Chris Horner: Nickeled, Dimed, and Super-sized

$3900. That’s how much prize money Chris Horner generated during le Tour. He was the biggest bread winner for Saunier Duval, which racked up a grand total of $14,525 after 21 days and 3607 kilometers of the fastest Tour in history. After the team staff gets their cut, the 6 Saunier Duval finishers got about $2200 each. I don’t think there’s a sporting event on the planet with such a disparate effort to compensation ratio. At this year’s US Open golf championship in Pinehurst, NC, an event on par with the prestige of winning the Tour de France, Kiwi Michael Campbell played 4 days of golf and walked away with $1,170,000. Horner finished 33rd overall in the Tour, and that GC position earned him $660. If Horner brushed up his golf game and finished 33rd in the US Open he would have netted about $36,000. Horner likely made more money by finishing 3rd in the Philadelphia US PRO race than the entire Saunier Duval team earned in the Tour de France. The Tour is very top heavy prize-wise (it’s definitely a “to the victors go the spoils” mentality); if your team doesn’t win GC, one of the other jerseys, the team prize, or an individual stage, then there’s a precipitous drop to mere Euro crumbs for minor placings. There’s also a bonus if your team finishes with at least 7 riders, which unfortunately, Saunier Duval didn’t accomplish. Realistically, Horner was gunning for glory via a stage win. He made valiant efforts on Stage 13 and Stage 21, but came up short. Of course, stage wins are hard to come by in the Tour. Only 16 of the 189 starters claimed individual stage wins (which aren’t great odds) and these victories rank up there with Classics victories in prestige. No matter what a pro does with the rest of his life, he’ll go to his grave with “Tour de France stage winner” associated with his name. Horner didn’t jump ship from a domestic US pro gig to Saunier Duval solely for the money. After all, he purportedly took a 50% pay cut, he sold his house, he’s descibed his current European residence status as “homeless”, he lived in Trent Klasna’s yard while recovering from his broken leg earlier this year, and he hadn’t seen his kids for the 3 months prior to his Tour debut, all for a chance (not a guarantee) that he’d fulfill his dream of riding le Tour. But dammit, this guy deserves some cash. I hope he at least made some money during the Tour de Suisse.

Back in June, before we managed to woo Aerospace Engineering’s Hugh Moran and Eric Murphy with our mad converstional skills at the USPRO after-party, Chris Horner actually stopped and chatted with us while making his way through the bar scrum. He had no idea who we were, as one of the day’s podium finishers I’m sure he had a bevy of more closely connected well-wishers to entertain, yet he answered some questions and talked about the caliber of professional racing in the U.S. With that in mind, one of the few genuinely riveting moments of the 2005 Tour was the endgame to Stage 13. How I wished Horner would triumph, but at least he beaned Carlos de Cruz with a water bottle earlier in the day. Horner has a perma-grin plastered on his face, even when he’s really suffering, and his enthusiasm about just competing in the the Tour is infectious.

Iron constitution. On the second rest day in Pau, Horner inhaled a McDonald’s hamburger, Big Mac, large fries, large Coke, and McFlurry for lunch. According to Mcdonald’s, that’s 2280 calories and 80 grams of fat clogging up his system from a single sitting. I’m sure Morgan Spurlock would be impressed with his digestive prowess. Unfortunately for 99.999999% of McDonald’s customers, they don’t have the physiological demands of a Grand Tour to burn off those calories.

That looks familiar. Brad McGee’s stem bolts are just as rusty as mine. And just as rusty as his form.

They’re not all superhumans. What was arguably more outrageous than witnessing George Hincapie triumph in the most difficult stage of the 2005 Tour was watching how composed and non-plussed he appeared immediately afterwards. He just got off his bike, got a few hugs, and sauntered into the team bus like nothing happened. For other lesser mortals, the pain of the Tour is all too real. After spending virtually all of the stage in the winning break, neo-pro Aussie Simon Gerrans finished 3rd on Stage 18, just 8 seconds behind the victorious Savoldelli, and was rendered inert upon coasting to a halt. Gerrans just dropped to the street with his bike cast aside, all wonky against the crowd control barrier. What an effort.

Just Steal It

Minor Threat album cover Nike ripoff of Minor Threat album cover for promotion of Nike's 2005 Major Threat skateboarding tour
Ian MacKaye is probably the last person that Nike wanted to mess with regarding co-opting of underground culture for corporate promotions.

