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Chris Horner 05

July 30, 2005: Tour de Chris

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 31, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:55 BST

Index to all entries Hey all my friends at Cyclingnews . Well, it's finally over and I'm back in...

Index to all entries

Hey all my friends at Cyclingnews.

Well, it's finally over and I'm back in Spain and getting some rest in after a tough three weeks at Le Tour.

The last time I did my diary, it was on the second rest day in Pau. We were staying at a Novotel and the kitchen there was beat. The food was lousy; the pasta was like soup and the bread was like rocks. And I got sick. When I woke up Tuesday morning before Stage 16 from Mourenx to Pau, I just had a stomach bug. I was nauseated and just couldn't eat, which isn't very good after two weeks of the Tour. You have to be able to put in the calories.

I got in a break on Stage 16 and I still couldn't put down any food that whole day. All I was able to eat that day was two gels and half an apple. We got over the first two climbs and at the foot of the big climb of the day, the Col d'Aubisque, I just had nothing left. I was empty. Whatever sugar I had left was already used up. Cadel Evans attacked on the climb and blew the break apart and I just got caught by the chasers at the top. I had to dig deep there because I knew they were coming up fast and if they caught me before the top, I wasn't going over the top with anybody! I managed to finish the stage with 80km to go and I was just barely able to roll through with the field.

The next day was Stage 17, a really long 240k stage to Revel and I was still having some trouble eating that day. The break went early so for the rest of the stage, the pace went slow enough with Discovery controlling that I could force some food in me. It was as much of a recovery day as you could get out of 240km stage. By the third day after the after the second rest day, Stage 18 to Mende, I was finally feeling a little bit better and tried to get in a break, and I got into one but it was just too big. Everyone was attacking for 20k and Discovery ended up pulling us back, then the next break was the good one and I ended up finishing with the field. Friday and Saturday came and went, along with the time trial day. I decided to give it a go in the TT, if nothing else but for practice, maybe 95 percent on that stage.

The last day of the Tour de France finally came and I made it to Paris. Not everyone gets to experience that feeling. There are only so many people who even make it to the Tour, and then you've got to make it all the way to Paris. You still have to avoid crashing, getting sick... our Saunier-Duval Prodir team lost three guys for various reasons so there are a lot of obstacles in your way.

That last stage into Paris is really something you want to be a part of; you don't just want to start the Tour de France, you want to finish it. It was a fantastic feeling racing on the Champs Elysées, just incredible. We had an easy ride there because it was wet and so slippery, guys were just crashing even though we weren't racing. When we came to the final circuits, it was still wet. We had a lot of crashes there too, but eventually we got a gift because the sun came out and the cobbles got dry. So the race was on and we could put on a great show for the huge crowd there. I was super-motivated to get in a break and got away with a guy from Quick.Step. We stayed away for two laps and were caught with about a lap and a half to go. I heard a lot of people yelling my name and it was a fantastic feeling. I still tried to hang in there to do the sprint, but Vinokourov was just so strong, he rode away at the end.

I've been racing 17 years and at the Tour, it's not really about tactics. You either have the legs to go with the best guys or you don't. I realized pretty quickly that my original goal to be top 10 would have to change to a stage win. I realized that I was capable of being top 20, but not top 10, and that wasn't a goal for me. This year, besides Lance winning number Seven and retiring was this was the year for breakaways in the Tour de France. On the flatter stages, Petacchi's team wasn't there to control things, Boonen abandoned and his team was not keeping it together, Thor Hushovd's Credit Agricole team didn't want a sprint because they already had the points jersey, so that just left McEwen's team to work for a sprint. They were tired so that wasn't going to happen either, so on the flat stages all the breaks were making it to the line, except the break I was in on Stage 13. In the mountain stages, a lot of the Spanish teams like Euskaltel-Euskadi just didn't have strong climbers who could win stages. So they weren't going to pull a break back on the mountain stages. Valverde dropped out, so Illes Baleares wasn't going to pull back breaks either. So if you got in a good break early on, that break was going to the line. No doubt about it.

Since I was a kid, I always wanted to do the Tour de France. It was a great addition to my career and had I never done the Tour, it would have been a like a huge hole. That's what this year has been all about for me; getting to do the Tour de France. Being at the highest level of the sport was important and I also wanted to win something at that level, too. I came close two or three times and either I just didn't have the luck, or things just didn't work out that way. I certainly had the form to win a stage. So far, 2005 is a 100 percent success for me.

