Horner, back in the high life at Tirreno

After a brutal Tour de France and an embolism in his lung, Horner is back to his old tricks

After an eight-month absence from the action, Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan-Trek) surged back into the high life Saturday, capturing the race leader’s jersey in the fourth stage at Tirreno-Adriatico.

Horner was all smiles as he took leader’s jersey of the Italian stage race and leads Roman Kreuziger (Astana) by seven seconds, with Christian Meyer (GreenEdge) in third at 13 seconds adrift.

“This is my first race since the Tour de France. It’s been eight months, I had plenty of time to think about it, do some training, eat some In-Out burgers,” Horner said. “I had to do a training camp by myself.”

Horner crashed out of the Tour last year with a concussion and later discovered an embolism in his lung. Doctors treated the potentially-lethal blood clot with blood thinners, which Horner was taking through the winter.

“I was still on blood thinners in January, for six months. After January, I finally had good training rides,” Horner said. “I’m sure there were many people that doubted my fitness, especially from the embolism. This shows it has not changed my form.”

Horner was slated to race Paris-Nice, but team brass decided to slot Horner into Tirreno-Adriatico to give the team a strong GC option.

Horner has certainly upheld his end of the bargain, riding into the leader’s jersey with three stages to go. The final-stage time trial on Tuesday should crown the eventual winner if the pack controls the breakaways in the coming stages.

“With Kreuziger there, we are close on time, we are both equal on time trials, It’s going to be a little bit of a fight,” Horner said. “It will make the final day a little more interesting.”

Horner, who turns 41 this year, says he has no intention of slowing down, especially with his success the past few years, with big wins at the Vuelta al País Vasco and the Tour of California.

“I shoot for year-by-year at my age!” he said. “The team’s fantastic, the team’s always treated me well. The team asked me which races I want to do this season to get ready for the Tour, Tirreno was a big objective to be ready for the Tour. Now, I am one of the leaders, after four years with Johan (Bruyneel).”