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Horner hoping for best in contract talks despite Vuelta exit

SAN FERNANDO, Spain (VN) — Chris Horner (Lampre-Merida) is hoping his controversial exit from the Vuelta a España does not have an adverse effect on his contract talks for 2015.

Horner, 42, was unable to defend his Vuelta title after treatment for a nagging chest cold pushed his cortisol levels below the acceptable standard for the cycling group, MPCC (Movement Pour Cyclisme Credible), prompting Lampre-Merida to remove him Friday from the Vuelta roster.

The decision comes at a critical time for Horner, who despite being among the oldest in the elite peloton, has indicated he’s more than ready to race at least one or two more seasons.

“Hopefully that doesn’t affect the contract talks for next year,” Horner said. “Clearly, it’s going to come into play sooner or later. This team has looked out for me. I hope they understand. I’ve heard nothing negative from the team about this.”

Horner joined Lampre-Merida in January on a one-year deal following his Vuelta victory last year. Despite a difficult 2014 season marked by a dangerous crash in the spring and illness during the Tour de France, Horner has still produced some strong results, including second overall at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, and a team-best, top-20 at the Tour.

Horner expressed his optimism that he could stay with Lampre-Merida for 2015.

“I think I am having an exceptional year, under the conditions with the accident. I think I did an amazing Tour considering I was sick, and where I had come from. Utah went well, we were second and third, [and won the] team classification,” Horner said. “I think the team knows what I bring.”

Lampre-Merida manager Brent Copeland refused to comment on any contract negotiations “until the end of the Vuelta,” but was quick to add that the team is interested in keeping Horner.

“Chris has been a great addition to the team this year. He is not only always ready to race, but he brings a good attitude to everyone on the team,” Copeland said. “We invested a lot in Chris to bring him here this season. We will be talking about trying to work something out.”

Without the Vuelta, Horner will not only miss a defense of his title against some of the best riders in the peloton, he’ll also lose a chance to chase late-season results in the points-packed Vuelta.

There is nothing stopping Horner from racing again this season once his levels return to normal, and the team has suggested it will slot him into other races, such as the Canadian one-day races and some of the fall classics, but none of those races fit Horner’s characteristics as well as the climbing-heavy Vuelta.

Horner said he worked in step with Lampre medical staff and U.S. doctors to prescribe the cortisone treatments that eventually triggered his low cortisol readings, and said he knew there could be a danger of missing the Vuelta.

“This is a small step back, another hit of the chin, with my luck. I don’t regret any decision I made. I stand behind every decision I made 100 percent,” Horner said. “If I could do it all over again, I would have made the same choices.”

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