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"They have Niemiec and Cunego and they were already going to target the Giro so Chris is going to be in a mentoring role there; they’re not going to take the leadership away from those guys for the Giro and I think he’ll ge...

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CHRISTOPHER HORNER

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31.01.2014 @ 14:00 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

Yesterday it was announced that Chris Horner has finally found a new team for the coming season, with the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta a Espana forming the centrepieces of his season. While he will obviously be gunning for a repeat win in the latter race, he will not be the captain in the former where his main role will be to provide guidance for the younger riders.

 

After months of uncertainty, Chris Horner could make a sigh of relief when it was announced that the rumoured deal with Lampre-Merida had finally been signed. In the coming year, the veteran American will be riding in blue-fuchsia colours and will again be part of the biggest races in the world.

 

With new signing Rui Costa having long been designated as the Italian team's captain for the Tour de France, it has been expected that Horner will focus on the Giro d'Italia and the title defence at the Vuelta a Espana. In an interview with Cyclingnews, Lampre-Merida manager Brent Copeland confirmed that suggestion as he outlined his schedule for the season.

 

Horner will begin the season in the Challenge Mallorca [provided the UCI approves the contract], and then move on to the Volta ao Algarve, the Volta a Catalunya, Pais Vasco - which he won in 2010 - and finally the Giro d'Italia.

 

"This will be the first part of the season, the second part is still to be discussed with the Vuelta included," Copeland said.

 

Earlier Horner had told Velonews that he hoped to find a team that would allow him to go for the win in the two minor grand tours. However, Lampre-Merida has always planned to give Przemyslaw Niemiec and Damiano Cunego their chance to shine in the Giro, meaning that Horner will only play a mentoring role in May.

 

"They have Niemiec and Cunego and they were already going to target the Giro so Chris is going to be in a mentoring role there; they’re not going to take the leadership away from those guys for the Giro and I think he’ll get his chance at the Vuelta," his agent Baden Cooke told ridemedia.com.au.

 

“Obviously they’ve got Rui Costa for the Tour… he and Horner really only cross paths in one race," he added. "They’re two of the strongest guys in the world and they’re going to keep them on separate programs.”

 

In general, Horner has been signed to help the younger riders step up their game.

 

 “Obviously the team has got a lot of young riders and they’re predominantly focusing these days more towards a young team so what they saw in Chris was one of the most experienced guys in the peloton and they want him – more than for his strength and winning capability – as a leader for the young boys, to teach them what to do," Cooke said.

 

Horner has been going through a turbulent period with plenty of uncertainty. At New Year, he stopped his cooperation with previous agent Michael Rutherford and teamed up with Cooke.

 

The Australian - who himself had to end his career as he could not find a team - admits that the last few weeks have been stressful.

 

“It hasn’t been an easy process," he said. "There hadn’t been much success from his last agent. Obviously it was a really difficult year so you can’t be too hard on him but I took Chris on on the first of January. We almost had a deal done in two weeks, [around] the first 10 days of January. Then there was a bit of a leak in the media from someone – we’re not quite sure who it was – and then that slowed things down a bit because we were trying to keep it under wraps. And that just added an extra element of difficulty to it.

 

“Now everything has been sorted through and I think it’s going to be a really good partnership.”

 

One of Horner's woes has been his desire to get paid like a grand tour winner. Due to his age, many teams have been reluctant to do so but Cooke is very happy with the financial site of things.

 

“It’s very top-heavy with bonuses, is what I’d say," he said when asked about the contract.

 

Horner has always continued to train and Cooke confirms that he is ready to go.

 

"He has not stopped training," he said. "He was ready to go to run top-five in Tour Down Under. He was primed and ready to go. He did six and a half hours today.”

 

The Challenge Mallorca which could be Horner's first race, starts on February 9.

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