competition where all you can win as a first price is some cake and a metal medal filled with 50’years old-guys doped. It’s just pathetic.

    • Yeah, I’ve been in some sportives where it was claimed people were doping, and you could speculate about some of the riders from their demeanor, but actually have you had any evidence of that?

      • Evidence about amateurs beeing doped ? In Italy, for fun, the NAS (police anti-doping section) did an surprise test on an amateur cycling contest. They pick 4 for testing, 2 escaped, the other 2 were positive on EPO (one of them was the winner , 50 years). The first price was some 30$ ceramic pottery.

        I don’t know if you realise that one 50 years guy, did EPO (it’s very dangerous and complicated, we are not talking about some viagra pill) to beat his friends on some silly contest.

        Of course no one has now any evidence of Horner beeing doped, it’s just common sense. I still remember how Amstrong managed to trick for years all the hard and scientific official testing.

  79. I have been cycling for 27 years now. I started at the age of 19 and did not start peaking until about age 35. I am now 46 and still performing just as well as I did in my late 20’s. So winning a Grand Tour at age 41 is not impossible at all.

    • David Millar started cycling at the age of 15 and by the age of 19 was already verging on professional cycling. His training would have brought him on a level with the best in the world very swiftly (speaking peloton-wise that is). It’s generally recognised that most athletes peak in their late 20s. You, presumably (unless you’re Greg Lemond 🙂 ), haven’t gone through the testing ground of professional sport – which throws you by the wayside pretty quickly if you don’t sustain the grade – and every team manager knows your capabilities because they’re a matter of record. So your parameters for comparing your capabilities with pro riders are fairly loose and subjective. Are you performing as well as the twenty-eight year olds you cycle with? This is the nitty-gritty of what’s being discussed here – how a 41yo domestique with a sparse record of achievement can dance up the gradients with the best of them in (arguably) the toughest uphill classic of all.

  80. Has anyone mentioned his standing up climbing style? There are no other riders using the style of staying in this position the length of time that he does. Am I off the mark here?

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