Since a training crash in April left him with a punctured lung, broken ribs and a cut to his head, Chris Horner has had to alter his racing season dramatically. The American understandably missed the Giro d’Italia in May but is on course to finish the Tour de France – only his second race back since his accident – on Sunday, before targeting a defence of his 2013 Vuelta a Espana crown.
"I'll come back for Spain and be a lot fitter, a lot healthier and I'll see if I can win again," he told Cyclingnews.
"I have to go back to the US and recover, and maybe now I'll just do the Tour of Utah for training. If they race really fast there, maybe I'll drop off because I need to rest next week. Then I'll look to come into Spain a little bit lighter, a lot fitter and 100 per cent healthy."
He also told reporters that he would be fully focused on winning the Vuelta. If he succeeds, he will break his own record as the oldest-ever Grand Tour winner in cycling.
"I go to the Vuelta for the win. That's for sure. Once you've won before, that’s all you want. It’s a race that’s designed for my type of riding," he said.
The Lampre-Merida rider came into the Tour de France looking for form and fitness. He was dealt a severe blow when he picked up an illness in the first week but he carried on, and on the final mountain stage to Hautacam, he showed his improving pedigree with a brief attack.
It was short-lived as Vincenzo Nibali powered clear of the American before taking the stage.
"I'm still lacking some power so once I saw Nibali with me I thought I would be towing him before he jumps me," Horner told reporters.
"Of course, as soon as I dropped down in speed a little bit he went by me like a bullet. After that, I thought it was time to save it for the Vuelta."
Overall though, Horner believes he can take a number of positives from what has been a gruelling Tour de France. He will finish around the top 20 in the overall and has ridden consistently through both the Alps and the Pyrenees. The long 54-kilometre time trial on stage 20 will give a great indication as to where he stands in terms of form.
"It's been an amazing Tour for me given the circumstances when I was in the emergency room with a punctured lung and broken ribs, all that kind of stuff," he said. "For me, it's a fabulous Tour. Am I happy? No, because I won a Grand Tour last year and I want to do better but when you step outside the body you know it's a fabulous ride. I'm going to make it to the end of the Tour. It’s an amazing performance. It’s not the one I wanted but it’s still amazing."