Chris Horner’s standing climbing style wins him the Vuelta

There’s a phrase in cycling: ‘dancing on the pedals’. It’s used when a rider gets out of the saddle on a steep slope. The finest exponents sway sinuously, the bike flicking from side-to-side beneath them. Several times during this Vuelta, commentators have said that Chris Horner has been dancing on the pedals. If Chris Horner does any kind of pedal-dance, it’s robotics.

Chris Horner’s climbing style doesn’t involve smooth, natural movements. It’s steady, angular and minimalist – pretty awkward looking, if I’m honest – but it clearly works.

He doesn’t perform the kind of staccato kicks you see with many of the climbers. He instead delivers a kind of swelling surge of speed. You can see it coming. It isn’t sharp and digital. It’s analogue. He doesn’t press a button. He slowly turns the dial.

He slowly turns the pedals as well. Maybe it isn’t robotics he’s doing; maybe it’s some sort of unhurried waltz. Whatever it is, it’s a long, long, long, long dance. No-one stands and climbs for as long as Horner.

So what happened then?

Oh yeah, sorry. Kind of glossed over that a bit, didn’t I?

Chris Horner withstood a great fat stack of attacks from Vincenzo Nibali, who deserves enormous credit for elevating Horner’s achievement through being a more than worthy adversary. Horner then rode away from him, finishing second to Kenny Elissonde, who was pretty much weaving all over the road in his efforts to retain his advantage as Horner bore down on him. Elissonde then ruined it all a bit by crying as he crossed the line. On ITV4’s highlights programme, Jens Voight was deeply unimpressed by this.

My man Joaquim Rodriguez sort of stuck with them, but then didn’t.

Anything else?

Aside from the gradients, the Angliru was also noteworthy for having a particularly high concentration of roadside knobheads.

Stage 21

An actual sprint finish? In the Vuelta? It doesn’t seem an appropriate way to finish really, but I guess it’s reward for any sprinters who’ve raced 20 stages without having had a hope in hell of winning before now. Don’t know if there are any sprinters. Guess we’ll find out. Here’s the profile.