STAVELOT, Belgium (VN) — American Chris Horner brushed off team-chemistry concerns at RadioShack-Nissan on Thursday, likening riding in the peloton to working a desk gig.
“Certainly, everybody goes to the office. And you don’t love everybody at the office. There’s some people that you’re best friends with. You call them on their birthdays. And there’s other people that you don’t. But everybody does their job. Everybody’s professional. We’re at the biggest race in the world and there’s a lot of attention.”
Horner was left off RadioShack’s initial tour roster but found himself back on after Andy Schleck withdrew from the Critérium de Dauphiné following a crash during a windy time trial.
After the (brief) slight, Horner weighed in with various media outlets, pondering the management decisions. Teammate Andreas Klöden responded on Twitter with a flurry of messages, essentially accusing Horner of not spending enough time with the team while expecting to line up at the biggest race of the year.
“If you want to ride a big Tour, you have to ride also some races with the team. Watch Team Sky, BMC … 3 weeks racing isn’t a one week race,” the German tweeted.
Manager Johan Bruyneel said Horner was left off because he didn’t race either the Dauphiné or the Tour de Suisse, something he said was required of a rider hoping to be considered for a Tour spot. There was a tidal backlash — in the United States, at least —as fans demanded Horner. All that, he said, was behind him now.
“There’s no problem with guys on the team,” Horner said. “It’s easy to know everybody’s job when we get into the race. There’s no problem doing that. Everyone is professional. We have great sponsors to look after.”
Horner can certainly leave his mark on the race this year, a year after a crash left him concussed and doctors found a pulmonary embolism later as a result.
Tactically, RadioShack is free to ride its own race. A lion’s share of the work will fall to Team Sky and BMC Racing, as RadioShack no longer has a true general-classification favorite. That means the mountain stages could open up for someone like Horner if he’s set free.
“There’s no reason for us to work. Aside from, of course, if Fabian is wearing the leader’s jersey. And there’s a good possibility,” Horner said of Cancellara’s chances in the prologue. “But, we don’t have any stress for GC. There’s a shot for stage wins and top five on podium.”
Horner, 40, has been on the cusp of greatness this season, and in races that should have gone better. He took second at Tirreno-Adriatico. He displayed form in the queen stage at the Tour of the Basque Country, but the rain threw the race off track.
At the classics, Horner was sick. He went into the Amgen Tour of California with only 10 days of training and hoping to defend his title in the Golden State, but a time trial knocked him out of contention. He tore a tendon in the early season, and lost a week of training. He nursed an injured back after the California race. All this, and yet he finds himself here, with a chance to win stages and perhaps more.
“Who knows what happened?” Horner said. “Basque Country should have went good. Classics should have went good. California should have went good. I thought I should have won Tirreno. So, at this point in my career, at this point in the season, I feel like I’ve lost a lot of races. It’d be nice to get something back.”
For Horner, this season is a tale of what could have been. And perhaps what still could be.