American Chris Horner is coming off a
strong start of his 2007 season with a two third-place finishes at
the Tour de Romandie leading up to getting the yellow jersey after
stage 4 in May which he had to relinquish on the next stage.
He had a solid showing
and a second-place finish at a stage at the Tour de Suisse in his
final preparation before The Tour de France.
Horner is ready for "the
grand daddy, it's the big show, the Tour is everything it's made to
be and when you are here, it is the only place you want to be."
Horner is still excited about starting
his third Tour, the second with the Professional Cycling Team Predictor-Lotto, and still
has butterflies before the start.
"The crowds are fantastic, the
ambiance of the race is fantastic, it's everything that everyone has
made it out to be. The first year that I did it I was ready for a
little bit of a letdown and it was bigger than I'd been told,
normally when someone tells you a story and describes something they
are a little bit off but nobody is off when it comes to the Tour."
For Horner, transfers and not enough time between races drive
him made at the Tour. But for him, one inhibitor in terms of seeing some really
exciting racing are the bonuses paid out to top ten finishers at the
Tour. "If the first place's team isn't
strong enough to control it, and the third place guy goes up the
road, the second place placed guy puts his team on the front just to
"That is a real problem that I think cycling has, something in terms of
what might make the sport even more enjoyable to watch. Guys are willing to protect second,
they are willing to protect third, they are willing to protect fourth, they are willing to protect fifth.
When guys stopped being willing
to protect anything but first then you would see some really exciting
His form and preparation
When asked about his form "I
hope it's fantastic but I don't really know. Coming from (Tour de)
Suisse was a really exhausting race, more so than I wanted it to be
but that race is very difficult. "
He followed that June stage race with
one rest day, two long training rides interspaced in some easy days
before arriving in London three days before the prologue.
"So I'm hoping that the training
that I did before and during Suisse comes right back into my legs
after a few days of racing, it might take two or three days, if the
legs are little blocked and hopefully I'll come really good. "
"I know that I'm fresh at the
moment, but I just hope I'm not too fresh." Horner continued
with a soft chuckle. "There is a point when you recover,
recover, recover and become one hundred percent recovered. And it's
difficult to feel the difference between one hundred percent
recovered and ... all of the sudden you're no longer one hundred
percent recovered with good form now you're one hundred percent
recovered but your good form starts going the opposite way."
"I honestly I believe I've done everything one hundred
percent correct for me. I did Tour of Suisse, it worked good, I did
the right amount of rest versus the right amount of training and
coming here with the right amount of motivation and I think the form,
I believe at this moment, that the form is going to be fantastic."
Horner did not reconnoiter any of the stages as he prefers to
spend his free time with his kids and girlfriend in the United
States. "To go find two extra weeks out of the year to go
see the stages for a guy that is really not looking at winning the
Tour de France but just looking to be there all the way until the
last climb, well I don't really need to see it."
Checking out the stages "would help, I would love it.
Unless I was willing to give up fourteen days of racing which I'm
not, the team is not willing to give me that either, and I don't have
the room for it, it just can't be done. In the magical world of very
rich salary world, I could make it happen, that kind of money I don't
make and that kind of time I don't have."
His objectives at the Tour de France are simple
Horner's top objective as the Tour is to help Cadel Evans whom
Horner sees finishing top 5, possibly with a podium this year and
"there is not doubt about it, that is why I was brought on the
Of course, if required he will assist sprinter Robbie McEwen out
if the situation calls for it, but he doesn't think that any
situation needed his skills will happen during the first week.
"There would be no reason for me to be in the front to help
Robbie out, because not only does our team want the sprint, but five
other teams want the sprint."
"There are plenty of teams that want the sprint in the first
week. On top of those teams wanting the sprint, the GC guys don't
want to give anyone 10 minutes, because they don't know for sure if
whoever they give 10 minutes to has really good form and they can't
give it back."
"So those combinations make it that one more rider like me
one the front won't make a difference between catching a break or
not, so realistically I don't see any reason why I should be at the
front this whole first week."
His foresees his 'real' work starting on stage 7 where he will
have to "be there for Cadel on the last climb" and then
the short and very difficult stage 8, the second Alpine
stage of the Tour de France. "And then afterwards, we'll see
how Cadel is riding, how I am riding, how the team is riding."
