An interview with Chris Horner, April 22, 2006
Chris Horner (Davitamon-Lotto) was one of several riders present at the Ridley bike press day at the Zolder racing track on Thursday. And in between near-deafening roars of the high powered cars blasting by, the 34 year-old American took the time to chat to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes about his new team, his current form and his plans for the Tour.
American rider Chris Horner is settling into what is a two year deal with the Davitamon-Lotto squad, and so far seems to be enjoying his time with the Belgian team. After finishing 19th in the Flèche Wallonne this week, he relaxed on Thursday afternoon with a Ridley bike press day at the race track in Zolder. Horner and teammates such as Nico Mattan and Leon van Bon, plus several riders from the Unibet.com team, spent time with their bike suppliers and the media, having a chinwag, unwinding in the mild weather and also have a couple of high-speed laps of the track in the racecars. Ridley had organised for those present to co-drive (sit back, strap in and enjoy the ride) either a Porsche, a souped-up Mini or a powerful black Corvette, and to see Horner emerge from the latter with a big smile on his face was proof that he was having a ball.
Cyclingnews: First off, what did you think of your laps on the track?
Chris Horner: It was nice! I was in the Corvette and that was pretty impressive. It is a big car, a comfortable ride, but also very, very fast. It was great.
CN: How are things going for you this year?
CH: Things are good, the team is treating me nice. I like all the guys on the team, we have good riders, good staff, good directeurs, so it is going well. For me, it has been the easiest time ever in Europe. I was actually scheduled to go home right after Liège, but then I heard there was a spot open for [the Tour of] Romandie, so I said 'I'll do that!' It is the first time when I could go home, but I am happy to stay in Europe. Normally I am only good for a month or a month and a half in Europe, then it starts taking a toll on me, but now I am so relaxed with the team and with living in Spain that it is fine.
I got a nice little place in Spain, finally. I am living in Valencia. I was actually only there about seven days when I first got it, and then I was also there for three days before I got here, so I haven't been in the house that much. But it is cool when I am there!
CN: So what is different this year?
CH: I get to speak English with the team, which is probably the main thing. When I was with Saunier Duval it was different. Don't get me wrong, I like those guys, I would go back there, but it is just so much easier speaking your own language. The team here has been really good, they have just let me pick my own program and schedule of races, and then get ready for the Tour here. All that has been great.
CN: The Tour is your big focus?
CH: Yes, absolutely. Of course, I want to ride well here too, in Liège and Flèche. I was definitely looking at the Pais Vasco and then into this week as being a good part of the spring for me. Then the Tour after that.
CN: So how was your experience of the Flèche Wallonne?
CH: It was good... I think I was a little better in Amstel, though, I just felt a little blocked. Maybe I trained too much since. It is such a fine line between finding that really good form and being tired. The form is good, I can't complain – I mean, I was 20th in Amstel and 19th yesterday, and I was working for Leukemans there yesterday at the finish, too. So I wasn't trying to get a result myself.
CN: You are doing Liège...what are your expectations there? Will you play a team role again, or will you have a bit of freedom?
CH: Actually, both days they have given me a team leadership. Yesterday in Flèche I could tell that I didn't have the legs to be top ten so I checked with Leukemans and he said he had really good form. We got near the finish and at the crucial points I just looked after him and kept him near the front and kept him out of the wind. I knew I could ride top 20 or something, but I also knew I couldn't ride top ten or go for the win. But Leukemans looked really good in Amstel and when he attacked yesterday he got a good gap right away.
Looking back, I think he would have been better off waiting – of course, that is hindsight so it is easy to say now, but he was being aggressive and trying to win the race. So you can't knock that either. He clearly had good form, too, because otherwise he wouldn't be able to go like that at that point of the race. But I think he certainly could have been top five with the way he is climbing, because he looks so impressive on those small climbs.
CN: Looking towards the Tour, you went close on a stage there in 2005. What will your aims be this time round?
CH: Well, last year I had total freedom to do what I wanted. This year I am sure I will be working for Robbie [McEwen] and Cadel [Evans] so things will be different. I don't know how much freedom I can have in the Tour. Hopefully I will get there with some good form and then see how it goes.
CN: And after that, what is your plan for the rest of the year?
CH: I don't know after the Tour, it's only planned out until then! We will look at things closer to that time and work out what my program will be.
CN: Did you sign a one or two year deal?
CH: It was for two years. I like it here, so that is good!