Chris Horner interview: US rider confirms he’ll miss Tour de France, chasing form for Vuelta a España
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Friday, June 07, 2013

Chris Horner interview: US rider confirms he’ll miss Tour de France, chasing form for Vuelta a España

by Shane Stokes at 8:36 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France, Vuelta a España
 
Is recovering from knee surgery but believes he can return to good condition this year

Chris HornerConfirming that he will be forced to miss the Tour de France after having surgery two weeks ago on a lingering knee issue, Chris Horner has said that he is aiming to be back in peak condition for the Vuelta a España and to be part of a RadioShack Leopard push for the overall victory there.

The American rider spoke exclusively to VeloNation prior to today’s team announcement that he would be absent from the Tour de France, and said that he wants to play things safe and ensure that he is fully recovered from his injury before knuckling down again to training.

Out of contract at the end of this year, Horner said that he was fully focussed on having a strong end of season and ensuring that he gets an extension with the squad for 2014 and beyond.

“My reaction to missing the Tour is one of disappointment, of course, but it is what it is,” he said via phone call from the US. “Clearly I have had other injuries before that have made me miss major goals, but this one is I think the most complicated one that I have ever had in my career.

“What a lot of people don’t understand about this type of injury is that when I am off the bike for two weeks, it kind of disappears. You think you are healed and then you start training again and then you are back to square one. It is not like a broken bone, it is not like a sore knee or something like that where when the pain subsides you are ready to go back training. There is not a good blood flow on that side of the knee so it is really difficult for the tendon to heal.”

Horner traces the problem back to the final road stage of Tirreno Adriatico, a gruelling day which saw the riders tackle the wall-like Muro di Sant'Elpidio climb in wet, cold conditions. He believes a combination of those weather conditions plus the nature of the climb is what aggravated his leg

“I don’t think it was equipment related at all, but completely down to that stage. I was with Nibali when he was attacking on the last time up that very steep climb. At that point in time it had been raining, it had been cold, it was coming to the end of a tough six hour race. The climb is so steep that I had to adjust my position dramatically on the bike, so that the back tyre didn’t spin…you have to keep weight on the back tyre. Also because the gearing was so large, I had to stand up because you are pushing twenty rpms up this climb.

“My belief is that it was the equivalent of doing one of the hardest bike races in the world, then jumping off multiple times during that race, going to the gym and doing one legged squats. I am pretty certain that is what did it, because it was sore the next day for the time trial.

“I then took a day off and then I trained again in Spain and I felt the issue come back. So I took the next three days off. Myself and the team doctor didn’t think the problem was that severe, but after starting Catalunya I realised the issue was bad.”

Chris HornerConfirming the issue is IT band friction syndrome, Horner estimates that he saw six different doctors plus three or four physio specialists since it cropped up in March. After withdrawing from Catalunya he took a week off the bike, but the problem flared up again when he resumed training. Cue another two and a half weeks off, then more frustration when the issue was still there after that time.

“I was trying to make the Tour of California, couldn’t make that. Then I thought I would be able to make the Tour de Suisse, but every time I started training again, I would just reinjure the knee once more,” he said.

“Finally I opted to with surgery, a really new procedure called Tenex…it is a really new procedure. They go in there orthoscopically, they clean up the IT band around the knee and all that stuff. They then do PRP, where they take some blood out of your arm, they spin it and they put the blood platelets in the knee to help recovery.

“Now I am basically just waiting for the PRP inflammation to disappear and then I can start training again. I’ve had to be patient – the doctors thought there was a small chance to be ready for the Tour de France, but in reality I am scared to try it. If I do it and the knee gets reinjured, then all of a sudden I have lost the whole season.

“If I take some more time off and let it heal up, then theoretically it should be solved by then. That’s not absolutely guaranteed, but in theory it should be solved. Basically I can’t afford to miss the whole season, so I am willing to give up the Tour de France and other objectives so that I can make it to the Tour of Spain. I would much rather have an almost 100 percent chance of making the Tour of Spain versus the slight chance of a problem at the Tour de France.”

Vuelta ambitions and new contract:

Now 41 years of age, Horner confirmed that he is in the final year of his current contract with the RadioShack Leopard team. That motivates him to do his utmost to clock up some good results before the end of the season, particularly as he wants to remain part of the current setup.

“I very much like the team here. Of course we are going to have some sponsorship changes and stuff like that, but hopefully the team continues,” he said, acknowledging the current uncertainty about its future. “I think they have time to sort it out - I would imagine that nothing needs to be done until the Tour time or after the Tour.

Chris Horner“Clearly I enjoy working with Luca [Guercilena, general manager] and everyone knows that Alain [Gallopin] and I are very close friends off the bike and stuff like that too. I am very, very comfortable with this team, the riders and the staff and everything.”

Asked if his plans to race in the Vuelta a España are about using the race to build up for the world championships, he is clear that he wants more than that.

“I have got ambitions,” he said, dismissing any suggestion that the race would be a training block. “Absolutely. I would imagine at this point in time I am looking at doing the Tour of Utah, then after Utah I fly over and to the Tour of Spain. I believe I can be in very good shape by then.

“Of course we have Frank Schleck coming back for the Tour of Spain, and I believe Andy will probably do it too. My objectives are that someone from the team will be riding very high on general classification, and hopefully we have somebody who can actually win the race.

“After that, the worlds is definitely a goal. It’s a hilly course and I want to go well there. The plan is then to finish off the season in Lombardy. There’s a lot of racing left, and so that is why it is so important for me to not take risks and have the knee flare up during the Tour de France. The best option is to miss that, take more time to recover, and then ride well in the Tour of Spain.”

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