Tour de France: Horner believes having four RadioShack leaders could prove decisive
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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Tour de France: Horner believes having four RadioShack leaders could prove decisive

by VeloNation Press at 9:30 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 
American rider believes collective strength is a major advantage

Chris HornerMany are tipping Garmin-Cervélo, Team Sky and HTC Highroad for today’s team time trial, but another squad which will be in the hunt for a stage win and the yellow jersey is the RadioShack squad. The riders have individually performed strongly in time trials this year, with several of its 21 victories thus far coming against the clock. Of those in the Tour squad, Andreas Klöden won the time trials in the Criterium International and Giro del Trentino, while Janez Brajkovic took the Slovenian national title on June 26th.

Should the team perform sufficiently strongly against the others, they could take yellow from yesterday’s winner Philippe Gilbert. Designated GC contenders Andreas Klöden, Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer and Janez Brajkovic all started today’s stage six second behind the Belgian, and so are within striking distance. It’s all but expected that the team will beat Gilbert’s Omega Pharma Lotto squad by the required amount; what will matter is how well it does relative to the other squads.

Whether or not the Maillot Jaune beckons today, Horner believes that the team’s strength in numbers will pay off during the Tour. “Look at Klodi, he looks good. Levi looks good, Jani looks good so we’re racing the way we need to race. I’m most comfortable racing the way we did in California with the whole team around you and blowing the race apart,” he said. “With four leaders you have to do some of the positioning yourself and at 137 pounds that isn’t always easy. But we have a fantastic team and if we can get out of the first week with all four of us healthy and not injured, we have a really good shot at the title.”

One advantage of having so many riders in contention is that their rivals will have to watch each of the quartet; another is that they will have backup plans if one or two of those has a setback.

Horner was best of the team last year, finishing tenth overall, and has lost a lot of weight for this year’s event. That helped him win the Tour of California in May, and he has worked hard since then.

He crossed the line a fine ninth yesterday, sidestepping the chaos towards the end. Horner described the stage as a nervous one. “There were some stupid crashes. I avoided a few and got hit by a few, but didn’t go down,” he said. “The first part was pretty easy but the last part, whoa. I was in the front group, maybe tenth on the line. I was maxed out, just following the moves. We were trying to get three in there so we could get the Team classification going so we could go off last tomorrow for the team time trial, but that didn’t happen.”

Still, in starting fifth from last, the team will know the times posted by all bar four others. They will be followed by HTC-Highroad, Leopard-Trek, BMC Racing and Omega Pharma – Lotto, and will seek to beat those plus the rest in the 23 kilometre test.

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