And Lance, what a incredible finish to his career. To think that for seven years, he never had any real problems in the Tour and not only made it to the finish, but won seven straight Tours is unreal. He has an amazing amount of determination. And his luck over those seven Tours is truly amazing, but it's not just luck. Lance is a rider who knows the Tour so well he always manages to stay out of danger, always managed to give himself that extra second worth of space that might take more energy but keeps you safer. And Armstrong can do that because he is just so strong. Congratulations for a great career, Lance. Looks like I'll ride the Vuelta a España and then probably the World's in Madrid. That's why I'm hanging out in Spain for August.

Thanks for reading my Tour de France Diary on Cyclingnews!

Safe riding,
Chris

July 20, 2005: Looking for more opportunities

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 20, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:55 BST

Index to all entries Hi to all my diary readers at Cyclingnews , Last weekend, we hit the Pyrenees...

Index to all entries

Hi to all my diary readers at Cyclingnews,

Last weekend, we hit the Pyrenees Mountains. Stage 14 to Ax-3-Domaines came the day after I was in the break all day so I just ended up using it as a rest day...well, as much of a rest day as you can get in a 220km Tour stage!

I was in a break with five guys for 160km the day before, so the legs were extremely tired. That first day in the Pyrenees was really hot, so when we hit the climb I pretty much rode in the gruppetto all the way to the finish. My original plan was to recover on the flat day and try to do something on the first mountain stage, but if you get in a break the day before, you can't just sit up and save it for the next day. You gotta go and we came up two seconds short, so I had to use the next day as recovery.

After the stage to Briançon that Vino won, where I lost another 5 minutes on GC, I decided to shift gears and go for a stage win instead of trying for a top 10 Tour finish. I believe that if you are in the top 10 in the Tour De France, it means something, but outside of that it's so much more important to win a stage than saying you were 15th or 20th.

On Stage 15 (Sunday), we had six mountain passes. It was really hot again. My team director Machine [Matxin] came up to me and said take it easy on the climbs, but my legs felt good and I knew I could help my teammate Leo Piepoli. I felt really strong and at one point on the Col de Val Louron, the Yellow Jersey group was down to 15 guys but I wasn't at my limit. I stayed there and helped Leo for as long as I could. I knew on the final climb to Pla d'Adet that there was no reason for me to go to my limit. I stayed with Piepoli and then just rode in and believe me, but that time I was pretty tired. It was nice that I didn't have to go 100% up the climb.

It's my first Tour and I'm having a lot of fun; in the peloton, I'm talking to the guys I know. Lance is friendly and I talked to him Sunday because it was a long stage and the pace was pretty easy at least before the Col de Peyresourde. Lance looked good, he said he's feeling good and aside from that, we were just chatting about bike racing in general. I know Floyd Landis well because he was my teammate on Mercury, and we say hi every day, and the same with Levi Leipheimer. Both guys are having great Tours and sitting top 10. Sunday was hard on everyone, with the exception of Lance and Basso, who are just above everyone else.

After the stage Sunday, it took us forever to get back to the hotel. It was unbelievable. It took at least an hour and a half after the race before the team cars that were caravaned up there got moving, and then it took another hour to get to the autoroute and then another hour to get to the hotel. So from the time the last rider finished to get to our hotel it was four hours! Then when we got to the hotel at 10 pm, we had the worst dinner ever! That's what makes it the Tour. I don't see how difficult it could be for the Tour to have some big helicopters up there to fly the riders down to the bottom of the mountain.

We had a nice rest day on Monday in Pau. I've been talking to the media enough, but not too much. I slept until 9:30, took a shower and shaved my legs. Then I went for an hour ride and came back to the hotel. Then I went to McDonalds for lunch...it was great! I had a Big Mac, a hamburger, fries, a large Coke and a McFlurry for dessert. My teammates are used to my hamburger desires. On Saturday night, we were staying in a funky Balladins hotel in Foix without a restaurant. We were eating in a Buffalo Grill, like a chain steakhouse in America.

It was funny story; we had a set menu of pasta and chicken, but I also wanted a hamburger. It was on the menu, so I asked, but the waiter said "it is not possible". I said "what do you mean? This is a Buffalo Grill, isn't it? You've got hamburgers, don't you?" That went on for a while, and then the manager came out and she said "it is not possible". I told them of course you can, this is Buffalo Grill and I would pay for it, but they weren't having it. Anyway, it took me four times, but eventually got my hamburger but always in France, it's "no you can't" not, "ok, you can but it will cost you this." So eventually I had my hamburger and fries and had a great race the next day!

