Chris Horner’s back is fine, spasms under control, training a hundred miles day but no, he didn’t make the RadioShack Nissan-Trek squad for Le Tour de France. That shock wave hit yesterday and Horner’s pal at Velonews Neal Rogers was the first to get Horner’s reaction and medical counter-arguments.
Always a straight shooter and a great interview, Horner laid it out plain and simple: “I’ve proven I can ride with best in the world,” said Horner. “My back is healing. Whether or not my team wants to take me, I can’t control that. But I don’t like that they’re putting something out there that’s not true, that could affect my chance of going to the Olympics.”
Pretty clear from that quote that Horner is pissed off about RadioShack-Nissan-Trek claiming a back injury was the reason Horner won’t be making the trip to France. To compound the irritation, he’s afraid the mis-information will wreck his last chance to make the US Olympic team. No Paris, no London.
What’s also surprising is the apparent lack of communication between Horner and team management. He was out training when his wife learned the bad news on the internet. Horner is one of the old guard and a Bruyneel favorite so the mis-handling of the announcement seems odd. Was nobody willing to do the evil deed and give him a call before everybody else in the world knew? At 41 years of age, that might have been Horner’s last shot at riding another Tour.
We’d guess that Horner is wondering why the other old guy, Jens Voigt, is going to the big show. Was it the Bakersfield time trial at the Tour of California where the German finished a surprising second on the same day Horner effectively lost his chance for a repeat win with a disappointing performance?
The Tour team preselection has all the perennial Bruyneel favorites — Kloden, Popovych and Zubeldia but no Horner. Tough when you’re the one guy left off the party invite and nobody calls to say, sorry, buddy. It’s not his back that’s bothering him, it’s that nobody at RadioShack has his back.
Stepping back for a moment and looking at the 14 rider pre-selection, another surprise hits you. As Neil Browne pointed out, there’s not a single American rider on the squad that has US sponsors RadioShack and Trek Bicycle. Sponsors routinely ask for some input on riders when it’s a marketing issue and Horner is a fan favorite back home. If Twisted Spoke was running Trek, we’d start a fan-based write-in campaign to get Horner to France.
When we interviewed Horner for Cycle Sport magazine in December about his goals for the season, the Tour of California and Tour de France were the top priority. He was excited about being that last guy with Andy Schleck on the final climbs, shredding the field and setting up Andy for a win. That last guy is somebody else now.
Horner’s nickname is The Smiler. He’s almost always in a good mood and positive frame of mind. He ain’t smiling right now.