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UPDATED: Chris Horner Checks in From France
 
By Cathy Mehl
Date: 6/29/2006
UPDATED: Chris Horner Checks in From France
 

(Note: this interview was originally conducted on Thursday evening, June 29th, European time, and updated late Friday afternoon, June 30th. Update is noted in transcript below.

Daily Peloton: What's the atmosphere like there in France, Chris? Are you going to have anyone to race against?

Chris Horner: Who knows?! The atmosphere is weird. It's almost turning into a Salem Witch Hunt. It's hard to know what is true and what isn't. First you hear one team is being kicked out, then another. Then they say everyone is in...right now things are just coming up all the time. You have no idea what's true and what's not.

Yes, it seems almost every hour there is a news flash. We haven't even had time to digest the last news and here comes something new.

It's a freaking witch hunt. That's all it is. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that some cyclists are involved, but if it's to the degree that they are trying to make us believe it is, well maybe they are just trying to sell newspapers or get people to log on line. It seems like they should be giving names or shut up about it.

I guess we could start a list of names of people not on the list....

Right! Something! But honestly before I even got here I figured whoever did the investigation over in Spain waited on purpose for the Tour de France to roll around to get maximum publicity on this thing and do exactly what they are doing right now. Things are being written and said right now that might not even be true. If there are names listed on a list, why isn't that considered an official list?

I bet they let some people start and then yank them mid-way through the Tour. I hate that. I think that's wrong.

They want to do that! The Tour doesn't want to do that, let me be clear. The Tour wants those named to be out right now. But I honestly think that whoever is running the investigation in Spain want riders to start in France and then for riders to be kicked out so they get more publicity.

But if that happens, it changes the entire dynamic of the race.

Especially if it happens later in the race. If riders are kicked out later it could affect who wins the Prologue, it could affect who ends up standing on the podium.

Don't we love cycling?!!

(We both laugh.)

So how has your training been going? I know you've been working hard.

I've had good training. Just eating, sleeping and bike racing. That's all!

You haven't been living out of your car again have you?!

No, no, I have a house in Spain, but I haven't been there much. I've been training with a friend in the northern part of Spain. I had to travel a bit to do that, but it's better for my head to be with someone else than training by myself for three weeks. The form is good, though. Now I just want to start.

Can you look back to a year ago when it was your first Tour? Are you feeling more settled? More confident?

Definitely more confident, as I've spent more time in Europe this time. Last year when I came over I had just a very short spell before I broke my leg and went back to the States. I didn't get back over until the Tour of Suisse, which went well. So I was wondering if good form just magically appeared, which is never the case, it always comes back. But I was thinking here I was going to the Tour, what if....but it was good in the Tour, too. So I finished that year and have had this whole year, so it's good. I feel confident what I can and can't do in the field with my fitness level being where it is. Now I'm looking forward to the big mountain stages, whereas before I was thinking, "I don't know if I want to get involved in the big mountain stages!" Then I got in it and I knew I could do it. So the confidence is not even an issue anymore.

How is Robbie (McEwen) feeling?

As far as I know everyone is good. We trained together today and no one was complaining about any injuries. I think the only guy who had any injuries was me because I crashed last week, but I didn't break anything. I just had some road rash and tore up my finger nail, that was about it. I hit some oil in a round-about.

How about Cadel (Evans)? Is he good? You'll be riding for him?

Yeah, yeah, he's my roommate and he's doing good.

Will you be looking for any stage wins for yourself, or is this all for Cadel?

Certainly if the opportunity comes up I would try to do something. But realistically, on paper, unless things change during the race, looking after Cadel is going to be my first objective, and helping Robbie out in the sprints will be my second. Maybe in between some of the mountain stages something can happen. In general those are the main objectives. You have to get down to a third or fourth objective before I am going for a stage win for myself.

Do you have any concerns about the three Alps stages, those three hard days in a row?

No, not at the moment. That's a long ways away. Before I can worry about any stages I want to know exactly how much form I've got. My last race was the Dauphine. I can tell from my training rides I've got form, there's no doubt about that, but it's just a matter of finding out if it's just at a good level or at a really high level.

Can you tell me what impresses you most about riding in the Tour? What images come to mind as you're there?

The most impressive thing is the amount of spectators. It's unbelievable. The first few days you are riding through a wall of people for 100 miles. Literally on the first few stages there are people all along the route for 100 miles. I remember last year I was having some sort of tunnel vision happening as I was just seeing colors going by me the whole time. There was never any real length of time where there wasn't color flashing by my eyes. That's the most impressive thing, I think.

Chris, every time I see you or hear you talk now you just seem incredibly happy.

Well, I'm with a good team, I'm where I want to be in life, doing what I want. Only thing that would be nicer would be to do all of this in the States, but you just can't do it. Honestly that's the only thing that would make my life better because I'd have my family and my kids near me the whole time. If you want to do the best bike racing in the world, this is where you need to come. So when you're at it, you might as well enjoy it.

It was lots of fun seeing you race in Tour of California last February. I hear they might announce the 2007 route during the Tour de France.

That was a good race. The organization did a great job with that race. And the timing of the race is perfect for all the Americans to come back, and bring some good European riders too.

I know you need to get some sleep, so take care and have a great ride at the Tour!

UPDATED: JUNE 30th, after the announcement of top riders who are banned from this year's Tour

Daily Peloton: Hello again, Chris. Can you fill us in on what the atmosphere is like around you now?

Chris Horner: At the hotel we're staying at, no problem. T-Mobile is over at a small hotel in a little town. I feel sorry for those people. Not just the team, but the people of the town, too. That area is packed! They've finally closed down the entire street. They're about 10 km away from us, so it's quiet where we are. I don't know where CSC is staying, but I hear there are a lot of press around Bjarne. We're staying with Lampre and Francaise des Jeux, so no one scandalous is by us. It's pretty mellow for us, except for having conversations like this with you. And of course with the team when we sit down, we say, "Oh, this guy's gone, this guy's gone."

How did you get the news?

I got it from our director. He verified the names that were gone from the Tour. I guess maybe ten guys so far. A lot of top ten guys from last year.

Well I guess it just got easier for some Americans to get on the podium.

(Laughs) I think it just opened up the win for a lot of different guys.

So it's business as usual for you. You look forward to the start in the morning.

Yep. But I think some strategies will change now. When you take those two riders out (Basso and Ullrich), realistically we now have guys on this team that can win the Tour de France.

Right. You can be more aggressive in your approach to the Tour.

Exactly. No longer is the situation can we follow and drop Ullrich or Basso? We'll have guys actually saying, "If I attack, I can win the Tour!"

You can create situations now, and your team has the power and brains to do it.

Absolutely. The first time I heard about it, I started thinking about how we should hold back another guy for the mountains, stuff like that.

Well your Tour just got a lot more exciting!

Exactly, it did!

That's cool. Not too cool for those sitting in the airport, I guess.

That's their own problem! They can solve their own problems. If all of this is true, then it is what it is. No fault of mine! But maybe some good comes out of this. If you look at it as a whole, of course it is bad for cycling right now. But the Tour de France is going to be very exciting now, which should bring a positive side to things. Of course it's always bad when it's just happened.

Well, Chris, you have a great, great ride tomorrow in the Prologue. It's really shaping up differently now, and I think it will be incredibly exciting to watch. Tear if up, Horner!


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