Our team morale is good; we've had a good Tour, we've been in a lot of the moves but we just haven't gotten any breaks. Everyone has had opportunities to win, but we just haven't gotten the right situations at the end of the stages to win. Saunier Duval Prodir didn't come here expecting to win the Tour De France, but we got good exposure for our sponsor. Unfortunately, we've has three guys get sick or injured so we're down to six guys, but we're still racing strong.

Over last week, I'm going to put in the efforts early to get in a break, but the stages that look good to me are Stages 18 on Thursday to Mende and Stage 19 on Friday to Le Puy-en-Velay. So that's where I'm going to put most of my energy on these hard stages. Stage 18 has a pretty hard Cat 2 climb at the finish, which could be good for me if I am in a small break. I want to avoid a sprint if I can; stage 19 looks really good too since it starts climbing right away. It will be easier for me to get into a break on a stage like that than a day that starts flat. Plus, stage 19 isn't that long, so it's a stage you can ride at 100% most of the day. This Tour isn't over yet!

Thanks for reading,
Chris

July 17, 2005: Was that a strategy?!

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 17, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:55 BST

Index to all entries July 17, 2005: Was that a strategy?! Hey Cyclingnews readers, I'm checking in...

Index to all entries

July 17, 2005: Was that a strategy?!

Hey Cyclingnews readers,

I'm checking in from the start of the big mother stage of the Tour in Lézat-sur-Lèze. Yesterday [Stage 14] was hot; with the heat and climbs, it was a hard day.

For me, it was trying to use the day as a big of recovery for the work I did the day before. You're not going to do what I did the day before and ride with the top guys on the climbs, so I just tried to go as easy as I could on the stage and try to recover for today or the next stage. I was joking with Axel Merckx, saying I was using it as a recovery day - and he went, 'Yeah, right!'

I mean, there's only so much recovery you can do on a 220 kilometre stage - it wouldn't even matter if it was flat. 140 miles... you're not going to recover much on 140 miles, but you can feel better than the other guys. So you're not trying to be 100 percent again, you're just trying to be better than the rest.

Now a few words on T-Mobile's strategy yesterday. Was that a strategy? I mean, what are they doing? Okay, I could see the tactic of driving it into the climb; evidently, it worked and Armstrong was without team-mates, so you could see that tactic work. But when Vinokourov's attacking, why are you pulling your own team-mate back?

And it's not just T-Mobile; look at the rest of the guys... 101 Tactics: you never, never, never pull the race leader around; the fact of the matter is that they pulled the best climber in the world on the mountains and let him destroy them at the finish.

Anyway, enough said. It's much cooler here at the start, but that can all change. I don't mind the heat; it's a bit hard in a stage like yesterday being so long, but when it's 200k or less, it's not so bad. Today, I'm thinking another early breakaway will go. Someone's going to try, no-one's got a reason to chase - everybody [else] is 30 minutes down or an hour or two hours. And I think they would let something go and it could go all the way, but for me, I don't know.

I'll just see how the legs feel. I mean, I'll definitely try to get in a couple of moves - it would be an ideal day for me, I think - I'm so far down on time and most likely, so will everyone in the break be, too. I don't know how much effort I'll put into it, but I'll definitely cover some moves and see what happens.

Wish me luck!

Cheers,
Chris

July 12-14, 2005: Le Mountains

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 16, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:55 BST

Index to all entries When the first stage in the Alps began after rest day, it was hard to get used...

Index to all entries

When the first stage in the Alps began after rest day, it was hard to get used to the racing rhythm. On the final mountaintop finish to Courchevel, we went up the mountain and Discovery just drove it and drove it and they just rode everybody out of the break. I came out with about twenty guys left and I just set my own tempo and rode into the finish. That was the first real mountain stage and by the time Lance finally went, there were just four or five guys left on his wheel and shortly after that, Levi and Basso dropped off and then Valverde ended up winning the sprint. It was an unbelievably hard day on the final climb of Courchevel; I was riding a 39x25 up some of that climb and I ended up finishing 20th (3'59 behind Valverde). It's not like I had bad form that day.

The next day, I got in a break on the Madeleine with a lot of climbers. I was probably over my head there with guys like Heras, who went 100% and then blew, Sevilla, who went 100% to set up Vino's move and Pereiro, who was working really hard for Botero.

So I decided to sit up near the top of the Madeleine and went back to Armstrong's group. Discovery was riding really hard along the valley before the Telegraphe/Galibier climb and lots of guys were hurting, including me. I got over the Telegraphe OK, then on the Galibier, I came off about 5km from the top. Those last 9km up to the summit are really hard.

