Christina Watches team confirms interest in Horner, hoping for new sponsor to make deal possible
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Saturday, January 04, 2014

Christina Watches team confirms interest in Horner, hoping for new sponsor to make deal possible

by VeloNation Press at 8:16 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling
 
Continental status would make Vuelta defence and Grand Tour participation impossible

Chris HornerChris Horner’s search for a contract for 2014 could potentially see the rider sign for a Danish Continental team, with the Christina Watches squad confirming an interest in, plus contact with, the Vuelta a España winner.

“It is a dialogue that has been going on for a few days, and I have expressed that we are quite interested,” the team’s managing director Claus Hembo confirmed to BT.

“First and foremost, we are of course honoured. It is the proof that we have a certain image internationally. The deadline, of course, is that he can write another contract in ten minutes. So I see it more a question about first come, first served. We are not the only ones who are interested in being able to buy him.”

Horner took the biggest result of his career in September when he won the Vuelta a España. He became the oldest Grand Tour winner in history but, despite the success, he has been unable to find a team thus far.

Being 42 years of age is one factor which has complicated things, and so too the high wages that he and his agent are arguing he is entitled to as a winner of the Spanish race.

However a tough economic situation for sponsors plus a market saturated with riders have driven down what a rider in his position is able to command.

In addition to that his public release of his biological passport may have complicated things further, with one of the UCI’s expert panel stating that he believes the profile is one which merits further scrutiny in the form of additional tests.

“While it is not 100 percent clear that there is anything untoward happening, there’s certainly unusual patterns there,” Robin Parisotto told VeloNation in October. “If this was something that came across my desk for evaluation, I would certainly be putting a question mark on it.

“I’d at least request that further samples to be taken, particularly just before and during competitions, in order to see if the pattern was a one-off or if it persists.”

In the two and a half months since then, Horner has continued to search for a team but thus far has not managed to secure a ride for 2014. Christina Watches, which was set up to give Michael Rasmussen a pro squad to compete with, appears to be an option.

However Hembo admits that the team does not have the budget at this precise point in time to close the deal. “What we are currently lacking, in order to get him, is a sponsor for approximately one and a half million [Danish Krone – ed., approximately 200,000 euro or 273,000 US dollars]. That is not an expression of what he should have in salary, [but rather] what we need.”

If he is able to get it, he believes it would be a huge boost for the team. “Try to imagine that we line up for the Post Denmark Tour with a Vuelta winner as a captain,” he said, sounding exited.

If Horner does ultimately go to the team, it would be an indication of just how difficult things have been for the American to find a deal. As a Continental team, Christina Watches would not be eligible to ride any of the Grand Tours, meaning that he would be locked out of defending his title, or of competing in the Giro d’Italia or the Tour de France.

In that light, the high wage demands which prevented his move to Trek Factory Racing and other squads appear increasingly to have backfired.

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