Horner puts illness, injury behind for Liège

American on the mend after knee tendon injury, cold hampered him at Pais Vasco, Amstel Gold

HUY, Belgium (VN) — Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) says his health is back on track just in time for Sunday’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège.

The American saw his GC hopes at the Tour of the Basque Country earlier this month take a dive when he came down with a cold during the week-long race, but the veteran showed signs Wednesday that he was on the mend.

“The legs are better. I am finally starting to get over the cold that I picked up in the Basque Country,” Horner told VeloNews. “I think when we get to Liège, things will be a lot better. The climbs are longer and that’s obviously better for me.”

Horner led the way over the second of three passages up the grueling Mur de Huy on Wednesday and rode to help position RadioShack captains Fränk Schleck and Maxime Monfort on the final attack up the Mur. After doing his work, he crossed the line 42nd at 43 seconds behind winner Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha).

The veteran barnstormed to second at Tirreno-Adriatico in Italy in March in his return to racing following his crash in last year’s Tour de France that left him with an embolism in his lung.

Horner underwent blood-thinner treatments through January and returned to competition with panache at Tirreno, holding the race leader’s jersey until ceding it to eventual winner Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) on the final-day time trial.

He went to the six-day Basque Country tour with high hopes of repeating his victory in 2010. Despite attacking with the leaders on the first decisive climbing stage, he later struggled as a chest cold set in.

“I was sick the whole time at the Basque Country. I had the (knee) tendon problem as well. The tendon is healed and I am almost healthy again,” he said. “Hopefully by Liège everything will be fine again.”

Horner has consistently ridden well in the Ardennes, with top-10s at both Flèche and Liège in 2010. Of the two, he says Liège better suits his skillset.

“Flèche is more difficult because the climbs are so short and the guys have so much more power than me. When I am a little sick, I am a little bit off, it’s even worse,” he said. “I felt today much, much, much better than Amstel, and I have a few more days before Sunday.”

Horner will race Sunday and then return to the United States to prepare for the defense of his Tour of California title.