The mistake I made there is I kept going hard on the climb after I was dropped because I hoped I could get back on the descent. I don't know the climbs or the descents in the Tour, if it was really technical and I was only a minute and a half down, I could probably get back on. But the descent down the Col du Lautaret after the Galibier is really not that technical. There are eight or ten tight turns and after that, it's 80km /h all the way to the finish. So once the front group got on the road to Briançon, there was no way I was going to catch them. I finished in the second group of five riders (Joly, Goubert, Garzelli, Pereiro, Horner) that stage. (33rd at 7'32).

On Bastille Day, it was cool because so many French people were out along the road, but it was a hot day with terrain that reminded me a lot of southern California where Trent Klasna and I used to do epic training rides. The peloton pretty much cruised along and we went up the Category 2 climb. I decided to drop off the back to save my legs, because I was switching more to a stage win mode. Discovery went up the climb pretty easy after all, but I didn't know that then and caught back on with the gruppetto, who ended up catching up with the main peloton. Originally I was planning just to ride that stage in super-easy to save my legs for Saturday and Sunday.

July 15, 2005: McDonalds and more mountains

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 16, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 21, 2009, 11:55 BST

Index to all entries Hi to all my diary readers at Cyclingnews , I'm catching up after a few crazy...

Index to all entries

Hi to all my diary readers at Cyclingnews,

I'm catching up after a few crazy days with a double diary for you guys. Maybe you saw me in the break on Friday. I wanted to go to McDonalds after dinner on Friday night to have a Big Mac, fries and a shake, but since we're staying outside Montpellier at a nice gold resort and the hotel has a special Italian chef, so it didn't happen. After being in the break for 170km Friday, I'm not that tired. I thought I would be more wrecked from it, but we'll see Saturday when we hit the Pyrenees. It was hot Friday, but I'm used to the heat and it was pretty dry heat too. The weather was exactly like the weather where I train in California.

Flecha was the guy that started the move Friday, not Da Cruz like people said. I just followed him and we were away. Actually my job Friday was to take the whole day off, to go easy and relax and recover and save my legs for the Pyrenees, but we needed somebody in the move so I went ahead and followed it and I was in the break! The two guys who really rode hard in our break were Voeckler and Turpin; they were really motivated.

At first, we rotated really fast to get the break established and once we had our gap, we started doing ten or fifteen second pulls at the front. After about the fifty kilometre mark, all of a sudden Da Cruz decides that he doesn't want to go 50k an hour any more. Every time he comes to the front, he's going 43! So the other French guys were chewing him out and it turned out he thought we should go slower so the peloton wouldn't chase.

As soon as we slowed down, the chase started and the gap started coming down fast. So I kept wondering when Da Cruz is going to figure out that if we don't start riding, we're going to get caught. So when he finally figured it out, he was the first guy to attack the break! He did the least amount of work, he took the shortest, easiest, slowest pulls of the whole break and was the first to attack. I wasn't real happy with that and I don't think the other guys were either. Being in the break was actually easy when we were all working together and going at 50k. I was pulling as much as Flecha, but Voeckler and Turpin were throwing everything into it; they were the guys that kept us out there for so long,

As we got close to Montpellier, we knew the pack was getting closer. Then Chavanel came by and we caught him. Then he went again and Flecha followed him and I went between him and the barriers on the left and made a huge effort to get across to him. When I got across to Chavanel and he attacked me three times to try and get rid of me, so finally I told him if he did it again, I wasn't going to take a pull. So then we were really smooth all the way to the finish line. In order for me to win the stage, I had to sit on him, so in the last kilometre I just sat back. I knew if I came through with 800 meters to go, that would mean I was leading it out.I wouldn't come through, he wouldn't pull me to the finish, so we got caught!

But I wasn't disappointed at all how it turned out; it all came down to tactics. We were both racing for the win and neither of us were going to settle for second. That's just the way it happens. I was really glad to finally be able to be at the Tour De France and do something on a stage.

Further on down the road

Both of the weekend days in the Pyrenees are really hard. I don't know what will happen then, but ideally I will try to get in a break again on either day. With the mountains so hard, it really boils down to what Discovery wants to do. If they want to allow a group to go up the road and get some time, and not have to ride as hard, that's one thing. But if Lance is looking to want to take a stage, like on Sunday to Pla d'Adet, it will be hard to stay ahead.

