In bright sunshine at the stage 8 finish atop the nasty Cat. 1 climb from Morzine to Avoriaz, Chris Horner sat on his bike stuffing energy bars and gels into his mouth as he talked. “I need to fuel up before I can go back down the hill to our hotel,” he said
The RadioShack team rider was depleted because of huge efforts he’d made on the latter part of the stage, helping out Lance Armstrong after the worst of his day’s three crashes and then going ahead to race hard up the climb to the finish to be the third counter for his Team RadioShack in the overall team classification.
Horner finished 33rd on the stage, at 4:05, and has reached the first rest day in 23rd overall, 6:33 down on race leader Cadel Evans. And thanks to his strong finish, the team is in third overall, less than three minutes back of GC leaders Rabobank and Astana.
But instead of the team being top of the classification and Armstrong still among the contenders, RadioShack simply ran out of luck on this first stage in the Alps.
“Someone’s gotta burn some candles for RadioShack,” Horner quipped. “I’ve never seen such bad luck. It’s awful. There’s nothing (we could do). Jani (Brajkovic) was riding good, I was riding good, (Andreas) Klöden was riding good, Levi (Leipheimer) was riding good, and Lance crashed at 60, 70 K an hour. What are you gonna do?
“Even where Lance crashed on the roundabout, he was at the front. I mean, he’s 10 guys back, it’s single file going into the roundabout, he went to the right, I went to the left, and there’s a pileup, and he got caught behind it.”
Horner then described how he went back to help his team leader as they approached the Cat. 1 Col de la Ramaz, the third to last climb of the day. “After Lance crashed I thought he was gonna come back on,” Horner told VeloNews, “but you can’t just recover from a crash like that at 60 or 70 K an hour … and then have to do a huge effort for 5Ks just to get back on right at the bottom of the (Ramaz) climb.
“I mean, he already was maxed out before he hit the bottom of the climb, and somewhere along the climb he bonked. I stayed with him, Jani stayed with him, and at the top of the second to last climb, the little one, he crashed again. Jani stayed with him, I kept going, and I just went as hard as I could from the bottom to the top.”
When some European journalists asked Horner how big was the team’s deception, the Californian said, “It’s not a deception. That’s the wrong word. It’s bad luck. What can you do? I don’t know what to say. Look at the pavé stage: three guys go down and three guys flat, so that’s six guys. I was top 25 and get caught behind a crash. What can you do?”
Asked whether the team would now ride for Leipheimer, who is up to eighth overall, 2:14 down on Evans, Horner said, “I don’t think we ride for seventh or eighth. Do we look after him? Sure, absolutely, we always have. But do we put guys in the front for eighth place on GC? I don’t think so. We’ll just have to make a plan B or a plan Z.”