Back in the good ol’ days of my cycling career, when I lived in upstate NY and was kept off the roads 5-6 months of each year by snow, I used to spend a fair amount of time on my bike training indoors on a Turbo-Trainer when I wasn’t cross country skiing. No matter how you try to distract yourself with tv and tunes, it was deathly dull and rather unpleasant wallowing in a pool of sweat, devoid of forward motion (there was the occasional sideways, falling motion when I experimented with rollers and crashed, but that’s a different story…) Interval workouts were exceptionally evil endeavors, although for me it was always the psychological aspect rather than the physical. I could ride myself into throes of unconsciousness while climbing up a mountain, but the prospect of subjecting myself to identical degrees of suffering indoors without scenery and the sensation of speed never failed to fill me with dread. Finally, in order to inject a modicum of “pleasure” to my torture sessions, I made a mixed tape of all my favorite punk rock tunes to play in the background. The beauty of it was that most songs lasted in the 1 to 1.5 minute range so for intervals I’d kill myself for a song, spin for a song, kill myself, spin, kill myself, etc. I believe I had about half of the songs off the aforementioned Minor Threat EP, plus a sampling of the Circle Jerks, Black Flag, The Exploited, Husker Du, Dead Kennedys, and probably a few more bands of that era which I can’t currently recall. I’d warm up for 15 minutes, hit play for 45 intense minutes of high energy, angry tunes, and then spin for 15 minutes to cool down.

Just recently, I joined the 21st century with the arrival of an iPod as a present. Just before the Nike/Minor Threat hullaballoo hit the news, I added a few of the Minor Threat tunes from that EP into the Mini. Those songs still hold up 20+ years later. Looking down my playlist, I’ve noticed that the songs I’ve got are dominated by things from the the 80s through the early 90s. After that, music just ceased to be too interesting to me. I’ve cherry-picked all of my favorite songs from the cds I own, added the MP3 formatted songs which were left over from a previous foray into MP3 players, and only filled up 1 GB of my 5GB iPod. I guess I’ll have to figure out how to extract songs from my huge assortment of cassette tapes from the 1980s and convert them into MP3s to fill up all that empty space.

Speaking of MP3 players, I was rather amused by a recent Frank Hoj article in procycling where he spilled the beans about the exploits of his 21 year old, neo-pro teammate Heinrich Haussler in this year’s Tour of Flanders. In case the team manager in the race convoy wondered why Haussler was curiously silent or oblivious to tactical commands, the speakers in Haussler’s ears happened to be plugged into his iPod for the entire race instead of the team’s radio transmitter. That must have been a rather surreal experience, racing perhaps the most insanely difficult one-day race on the calendar in an auditory cocoon. I don’t know how he managed not to crash in dicey situations where the squeal of brakes or sounds of crunching metal tip off accidents in progress in close proximity, but Haussler apparently survived unscathed.

And on the topic of Gerolsteiner…Levi Leipheimer was interviewed by Velonews regarding his preparation for this year’s Tour De France and this statement regarding his weight loss regimen stood out: “To nudge closer to the podium, Leipheimer wanted to lose weight, so he’s not eaten sugar, fats, desserts or even taken a sip of beer or other forms of alcohol in four months. As a result, he’s shaved three kilos off his race weight, slimming down to a svelte 59.5kg, the lightest he’s ever been for a Tour.” Just once, I’d like to hear someone tell this to the press, “You know, my diet of Guinness and Fig Newtons sure is doing the trick this year”. Maybe that’s Dave Zabriskie’s secret, he’s just goofy enough to a) say it, and b) have it be true. Perhaps that’s why Bjarne Riis had to rain on the Zabriskie parade yesterday with this cryptic comment chronicled by VeloNews, “Dave needs to lose 3 to 4 kilos [about 8 pounds] to climb better in the mountains. If he can do that, I’m sure he can be a threat for the Tour someday”. What? CSC has Zabriskie listed at 6′0″ and a svelte 147 pounds. We’re moving into disturbing throes of skeletor-ness if Riis believes Zabriskie should drop 8 lbs. to 139. That’s nuts. Dave, just keep eating those Fig Newtons, drinking all that Guinness, and inhaling all that press room candy to fuel that V-12 motor tucked away in your legs.