Polka dot jersey guy Michael Rasmussen is climbing extremely well, he looks like it's so easy. So especially with Valverde dopping out, Rasmussen could be the only rider at this moment that could give Armstrong any kind of problems in the mountains. That's if he's willing to risk his GC position. Is Rasmussen willing to race for the win or is he happy with second? I'm curious to find out if he's looking to put time into riders like Basso and Ullrich so he doesn't lose time on GC, or if he wants to attack Lance and go for the win.

Thanks for reading,
Chris

Horner meets and greets

July 10: Not what it could have been

By:
Cycling News
Published:
July 11, 2005, 1:00 BST,
Updated:
April 22, 2009, 20:31 BST

Index to all entries Hi Cyclingnews readers, Yesterday, there's was a lot of action to begin with on...

Index to all entries

Hi Cyclingnews readers,

Yesterday, there's was a lot of action to begin with on the first climb, but then Ullrich crashed and everything settled down. From then on, it was pretty much tempo the whole day, even the last climb; it was fast, but not what it could have been.

After what happened the day before, it appeared like Discovery was back in control. I mean, it looked like Lance was trying to get some help there after the last climb, but other than Cofidis coming in the front for a little bit, that was about it. Other than that, it was just Lance's team riding into the finish.

My legs were tired on the climb today, but like I said, no-one put it down; it wasn't a huge, huge effort, but I've definitely had better legs.

Some people have asked me whether I'm now the leader of the team being the best-placed rider on GC. We don't have a "leader", but if I flat or Leo [Piepoli] flats, then we'll have some guys drop back for us, yeah.

I'm not in some great GC position or something like that. The team's more interested in going for stage wins, and we have plenty of guys who can do that. Certainly, I've got help from the team; I've got guys looking after me and helping me out with the bottles, so I don't have to spend energy doing that.

Today is gonna be nice. My feet are a little sore from all the riding so hard for so long, and the Achilles heel's getting a little swollen up, so a rest day would be good.

Cheers,
Chris

July 9: Fast times at Tour de France High

Hope the readers at Cyclingnews are enjoying my Tour diary. The last few days have been pretty quiet for me. I've tried to stay out of trouble and save my legs for the mountains. I'm writing this from a little place in the Vosges Mountains. It's by a lake and now it's real quiet but earlier today we had a pretty good bike race with surprises galore. The stage from Germany back to France was amazing! We were going so fast and the average speed was over 45 kilometres per hour for 231.5km! Man that's fast.

The crowds were huge in Germany and there was a break with Voigt and Hincapie. T-Mobile put everybody on the front and drove it hard up and down the climbs. We went all out for the first 90 minutes, the backed off a little bit before we started going hard again near the middle of the race. When we hit the feed zone, I was last guy in the peloton and we were going so hard I had to throw my bag on the ground! I couldn't even get my bottle out. Once the next break got established, Discovery was riding tempo and I could see Lance and all his guys in the front. Then Illes Balears and Liquigas came to the front and kicked it as we came close to the climb.

As we started the final climb, the race pace got even higher as we were chasing the break down. We caught most of the break except Weening and then Vino started throwing it down and it was unbelievable how hard he was attacking. I was in the big chainring and we were going so fast, like 40 kilometres an hour some points. I don't even know what gear I was in, since the only thing I could do was to look at the wheel in front of me. It was that hard. There was a lot of action but I didn't even notice that Armstrong didn't have any teammates left. I saw that on TV later when we got to the stage. It was kind of like the World's last year, but that was only 5km and the climb today was 17km!

It was over the top today and it was the first time ever that it looked like to me a lot of teams were willing to attack Armstrong. Maybe the strategy today for Discovery was it's good for Klöden or another rider to take the jersey. But no team was going to help Lance today. It would be to CSC's benefit if Klöden takes the yellow jersey because then Discovery has to attack and they can just sit back.

Sunday is another climbing stage, then they fly us to Grenoble that evening for rest day. I'll let you know what my first Tour de France rest day is like, then Tuesday is the first stage in the Alps.

Thanks for reading,
Chris

Author
Chris Horner 05

From being the USA's top domestic rider for several years to riding for a ProTour team in the Tour de France, Chris Horner is always on the up. A talented all-rounder, Chris had a bad start to 2005 after breaking his leg in Tirreno-Adriatico, but has since then found form again, with an excellent stage win in one of the toughest stages of the Tour de Suisse. That sealed the deal for him to gain a spot on the Saunier Duval-Prodir team for the Tour de France, and Horner is determined to make the most of it. Always ambitious and unafraid to speak his mind, Horner wants to finish top 10 on GC in this year's Tour, and failing that, at least have a decent crack at a stage win. He'll detail his progress in this special diary for Cyclingnews during the Tour. Australia UK USA