Chris Horner: Up Close and Personal

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 9.38.44 PM_2 2013 Tour of Spain Champion In Town for a Friend

If you are on Facebook, I hope that you saw the very special and unique opportunity that Chris Horner, (2013 Tour of Spain Champion), would be in Gainesville, for cycling friend Nathan O’Neill, (8 time National Australian Time Trial Champion) for his Grand Opening of Wrenched Bicycles and Athlete.  Not sure about you but that is some kind of Grand Opening with Mr. Horner.

The morning started with the 50 mile ride, that is now slated as their Saturday shop ride, going forward.  Not the best at guessing, but if I HAD to, it looked like at least 70 or more cyclists came out, to not only get to meet Chris, but also get the chance to ride along side him throughout the ride.  A chilly and windy start ended up with a really nice day.  Hey, at least there was no rain.

Knowing this may be the only chance I could ever meet Chris, much less being able to get so up close and personal, I had to come up with something different (to get his signature) that would capture his epic grand tour win.  Instead of getting to bed early, I stayed up and grabbed 4 pictures from the internet and made a collage 8×10 glossy print; it turned out pretty sharp.  After walking in the shop upon arrival, Chris came right up to me and very graciously signed the print.  I think he thought that was pretty cool, too.  Hey, don’t spoil the moment for me, ok?

It didn’t take long to realize that (in person) Chris blended right along with everyone else; no pomp, no “Hey I’m all that” …which, by the way, he IS.  Honestly, the best way to describe it to you would be that is seemed like he knew you all your life.  He is incredibly approachable and struck up

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conversations with countless folks.  He is about as classy of a superstar as you would ever imagine but he never made anyone feel like he was anybetter than them.  I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to actually meet a very public professional figure and realize that they are about as down to earth as it gets.

In fact, after leading out the big peleton outside of the city, Chris pulled out off the front and then for the next 30 miles, rolled up beside countless others and started a conversation; I happen to be one of them.  We talked about all kinds of stuff, about what lies ahead, his win in Spain, being efficient on the bike (you talking my language)…and of course, how he genuinely liked my yellow kit, yellow arm and knee warmers, yellow shoe covers…just all the yellow.  He said it reminded him of one of his favorite races and is partial to the color.  He got a kick about hearing my story that led to me wearing yellow…and laughed.  He, better than anyone in today’s peleton, could relate to why.

An impressive effort to keep a manageable pace for the entire 50 miles was laid down by Mr. O’Neill himself.  Like me, several others was wondering if the pace was going to be a Horner pro level, or would it be one that everyone could hang with.  Nathan made it clear it was going to be relaxed.  And, it sure was.

IMG_1319Think about it.  Chris gets a call from a pro cycling buddy on the other side of the country and flies from California to help his buddy in his grand opening.  Who does that?  Chris Horner does.  Not only did Chris do the ride, but he is gong to hang out at the shop all day.  You can imagine there was a ton of folks wanting his autograph (of course) and pictures, too.  He just made himself available to everyone there.

So, if you are ever in Gainesville, you should go visit Nathan O’Neill at Wrenched Bicycles and Athlete.  An accomplished former pro cyclist in our midst…

Coach Robert

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