Chris Horner’s Tour of Spain diary: Keeping upright on the cobblestones

  • Chris Horner's Tour of Spain diary: Keeping upright on the cobblestones
    Posted by Chris Horner, Special to The Oregonian August 30, 2009 13:51PM

    EMMEN, Netherlands -- Today's stage of the Tour of Spain was one those stages that the riders racing for the overall win hate to do. With almost no chance of making time on the favorites, and at least a hundred chances of losing time throughout the day, it was going to be a very nervous day for many.

    When we arrived at the start town this morning, the clouds were dark and there was a high chance for rain predicted. The rain did come, but only just enough to wet the roads and get the bikes all dirty. This gave us at least one less thing to worry about.

    Right away a group of riders got off the front, but even with a break up the road, the peloton was nervous all day. My Astana teammate Jesus Hernandez crashed two times today, and one of the crashes happened when he was right at the front of the peloton. Normally, the front is the "safe" place to be, but today it was only a slightly safer than any other spot in the field. With each turn throughout the day, we had to deal with a new kind of road condition.

    As Forrest Gump's mom would say, the day was like a box of chocolates, and we never knew what we were going to get as each turn brought us a new surprise!

    With roundabouts, traffic islands, speed bumps, speed control direction changes, side walks appearing out of nowhere, signs in the middle of the road, cobblestones everywhere and spectators trying to get that perfect shot (two feet farther out in the road), it was a challenge to stay on top of the situation at all times. We even entered an airport strip and had to avoid the running lights that direct the planes! And believe me when I tell you that when the lights are off, they don't stand out at all. With all of the challenges, the stage was going to be anything but boring.

    As the day progressed, so did the battle to stay up front. Halfway into the race, I thought I was going down when five guys hit the deck right in front of me in a roundabout. The only thing that kept me up was that I bounced off a rider that had 40 pounds on me. Luckily, physics came into play and all that happened was I stayed up and he just wobbled a little - got to love the big guys.

    Just before 20 miles to go, we hit a cobblestone section. Of course, every team director gave orders to his team to be at the front for this section of the course. Of course, they were telling us to be up front ALL DAY, but for this section, they were really insistent! The command started 20 miles before the cobblestone section and was repeated every few miles until we were actually on the cobbles. With the real estate being pretty limited up front, the fight for the first team to the cobbles was furious, with Saxo Bank, Liquigas and Garmin spread across the road racing one another to be there first. Personally, I was in float mode, switching from one team train to the next as they passed each other. As we hit the cobbles, we transitioned from a normally sized (euro) road onto a road the size of a bike path - that was also made out of cobbles - at full-race speed. I just made it through as riders began crashing right behind me. As we were single file and going flat out all the through the cobbles, devastating the field, I started to think this just might be where the race splits apart. But, of course, just after we exited the cobbles, everyone at the front sat up. So much for all of that hard work!

    From there it was just about 20 miles to the finish, so once the teams got organized again the pace picked back up as each team readied for the finishing sprint. Sprinters needed to be led out, and GC riders need to be kept out of trouble, so we were once again fighting curb to curb for position. Just before we hit the safety of the three kilometers (less then two miles) to go sign, there was another crash that caught a few of the favorites and cost them a few seconds on their GC placing. Any time gaps that result from crashes within the final 3 kilometers do not count, but anything that happens before that is fair game, which makes getting to the 3 kilometer sign very important.

    Tom Boonen, eager to try to take the jersey, jumped a little too early in the sprint and was passed by eventual winner Gerald Ciolek and several other riders just before the line. The time bonuses gained by Ciolek moved him into second overall, ahead of Boonen, and also helped to keep Fabian Cancellara in gold for another day. So the day was drama all the way from start to finish!

    With one nervous day down, I'm hoping Monday is as good to me as today was, because if I have learned anything from my days in the north, and the rest of the season, it is that good positioning in the peloton only goes so far. Real survival comes down to a little luck.

    Thanks for reading! Until tomorrow...

    - Chris Horner, who lives in Bend, is Oregon's top road-racing cyclist. Read his previous work at

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  • Comments 4 комментария

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    Хорнер отлично пишет, всегда интересно читать.

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    Cycling news reported at the end of there live report that Chris Horner was involved in that bad crash … Quote \Chris Horner (Astana) went down very, very hard. There was a very tall concrete gutter that the rider’s hit just inside the 3km to go mark. Horner looks likely to be out of the race.\
    Hope Chris is ok and that the crash for Horner was not as bad as this early report infers!!
    No word about Vino or any of the others in Astana that in that report. Hopefully no news is good news for them!

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    Well, judging by what i saw things are pretty serious. Something with his left hand and/or maybe internal injuries.

    Though i got asleep (had a bad night) and haven’t seen if he actually finished or not.

    Positively, Chris is having a very bad year (maybe the worst) — he missed the Tour and having started Vuelta with a lot of hopes and a full support from the team.

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    He did finish according to the list of finishers. I didn’t see video but you are right Azeke, the initial reports do not sound good! It would be a shame for his Vuelta to end this way.
    The rest of the team also seemed to have finished the stage but that doesn’t mean they are injury free!

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