In summary, "the first objective is Cadel, the second
objective would be Robbie in the second or third week if he would
need some help here or there, maybe defending the green jersey if we
"The third objective if I'm in a group with Cadel, we come
down with twenty kilometers left, with a bunch of mountain passes,
and with guys are attacking, and I cover the right move, then there
is an opportunity to win the stage," said Horner about the
scenario of going for a stage win, "but that's the third,
fourth or fifth objective, not first or second."
Tour de France contenders, rivals and potential surprises
The Predictor-Lotto main General Classification contender
Australian Cadel Evans finished second at the Critérium du Dauphiné
Libéré on his last race before La Grande Boucle, and according to
Horner, Evans' form is "fantastic".
"I've spent a lot time with Cadel, this year and last year,
and he looks really good, he's confident, he's lean, I'm sure he's
motivated, there's no other race he gets up for more than this one."
There were no surprises on the list of favorites for Horner, "the
favorites are pretty simple and are on everyone's list, and
certainly Cadel is on the top three of my picks. Vinokourov, and the
Astana team have two or three favorites on their team to win it."
"There is just a wide open tour I think of who can win it.
Specifically it's because I believe the teams don't have the strength
and depth that they once used to have."
After thinking a second when I asked him if he foresees any riders
surprising the field and "the only rider that will pop up could
be Michael Rasmussen" with most if not all of the strong time
trialists missing from this edition of the race. "Someone like
that I'm not putting him down as my favorite but...."
"If you were to give Rasmussen a little bit of room that
could come back to haunt you if he has the same kind of form that he
showed that he can have in years past."
"He can do a lot of damage if you let him get a little bit
of time on you, say like two years ago and they gave four or five
minutes, and he was sitting second or third on GC", sandwiched
between two very strong time trialists that did bring back a lot of
time on Rasmussen.
Current situation in the peloton
Our discussion did turn to the doping scandals, and Horner wants
the UCI and the other organizations involved to continue with
all the doping controls but wishes that the actions were done in a
more business-conscious manner.
"The UCI needs to continue in the exact same matter that
they are handling things as right now, making as much as progress as
they can in the controls, catching the cheats, and do as much as they
can to limit the ability of riders to cheat." He continued
"but I think that any business would look at cycling and say
this is how you don't run a company."
"I really think that they are making a difference, but I
don't think they've done anything to make a difference in the
people's eyes, even positive thing that they have done, the letter
(riders' agreement) that they sent to all the riders to sign, it gets
spun off in the press as more of a negative thing."
Horner has seen a difference "in just the racing is going
and speed and all that." For him, the facts are undeniable
when "you look at a finish, somehow, something has changed.
There is definitely a problem but the cyclists are trying to do their
part as best as they can."
Horner remembers watching a 250-km stage of the Giro d'Italia, " which is
enormously long stage to begin with in my belief", and nine
riders escaped, rode at the front all day long and a group of about
seven riders finished together after five or six mountain passes.
"You don't see that anymore, that is not possible."
"What you are seeing now, you get to the last stage, the
last climb of a mountain, the leader has one guy with him maybe two,
the best case scenario is three guys from one team left in the final
group and that is what I see which is telling me things have
"Something is being done in a positive manner, cycling is
doing everything it can, the spectators, the sport fans, sport fans
of any sport and that of course expands to cycling need to actually
appreciate what cycling is trying to do in terms of how much
information they are given out there."
Horner was very clear about his feelings for his beloved sport, "I
want as much control as you can possibly have in the sport, but I
want the sport to grow, I want the sport to live, I want the sport to
have sponsorship dollars, I want to do the Tour de France, I want to
do World Cup races, I want a huge crowd, I want people to enjoy
watching cycling too."
Still loving racing?
"Absolutely I'm still having fun." when asked if he
still loved racing at the 'old-age' of thirty-five.
Horner's contract terminates at the end of 2007 and he hopes to
sign a two-year deal with a team. "I won't comment on going any
further than two more years, at this point and time, certainly I'm
having one of the better years in my career, so I don't think it's
going to taper much by next year so certainly two more years, then
I'll decide if I want to go further."
The ever-smiling Horner is ready and excited to tackle another Tour de France and
"it will be an exciting year", so good luck and keep us
up to date.