Tour de Romandie news feature, April 28, 2005
Porrentruy, Switzerland is a heck of a long way from Oregon, USA, but it's little surprise to hear our new Tour de Romandie leader Chris Horner say he's beginning to develop a certain affinity with the land of snow-capped mountains and blowing bugles, writes Anthony Tan.
"Yes, Switzerland has definitely treated me very well, last year and this year, too," he admits.
In fact, Horner found the surroundings so comfortable at yesterday's press conference, despite having a translator present, one of Davitamon-Lotto's two resident Americans (the other being Fred Rodriguez) chose to use some of the French he learned when riding for Française des Jeux. Which wasn't too bad at all for someone who now rides for a Belgian team and doesn't speak the language all that often.
"Je suis très content avec les courses en Suisse; courses pour les montagnes c'est très bien avec moi... pour le moment," Horner joked. [I am very happy with the parcours in Switzerland; the mountain stages are very good with me... for the moment.] "Peut-être demain, c'est le different histoire." [maybe tomorrow, it will be a different story.]
Horner repeated a number of times his only intent was to go for the stage win yesterday, and that he was unsure how he would fare in the larger mountains that come today and tomorrow, believing his form wasn't as high as it was when he won the stage to Arosa at last year's Tour de Suisse.
"Well, hopefully the yellow jersey gives a little extra incentive. I'm certainly there with the top, I don't doubt that at all; tomorrow's going to be a mountain-top finish instead of a descent and there's not so much tactics involved there. I'm certainly up there with the top climbers in the race, but we have to see tomorrow exactly if I can climb with the very best, or just some of the best.
"I felt last year in the Tour de Suisse, the form was the top for me; this year at the moment, it is a little bit less, but I think everyone's form is a little bit less right at this moment. With Savoldelli going to the Giro after this, so I'm sure his form is coming up; normally after this race, I'm finished until the Dauphiné. So I'm trying to hold the form I have, and hopefully I can hold onto it for a few more days."
So for the moment at least, holding onto the race lead isn't a priority, he says: "I think, with the way I've been time trialling, if I can hold it through the mountains, I will probably lose it in the time trial, so it was everything for the stage, I wasn't even thinking of the jersey.
"Of course, now that I have it, I'll try to hold onto it through the mountain stages tomorrow and the next day. But I'm pretty realistic: when we get into the time trial [situation], we've been losing a lot of time lately," laughs Horner in his giggly way, "so I'm content to have it for a day."
After the conclusion of this race, the 34 year-old will return Stateside to take a break before his attention is focused '100 percent' on a second outing at the Tour de France. But there's a bit of family bonding to do with his children Erica, Cayley and Garrett (aged 8, 6 and 4) prior to that.
"Well, first I'm going to work on seeing my kids, because I haven't seen 'em since Christmas!" he laughs again. "So I need to work on that first, because they don't know who I am... My boy's four and he's quite frustrated with me: I call home and he says he doesn't want to talk to me!
"So a little bit of bonding first, and then after that, I can go back to bike racing again. I truly am a rider that when I focus on the racing, it's about all I do. And it takes a toll on the family but there's only a few more years left that I have to do it.
"So I have to take advantage of that and that's what I'm doin'; when I go home, the first priority is to spend some time with the kids and then it's to focus on the Tour 100 percent - but I think I have the time with the form where it is to take that week [off] and hopefully not lose form from that."