American Chris Horner is not yet signed for 2010, with Lance Armstrong’s RadioShack squad or any other team, he told VeloNews Friday.
Horner said that while he was in discussions with Armstrong, he’s also in discussions with “at least four English-speaking” ProTour teams, adding that reports that riders have signed when they in fact have not can be damaging to their contract negotiations.
“I’m certainly talking with Lance, and I would be happy to go to RadioShack, but I’m not signed with those guys,” Horner said. “There’s no contract that’s been sent to my house, there’s nothing waiting for me to look over at the moment. We’re on different pages, on terms of my value. I’m talking to other teams, and I don’t want them to disappear because they’ve read I am almost 100-percent signed with RadioShack.”
A VeloNews article posted earlier today quoted an unnamed source close to the RadioShack team, who said, “It’s not 100 percent, but it looks pretty likely (that Horner would join the team).”
Horner said the other teams he and his agent, Michael Rutherford, have been in discussions with include Garmin-Slipstream, Team Sky, and his current employer, Team Astana.
Though Horner has been sidelined often with injuries in 2009, and was not selected for the Tour de France squad by Astana manager Johan Bruyneel, he has had several standout performances this season. Asked if he feels if his value, relative to other riders, is higher than it’s ever been, Horner said he thinks if he’s not in the top tier of pro riders, he’s awfully close.
“At the Giro this year, I wasn’t even fully healed and I was at the top of the first mountain summit, there were five guys there, and I was one,” he said. “At the Tour of the Basque Country, when I was done pulling for Alberto (Contador), there were three guys left: Contador, Antonio Colom and Damiano Cunego. The next day I had to go home with a broken collarbone. At the Tour of California, I saved the day early on (stage 1 into Santa Rosa), then I crashed on stage 3 but rode through pain and finished with a busted up knee. At the Tour of the Gila I rode the front every day and helped the team win. And the last race I did (last week’s Tour de l’Ain), I finished second overall, I wore the leader’s jersey and I won the green jersey coming off of a vacation.”
Horner said whichever team he signs with for 2010, he wants an assurance he’ll be on the Tour squad.
“I want to be hired as a guy who is expected to race the Tour de France,” he said. “Of course there are never guarantees, I could be sick or I could be injured, but teams hire riders specifically to do grand tours. That is what I am. I am a stage racer. I need to be on a team that understands my importance, that I’m the number four or number five guy on the team, not number 10. I understand there were some politics played with Astana’s team selection this year, I get that, but at this point Astana wants to keep me, and there are other teams interested.
“When a team signs me, they understand they are getting a rider that can help do leadouts — just ask any sprinter I’ve ever ridden with. I can help win a team time trial. I can go top 10 in a time trial when I am going well. I can ride with the best climbers in the world. I can save races tactically. So whoever hires me, instead of having one of their best guys still there at the end of a race, they will have two of their best guys in the final. And not only do you strengthen your team by hiring me, you weaken the other teams I don’t go to.”
Horner said he hopes things work out with RadioShack, but he’s still very much keeping all options open.
“Riding with Lance has been really cool, and I think he wants me around,” he said. “If we can keep it going, that would be great, but we don’t have anything yet.”