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“No. I never thought I wouldn’t get a contract. That wasn’t the problem. It was a matter of, do I want to wait for it? How much energy do I want to put into it," Horner said.

Photo: Sirotti

BADEN COOKE

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CHRISTOPHER HORNER

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UAE TEAM EMIRATES

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03.12.2014 @ 08:03 Posted by Aleksandra Górska

His Vuelta a Espana victory and an outstanding job done by Baden Cooke had won him the last-minute contract with Lampre-Merida just before the 2014 season kicked off, but things hasn’t gone so smoothly for Chris Horner this time around. The news broke on Monday that the 43-year old American eventually found new home at the Airgas-Safeway team and will return to race in the domestic arena in 2015.

 

Despite experiencing a season with more downs than ups, just another of his career marred by crashes, injuries and illness, Horner had hoped that Lampre-Merida would give him another chance and extend his contract through 2015. Italian team manager, Brent Copeland, spoke positively about keeping the 43-year old veteran in the squad but their sponsors had entirely different ideas, and as time passed by it has become clear that the best chance for the former Vuelta a Espana champion was linking his future with some American outfit.

 

His agent and former Australian professional, Cooke, at some point seemed to be seriously concerned about the situation, but apparently Horner never truly believed he wouldn’t find a squad to continue his professional career with.

 

“No. I never thought I wouldn’t get a contract. That wasn’t the problem. It was a matter of, do I want to wait for it? How much energy do I want to put into it? You know, it’s nice knowing what your plans are for next year. It’s nice to know next year is all set, and you can focus on hanging out with the family another month before training starts up in January. In February you’re already in full race mode.”

 

Even though a contract with any Continental level team has to be considered a serious step down for a rider with Grand Tour title in his palmares, Horner seems to be excited about an opportunity to compete on his home soil for the third time in his career.

 

“My first reaction was — I’m back for Round 3 in the US! I started my career here, and I’m comfortable racing in the US. I was thinking, if I come back to the US, it’s going to be fun bike racing here again, having a good time, enjoying myself, and riding with a good team,” Horner told Peloton Magazine.

 

“It looks like the team is coming up in the right way, too, and ready to go up to the next level of bike racing. We’ll hopefully be doing California and Utah and those races. I’m assuming we would get into those races no problem, but of course we’ll need invites. I’m a former Grand Tour winner, so I think we’ll get in.”

 

“California and Utah: Those are the races that are best designed for me. With Utah, the course is beautiful for me, but the altitude might be a little complicated. California is hard enough, but I wish it were harder. I’ve lived and trained and traveled all up and down California, SoCal and NorCal, so I’m very comfortable, no matter what stage we’re doing, to know what to expect. So California is certainly the first objective, where I’d like to do well and win something at. Utah is also a really ideal course for me considering how steep the climbs are.”

 

As his schedule for 2015 hasn’t been yet confirmed, the 43-year old American couldn’t share more detailed information on in which races he’s going to participate. He hinted, though, that while he is unlikely to compete in smaller races in Europe, events held in Asia might be included in his program. He is absolutely certain about his main objectives for the upcoming season, which are going to be the Tour of California, Tour of Utah, Colorado and national championships.

 

“I’m not sure. I think the team has talked about maybe going back to Malaysia or something. But California, Utah, and Colorado, those will be the main objectives. And the World Championships, because they will be here in the US of course. That will be different and exciting.”

 

“But I’m not interested in going over to Europe and doing any of the smaller racers. The only thing that ever interested me about racing in Europe was doing the really big races. I don’t want to be away from my family to do the small or medium-size races.”

 

Experienced American also shared interesting insights into differences between racing in Europe and United stated, in which apart from much more laid-back attitude presented by his countrymen he openly criticized standards of European hotels.

 

“The mentality is different. Outside of being on your bike is when changes are really different for the riders. When you’re in Europe, it’s all about hotels and the bike race and getting to the next event. When you’re racing in the US, there’s a lot more life after the bike race. And the amount of energy spent on the bike isn’t as devastating. It’s really a full-time job in Europe — all the riders there use the term “It’s a business,” and in the US it’s a lot more relaxed. It’s still professional, but in Europe it’s like, race, massage, dinner, check out of hotel, go do the next race, check in, check out.”

 

“Honestly, the hotels are just absolutely horrendous. There are exceptions — you always get a nice hotel here and there, like when you’re in Switzerland. But it’s so hit and miss. And you don’t know what kind of food they’re going to serve you. That’s the one thing in Europe I’m happy to get away from.”

 

“So I’ve always enjoyed doing the bike races but never enjoyed the travel part or the small hotels. And the difficulty is trying to find the food you want. In the US we have nicer hotels — bigger and more comfortable — which makes life easier. Plus, I always stay in touch with family quite easily here. We have a new baby coming along here in January, and it’ll be great to spend more time with my wife, and there will be some races that my kids can show up at.”

 

In a final conclusion, Horner unsurprisingly stated that he doesn’t intend to hang up his wheels by the end of the 2015 season as he is eager to further continue his career as professional cyclist.

 

“Oh yeah. I’m not planning on retiring. I don’t plan on this being my last year. Of course I take it year by year. But I’m not coming back to retire with this team or anything like that. I think it’s going to be fun coming back to the US — hopefully the young kids keep me motivated to race that much longer.”

 

“I plan on racing my bike.”

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