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Horner on Tour selection snub: ‘My back is fine’

What comes next?

Horner admitted that his back issues are triggered by outside stresses, and acknowledged that there is more stress on his RadioShack team this year than in the past.

Owned by Luxembourg-based businessman Flavio Becca, who merged his Leopard-Trek team with RadioShack after disappointment in his squad’s 2011 season, RadioShack-Nissan has fallen short of expectations both in stage races and at the spring classics. Only Fabian Cancellara and Jakob Fuglsang have registered wins thus far — both have missed starts due to injury — while Tour contender Andy Schleck has struggled throughout the year to finish races.

Horner’s ride in the leader’s jersey and eventual second-place overall at Tirreno was among the few bright spots for the squad in early 2012. His contract with the team is set through 2013.

And while he said he was “devastated” to miss the Tour, describing his disappointment as “catastrophic,” Horner said he was equally as concerned about what the team’s message might mean for potential Olympic selection.

USA Cycling is set to announce its five-man Olympic team roster on Friday, June 15. None of the five spots have been claimed through automatic qualifications.

As of the June 10 UCI WorldTour ranking, Horner was the highest-placed American rider, 25th, as well as the highest-ranked RadioShack rider on the list.

Throughout his career, Horner has been in the running, but overlooked, for Olympic selection — first back in 1996, and again in 2000, 2004 and 2008.

Horner said he spent Monday afternoon emailing his most recent power files to Jim Miller, USA Cycling’s vice president of athletics, to prove that he is race-fit and worthy of Olympic selection.

“I’ve had great results this year. I was top 10 at the Tour of the Basque Country, and I was third on the hardest climbing stage at Basque,” Horner said. “I was second overall at Tirreno, and in California I was clearly one of the best riders. I know I had a bad time trial; I was there, I remember it well. But if you look at the Mount Baldy stage, it was epic, there were three teams destroyed chasing me, I had a one-minute lead at the bottom of the Baldy climb and only four guys caught me by the finish.

“I’ve proven I can ride with best in the world,” Horner continued. “My back is healing. Whether or not my team wants to take me, I can’t control that. But I don’t like that they’re putting something out there that’s not true, that could affect my chance of going to the Olympics.”

Because he hadn’t spoken with anyone from his team, Horner couldn’t speculate on what the rest of his 2012 race schedule might look like, and if August might include racing Stateside, at the Tour of Utah and USA Pro Cycling Challenge, or abroad, at the Vuelta a España.

“I have no idea what the team is planning for me, because we haven’t spoken,” he said. “No one has called me, so I have no idea what they are thinking. I’ve had no communication with the team.”

Instead, Horner said he wanted to focus on what he did know.

“The team has put it out there that I have a severe back problem,” Horner said. “I don’t. I’m not injured. I’m not hurt. This is something I’ve had since 2006. It flares up, and it disappears, and I keep racing. I’ve had the best results of my career with this problem. Could it reoccur at the Tour de France? Sure, anything is possible. A knee injury is possible. A broken collarbone is possible. But I’m not going to let the team make it out like I have some devastating back problem, when I don’t.”

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