Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 Amgen T o C Stage 4: Wind Beneath His Wings

This is an AP photo.  Click on Chris Horner below to reach the original source.

Surprise, surprise, surprise….

One of the many aspects I love about stage racing is that as the course changes, so do the leaders. Some riders, like Levi Leipheimer, are simply built to win time trials. Others, like Mark Cavendish (and the likes of Ben Swift and Greg Henderson) are built for sprinting. But riders who excel at uphill climbs form a very elite group. Because, let’s face it, who really enjoys the lactic acid burn that comes as a result of stomping the pedals against unforgiving resistance for long grueling hours with no relief?

Apparently Team RadioShack had decided that the best strategy for yesterday’s incline stage was to go out fast and hard upon reaching the mountain, then just be ruthlessly relentless until pretty much the rest of the peloton had dropped away. To a large extent, the strategy worked, although there were some hangers-on (like Andy Schleck, who is riding this race with serious determination, despite his goofy, insouciant personality), and a break-away which included Ryder Hesjedal from team Garmin. (Gotta love the name. “Ryder.” That’s awesome.) By the time the RadioShack boys—specifically Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer—pulled up to Hesjedal, however, the man was pretty spent, and they passed him as if he’d pulled over into the emergency lane.

Horner kept churning, hell bent for leather, leading Levi up the mountain, with Leipheimer never taking a turn at the front. Finally, Horner dropped him—Oh My Buddha, are you kidding me?—and just kept on going, marching up the mountain like it was a routine Stairmaster workout. At 39, he is the second oldest rider in the race, and he definitely fits the appellation of “old pro.” Hurray for the old guys! Horner rolled across the line with no one on his tail, Andy Schleck a not-so-close second.

Congrats to Chris Horner who has been a rock solid rider in the tradition of George Hincapie, giving his all so others could take the glory. Yesterday, the glory was all his, and he now leads the race in overall time.

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