SALT LAKE CITY (VN) — If Chris Horner can’t attack for overall win in Utah, he’ll defer two his two young lieutenants, both of whom, he says, are ready to take up the charge.
A salt-crusted Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) said after a searing team time trial on Wednesday that he felt off of form and that in the event he couldn’t fight for the top of the GC at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, perhaps George Bennett or Matthew Busche could.
“I just don’t have any power,” Horner told VeloNews. “Maybe it’s the heat or altitude or something … I’ve been at sea level, then I went back to Oregon, but it was only for a week. I just don’t seem to have the power to go deep. It could just be the race program that I’ve had before here, too. It could be a lot of things.”
Busche and Bennett are both 38 seconds back of race leader Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp), whose team makes up four of the top five spots after a methodical team time trial on Wednesday.
Horner said that he was feeling a bit better before the start of stage 3 in Ogden, on what promised to be another hot day.
“I think more for the overall the biggest problem I have is whether or not I can ride good or not. Certainly we’ve got George, who’s riding good, and Busche, too, so maybe it doesn’t have to be me.”
Bennett, in the event his captain defers, is ready to pick up the charge.
“I’ve got one eye on that,” he said. “But my primary goal, obviously, is to help Chris. He’s had a pretty long schedule and a lot of travel. So it might take him a few days to get into the swing of things. But if it comes down to that Sunday, if he’s not ready, me and Matthew are definitely ready, if [Horner] gives us the word, to go for it and see what we can do.”
The two young RadioShack riders have an ample proving ground, with 17,000 feet of climbing in the Tour of Utah’s final two stages, on Saturday to Snowbird and Sunday around Park City.
“Looking ahead to the weekend, it’s really hard,” Bennett said. “I did the Snowbird stage last year. I know how tough that is. And then this new climb (on Sunday) sounds even worse.”
That “new climb” is Empire Pass, which, in just six harsh miles, climbs 3,000 feet. The early slopes hit at 14 percent, with three sections of more than 20 percent. It may not be until there that Bennett and Busche see who will carry the torch for RadioShack in the Beehive State.