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.

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