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A conversation with Chris Horner

At the world time trial championship in Zolder, American Chris Horner had a disappointing ride, finishing in 36th place, but that didn't stop the always-candid Horner during a post-race interview with VeloNews in which he discussed the race, the U.S. prospects for the elite road race and his plans for next year. How did the day go for you? It's all the same thing, huh? It all boils down to having the best legs. That's always what it is, and I guess they just weren't there. I never felt like they came back, like sometimes when you do a time trial they come back. You start off really good,

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By Andrew Hood

At the world time trial championship in Zolder, American Chris Horner had a disappointing ride, finishing in 36th place, but that didn’t stop the always-candid Horner during a post-race interview with VeloNews in which he discussed the race, the U.S. prospects for the elite road race and his plans for next year.

How did the day go for you?

It’s all the same thing, huh? It all boils down to having the best legs. That’s always what it is, and I guess they just weren’t there. I never felt like they came back, like sometimes when you do a time trial they come back. You start off really good, you get tired a little bit, and then somewhere on the course they come back really good, and they just never did.

What were your expectations coming into today?

I wanted to be top three. I’m used to winning bike races, and it doesn’t matter if you’re winning bike races in the States, you come over here and you’re just used to winning, that’s all it is. I mean, if you had told me before the race that I’d be 10th, I wouldn’t have even gotten on the plane to fly over. I was going for the win and would have been satisfied with top-10, but that didn’t happen.

How was your training leading up to the race? Your team manager Kirk Willett said you were doing 600 miles a week on your time trial bike.

I was doing the training. I was doing about 500-550 [miles] a week on the TT bike. Kind of lacking the racing because there was no racing in the States unless you flew to the East Coast, and I didn’t think it’d be worth losing a day to fly to the East Coast, and a day to fly back, two weekends in a row. It just didn’t make a whole lot of sense, so I just tried to do the training. I found a good place in Redding [California] to train and was hoping that would be enough, but evidently it wasn’t.

What are the chances for the U.S. in Sunday’s road race? Is Fred Rodriguez the best bet?

Yeah, Fred. [Antonio] Cruz has some speed at the finish too so if you get Cruz into a break …. I know everyone thinks it’s gonna be a field sprint, but it is Belgium, so, I ain’t seen too many field sprints in Belgium. I realize that there are 40 guys that are gonna shoot for a field sprint. Then you have four nationality teams that have 12 guys at least on it, some have 13, and they’re all looking for a field sprint. That’s a hard combination out there.

People are asking if the U.S. team is strong enough to be competitive. Is it?

Fred’s won races in Europe, all the time. And Cruz has showed that he’s strong. He finished the Vuelta in good form. You get those two guys in a break …. Do I think they’re gonna outsprint Cipollini? No. I mean, he’s the best in the world, there’s no doubt about it. But it is bike racing, and that’s why you play the game. But do I think Fred or Cruz could win out of a break? Absolutely.

Fred’s proven that multiple times. And Cruz finished the Vuelta on good form, so under the right circumstances he could win.

What’s your reaction to Guido Trenti being on the team?

I couldn’t imagine that he wouldn’t be working for Cipollini, unless you tell me that [Trenti] doesn’t have a contract with that team [Acqua & Sapone] for next year, which I hear is the rumor, too.

If he doesn’t have a contract with them, then I’m sure he’d be willing to do what he wants for the U.S. team here, but if he’s looking to sign with those guys next year, it’d be crazy to put him on the [world’s] team, I think. Like I say, I hear rumors that he’s not signing with that team for next year, but if that’s not the case, I don’t care what he says, I think you’ll see him at the front somewhere leading Cipo’ out, there’s no doubt about it.

Speaking of next season, have you finalized anything yet?

I was hoping to get a good solid result here in the TT, take a look around and see what’s available. I thought if I was top-10 here I’d have a pretty good chance of signing with a team over here in Europe again, but I was really hoping for top-three, because I thought that for sure would seal the deal here.

It’s crazy to think you could finish the year No. 1 in the States and win four stage races, and two stages at each of those races, and I had a broken foot and a broken collarbone at two separate times during the season… I mean, I don’t know how many guys have finished No. 1 in the U.S. with a broken foot and a broken collarbone. I just can’t seem to get any teams biting over here [in Europe] so, it looks like I’ll be signing in the States.

So you’re interested in racing in Europe again?

Yeah, absolutely, but I have a family, so I have to find a team that’d be willing to pay me what I can get in the States, and if that was the case, yeah, definitely I’d come back.

The three years with Française des Jeux was just a difficult time adjusting, but I’m older, I think I can adjust to it better, I think I know what I need to do, but it’s now whether I can find a team that’s willing to pick me up and pay the money. I’m not gonna come over for a neo-pro [salary] when I can get three or four times that in the States

So who are you going to end up with in the States?

It’s not a done deal yet, so I don’t know if I want to say anything. It looks like I could be changing teams. We’re in a holding pattern, waiting to see what Prime Alliance wants to do. It’s in their court. I have an offer from, well, you know there’s really only one other pro team, so, I have an offer from Saturn, but I’m waiting to see what Prime Alliance can do. At the moment, it looks as though I’m leaving and going to Saturn, but it is in [Prime Alliance’s] court.

It’d be a shame to leave. It’s a good bunch of guys, and the young guys are fun to be around. With Prime Alliance, it’s really not business, it’s just going out and racing and having a good time and they’re paying you good money, so it’s a hard team to leave but Saturn’s just willing to make the offer so much better, it’s hard not to.