Chris Horner (Airgas-Safeway) is one of the best tacticians in cycling. He frequently gets himself in trouble for calling them like he sees them. Horner’s matter-of-fact attitude can be interpreted as analytical, or hubris, depending on one’s frame of reference. Immediately after the US Professional Road Race in Chattanooga on Monday, Horner discussed his thoughts on the closing laps of the race.
Horner’s Airgas-Safeway team is hoping to get into the Tour of Utah and the USA Pro Challenge later this summer. The general perception is a win at nationals can help a team bridge the gap if they are on the bubble. Horner felt he’d done well despite some bad luck for the team.
“We started with six and we lost three instantly and we lost a fourth right after his chain broke,” Horner said. “So we were down to two guys, that’s it. I was a bit off on form so I just tried to fake it the whole time but all in all I put on a show.“
Pulling back Talansky was the first priority. Horner was disappointed when Phil Gaimon (Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies) crashed out of the race due to a slick rainy corner. Immediately after dismissing Gaimon’s crash as “his MO whenever it is slippery”, Horner complimented Gaimon on his work pulling back Talansky.
“And Gaimon, he was fabulous,” Horner said. “Full on throwing everything into it but then he crashed so it left two of us [Horner and Busche] and some half-assed work from the other guys to pull back Talansky.”
After Busche and Dombrowski slipped away, Horner looked to Garmin to make a move. However, Horner didn’t believe Dombrowski stood a chance against Busche.
“When Busche went they had Dombrowski with them, and of course, like he’s not going to win in the sprint,” Horner said. “It doesn’t matter if he sits on for five miles. When you come down to the descent here Busche is going to beat him every time. So if Busche pulls for half a lap full gas and then rests on the descent, he’s going to win the sprint.”
With Alex Howes sitting in reserve, Horner let Talansky know the chase was in their court. Howes was Cannondale-Garmin's fastest guy on paper, and Horner did not want to help pull back Busche.
“Busche is a legendary rider. He’s top notch. He’s been hurt all year, and you see him come here and win a jersey,” Horner said. “For me, I was happy to see him win. He’s a good friend and he’s done some [pause], when I won Spain he was the guy working for me. So it wasn’t my job to pull him back on the last lap. When he went I knew he would probably win it, and the least I can do is not pull when the guy helped me win a Grand Tour.”