I am still going to do an entry on the Cascade Cycling Classic, but my friend Pat in Texas is anxious to find out how I met Chris Horner while there, so this is for her. Chris rides for Astana -- you know, the team that SHOULD be at the Tour de France, but got snubbed by the organizers -- and he was at Cascade with Levi Leipheimer (3rd at the Tour last year -- yah, should have been at the Tour). Neal Rogers at VeloNews does a lot of interviews with Chris on VeloNews.com TV, and Pat has become a big fan from watching those. So, she was pretty excited when she found out I'd be reporting on a race he'd be in -- I was excited about all the big riders that were there, too, but of course, as a serious-cycling-journalist-type, you know ... I try to play it cool.
So, there I was, at the time trial -- the third stage of the race. I'd interviewed Levi briefly after the second stage as he and Chris were getting on their bikes to ride back down the mountain they'd just climbed, but hadn't had time to talk to Chris. So, well before the men's time trial started, I was walking toward the sign-in area, and Chris, having just signed in, I think, was riding toward me. He rode past, and I realized it might be a good time to set up a time to interview him, so just after he passed, I turned around, yelled his name, and turned to see if he heard and was stopping. He slowed, excused himself from talking to someone he was riding next to, and looked toward me. I started running toward him (well, I'm not very fast, so it was probably more like a jog) because I didn't want him to have to come back, and I just happened to be holding a reporter's pad and pen in my left hand, which, as I ran, apparently looked like I was holding them out. So as I got near him, he smiled and put out his hand for the pad and pen I was holding -- he clearly thought I wanted an autograph. I started laughing, and said, "No, no, I don't want your autograph -- I'm covering the race for VeloNews -- and, don't worry, I won't throw my bra at you or anything, either!" He started laughing, too, and said something about it being ok for me to throw my bra, and then he said that reporters don't usually run him down holding pens out.
Talking to a racer for the first time -- man or woman, famous or not -- is always a little nerve wracking, as more often than not, you're talking to them during times that they're incredibly exhausted, stressed, or both, and you don't know how they're going to respond to your questions. And I accidentally say some stupid shit sometimes, too. But, I have to say, my intro to Chris Horner was perhaps the most memorable first "interview" yet.
Like Pat, I'd also seen Chris in a lot of interviews, and I was under the impression he is pretty down-to-earth and has a good sense of humor -- and that he tells you exactly what he thinks. Talking to him over the course of the race, starting with the "autograph session" and ending with a phone interview after the race was over, confirmed that impression. He's clearly a good guy. And at the end of our post-race phone interview, he said that maybe he'll give me an autograph next time he sees me ...
And, in case you missed it on VeloNews.com, here's a story and pics about his giving another racer a ride to the finish line of the fifth stage. Good guy all the way around.