Horner to miss Tour of California with knee pain

Horner hopes to return in June, says he "wants to race again"

Former champion Chris Horner will miss the upcoming Amgen Tour of California because of prolonged knee pain, his RadioShack-Leopard team announced on Monday. Horner has suffered from iliotibial band friction syndrome since his first race of the year, Tirreno-Adriatico.

“It is possible I have an alignment problem,” Horner said in a press release. “We will examine all possibilities. I want to race again. All of the doctors I have visited are optimistic that it will heal again, but it just needs time. The problem is that nobody is able to tell me how much time I need. This is not a collarbone fracture-like injury, where you can say exactly how much time you need to recover. My injury is more difficult. I can ride my bike but after two hours the pain returns.”

Horner abandoned the Vuelta a Catalunya in March and was a last-minute scratch from April’s Vuelta al País Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country). He took a break from training, but the pain returned when he returned to the bike. He will see a specialist in Scottsdale, Arizona, this week and hopes to return in time for the Tour de Suisse in June.

“So far the doctors have been optimistic about my knee problem, but as soon as I started training, the pain came back,” said Horner. “The last time that I was on the bike for more than four hours was in Catalunya. There is no way I can race now. All of my condition is gone. After Catalunya I was off the bike for four weeks.”

Horner lives in Southern California and will be forced to miss what would essentially be a home start when the race kicks off Sunday in Escondido.

“This is such bad news for me,” he said. “As the 2011 winner of this race, I want to be there. Moreover, I live in San Diego, just 20 minutes from the team hotel. I will visit the team, but it will be with mixed feelings. It all hurts as I was so good in the early season. In Tirreno-Adriatico I was as good as the best riders in the world.”

In Horner’s absence, Matthew Busche should get a shot at the overall in California as the team reshapes its plans.

“With former U.S. champion Matthew Busche, we have a good alternative,” said director Alain Gallopin. “Matthew was impressive the last two years in this race, and he is ready again. We will try to get him on the podium. Furthermore I am convinced we will see something from Andy Schleck. He continues his comeback and is motivated and ready to show something. Haimar Zubeldia, sixth in last year’s Tour de France, will also be in the front the coming week and with riders like Bob Jungels, we can try to win a stage. If Peter Sagan will give us that opportunity. …”