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A conversation with Chris Horner

To say that Chris Horner is on a roll this spring is something of anunderstatement. A week after winning the Redlands Classic, he and his PrimeAlliance team stormed through the road events at Sea Otter. Now, Hornerseems in complete command of the Solano Classic. VeloNews’s NealRogers caught up with Horner both before the start and after the finishof Thursday’s road race at Solano.Thursday, March 28, 2002 - 8:30 a.m.VN: You’re off to an amazing start, winning the overall at Redlandsand the Sea Otter. What’s the secret to your early season success?Horner: [smiling]Totally relaxed…VN: Yeah? You

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By Neal Rogers

To say that Chris Horner is on a roll this spring is something of anunderstatement. A week after winning the Redlands Classic, he and his PrimeAlliance team stormed through the road events at Sea Otter. Now, Hornerseems in complete command of the Solano Classic. VeloNews’s NealRogers caught up with Horner both before the start and after the finishof Thursday’s road race at Solano.Thursday, March 28, 2002 – 8:30 a.m.VN: You’re off to an amazing start, winning the overall at Redlandsand the Sea Otter. What’s the secret to your early season success?Horner: [smiling]Totally relaxed…VN: Yeah? You don’t look too tense.Horner: Nah, it’s pretty easy going now. All the big races forthe opening of the season are basically done until we start Philly.VN: So you’ve just been putting in more miles in the off-seasonthan the rest of these guys?Horner: Oh, I always do more than most, but I think now its justgood focus.VN: You’ve got a pretty solid team behind you.Horner: Yeah, we have good riders— good characters, and goodriders.VN: How do you feel for this race?Horner: I feel good, but there are just not a whole lot of opportunitieshere. The stages just aren’t that hard. You’ve got the criterium and thetime trial, and they’re running the road race in reverse from last year,so it might be quite a bit harder than last year. There’s a really steepclimb to the finish—that might be enough to decide G.C. right there. Theygot rid of a stage, which is unfortunate. It was going to be a hard circuiton Saturday and the criterium on Sunday, but they moved the criterium fromSunday to Saturday and cancelled the hard circuit stage. I’d personallylike to see the circuit race back, that was a hard stage. I’d have a lotmore confidence coming into a race like this with that circuit stage.VN: Who will you be keeping your eye on today?Horner: [Eric]Wohlberg—definitely. [Wohlberg (Saturn) won Solano in 2000.] Yeah, Wohlberg’s gonna be my buddy today. [laughs] Hecan time trial to well to let him go up the road without myself or Danny[Pate] or someone like that. You cover Wohlberg, that’s good for at least20 moves right there. It’s a really difficult race to call—who can winit— because it’s a fairly shorter stage [91 miles] and they got rid ofthat hard circuit, and you can only do so much in a criterium.VN: The fact that it is a shorter stage, do you expect that morepeople will be making moves?Horner: Oh yeah, it’ll be active all day, no doubt about that.Thursday, March 28, 2002 – 1:30 p.m.VN: So, it was a hard day out there today, eh?Horner: I did not expect it to be a day like that. We did thisrace here last year and we did it in reverse order, and it was a fieldsprint more or less. I know two guys stayed off, but they only stayed offby a few seconds. Today, man, it was hard all day long– it was never easy.There were all these attacks the whole time, and then we went up into thehills right away, and when you got down off the hill the crosswind wasso hard, you were working there, and then you hit the steep old berg [thefinal climb]. It was a hard day. I couldn’t believe how hard it was.VN: Were you surprised that Chris Wherry stayed with you on thehill?Horner: Actually, I wasn’t real surprised. I know his form hasbeen getting better and better as the weekends go, but I was surprisedbecause he bridged across to me. I got a good gap and he then he came acrossand I was like, ‘Whoa!’ I expected him to just to get half away and staythere, and I was like ‘Wow. He’s going good.’ He sat on pretty much thewhole time, because he had Henk [Vogels] and Derek Bouchard-Hall chasingbehind us, so he sat on. [John] Lieswyn and Danny and I did all the work.I had Danny pull the last mile and a half, and just to make sure that Wherryworked a little bit, I jumped him to get a little gap. I thought he wouldn’texpect it and I’d get a little gap. I didn’t honestly think I’d get tothe line, but I knew he’d have to do some work to catch me, and then I’dget his legs a little pumped up. He’d been sitting on the whole time, andyou don’t want a guy who’s been sitting on the whole time coming in freshto the sprint.VN: You seem to have everyone running scared. Everyone here seemsto think you’ve got this race won, that you’re the strongest man here andgoing to win the time trial.Horner: Oh, [Eric] Wohlberg [Saturn] will probably win the timetrial. It’s his kind of course, and he’s got the position down so well.Danny Pate, and Wherry’s time trialing really well too. It’s nice thatI got 13 seconds in time bonuses over Wherry today, it gives me a littleadvantage going into the time trial, but it’s definitely not over.VN: Prime Alliance is sitting well with two of the top four goinginto the time trial.Horner: Yeah, well that’s the way we played it in the meetingthis morning. We wanted Danny or, Svein [Tuft], or Mike Creed up the road.We wanted to hit that [final] hill there and have them sitting on, becauseright now nobody wants to work with me. So if they get up the road andour riders sit on, they’re happy to have that combination. We knew if itwas Danny, he’d be able to get rid of the guys going up the climb and Icould meet him at the top. That was exactly the way we discussed it. Wewanted 30 seconds at the base of the climb, and then have me come acrosswith Danny already up there.VN: What are your thoughts about the lead group missing the turntoday?Horner: I don’t think it changed a whole lot. At first, of course,you’re upset that it happened, but they gave ‘em back the same time andif anything it probably made it harder for them [the lead group] becausethey had to ride extra, and Saturn got a good 15 minutes worth of restout of that. They were blown coming through the crosswind section, andit looked like that was it, and the break was going to fight it out amongstthemselves, and then Saturn got a good rest and they were able to prettymuch bring it back.VN: Why do you suppose Saturn wasn’t able to bring in the breakwith two chances to do so?Horner: Well, they had Klasna in the break to begin with, sothey were in there. What happened is they went in to the real hard crosswindsection, and Klasna got hit from the wind and went off the course so hecame out of the break. They didn’t mess anything up. They had Klasna inthere, and he’s one of their leaders, and he just got hit with a crosswindsection and went off in the dirt. The break gets up the road, and nobody’schasing because everyone’s happy and then Klasna comes out and all of asudden it messes them up. It happens— it’s bike racing. It’s a lot of work.Everyone thinks it’s easy riding at the front. Now everyone can reallyappreciate how much work Prime Alliance did at the road race at Redlands.