Horner celebrates first stage race victory in Europe
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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Horner celebrates first stage race victory in Europe

by Bjorn Haake at 6:12 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Spring Classics, Liège-Bastogne-Liège , Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne

Chris Horner celebrated his very first stage race victory in Europe, when he clinched the overall title in the Volta al País Vasco yesterday. Horner won the final time trial to stay ahead in GC by seven seconds over Spaniard Alejandro Valverde.

Horner has already 16 stage race wins to his credit in America and Asia, but had not managed to take one in Europe so far. "Last year I just missed the victory in the Tour de l'Ain, because of respiratory problems," Horner said. He came in second then, 25 seconds behind Estonian Rein Taaramäe. He has also done good races in Switzerland. "Earlier, I was close too in the the Tour de Romandie and the Tour de Suisse. Now finally I am on the highest place of the podium. Seventeen stage race wins is not bad, but I think this is the nicest one," Horner said.

From the start in the Basque Country, Horner was there. "I had good legs today, but honestly, the whole week I had good legs. On Friday I saved some forces because I wanted to be super today in the time trial. Already from day one in this race I was confident about this time trial," the RadioShack rider said.

Horner was one second behind Valverde before the time trial. They were virtually tied at the time check (kilometer seven). The first part was uphill and Horner knew that if he could hold Valverde on the climb, he could gain the necessary time on the flatter part of the course.

Sports director Viatcheslav Ekimov could see before the stage that Horner was going to pull it off. "When I watched Chris warming up this morning I saw what concentration he had and I thought to myself, 'Oh boy, this is going to be good, he means business!'," Ekimov explained. "He made no mistakes, showed perfect bike handling skills and was a real power house. The time trial bike worked super."

Team Manager Johan Bruyneel, who won a time trial in the 1991 Tour of the Basque Country , was equally excited. ""I am very happy for the Team, but especially for Chris. He deserves this after all his bad luck last year. This is a big victory. After the Tour, Giro and Vuelta, there are the Dauphiné, Switzerland and Basque Country as the hardest races to win. Chris gets better with the years."

Horner now eyes the Ardennes Classics Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. "With the same ambition to win," said Horner, who should have bad memories from Belgium, when the Tour of Spain visited last year. "I crashed very bad in Liège last year [stage 4], but that had nothing to do with the Liège classic. If you are not motivated for Liège-Bastogne-Liège, it’s time to retire. My moment hasn't come yet," the 38-year-old said.


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