ROUBAIX, France (VN) — Chris Horner remains in an Italian hospital with a punctured lung and fractured ribs while police search for a hit-and-run driver, casting in doubt his start at the Giro d’Italia next month.
The incident occurred Friday along the shores of Lake Como, in a tunnel near Bellano, while the 42-year-old American of team Lampre-Merida was training for the Giro. Lampre team manager Brent Copeland revealed more details of the accident.
“About three cars passed him and the final one clipped him and left him,” Copeland told VeloNews. “He had to get up and get out of the tunnel because he was in a dangerous place, and his telephone had no reception for him to call for safety.”
Horner, 42, wrote his name in the record books as the oldest grand tour winner when he won the Vuelta a España in September. Lampre signed him, putting him its blue and pink colors, and scheduled the Giro d’Italia as an early season goal.
Horner began his routine training ride from Como, and made it around to the lake’s eastern shores north of Lecco. He was completing a six-hour ride that took in the Esino Lario climb and part of the Giro di Lombardia course. A driver ended his training quickly and endangered the rest of his professional career.
“I was at País Vasco when I got a message, ‘I’ve crashed in training,’” Copeland said. “I assumed he was already back in Como with his wife. I replied to ask how he was and he wrote, ‘It’s bad.’
“The next second, my telephone rings with his number and someone is talking in Italian. A man stopped and saw that Chris tried to contact me. He had found Chris lying on the ground alone. I told him call the police. He said that he was already doing so on his other telephone.”
Copeland explained that Horner is recovering well despite the punctured lung. He also said that he was lucky because he was not wearing a helmet.
“He’d asked the team to bring him one that day, too, because he didn’t have one there with him and he felt he should use one,” Copeland said. “But he didn’t have it yet, so he was without a helmet. In this case, it would not have made a difference because he didn’t hit his head.”
The South African manager explained that the local and provincial police are investigating the incident.
Along the lake, the road often cuts through the mountains via tunnels. Several are quite dangerous due to low or no lighting and narrow lanes without shoulders for cyclists.
The incident is another setback for Horner. He left RadioShack after the 2013 season but only signed his Lampre contract at the end of January. Due to tendonitis, he pulled out of the Volta a Catalunya in March.
Copeland said a start at the Giro looks unlikely, and he hopes Horner can race the Tour instead, though he added it’s still too early to say.
“It’s too bad, he was going well and training well. That day he had planned a six-hour ride,” Copeland added. “Now we hope he can recover quickly and perhaps return for the Tour de France.”