A three-time veteran of the Tour de France, Chris Horner finished 15th overall last year while riding in support of team-mate Cadel Evans. Evans' eventual second place finish was in large part due to Horner's selfless riding in the mountains, with many observers speculating that the American could have cracked the top-10 if riding for himself. While his Astana squad will not be there this year, Horner allowed Bruce Hildenbrand to look into his crystal ball and see who could be at the front of the peloton come July.
The post-Lance Armstrong era combined with Jan Ullrich's unceremonious demise and Ivan Basso's doping suspension left a gaping hole in what for years was something of a closed shop in cycling. Add all that to the non-selection of Horner's Astana team and its defending champion Alberto Contador, and you have a Tour which, at least on paper, looks like the most open in almost 10 years.
"When Lance was racing he was on one page, then down at the bottom of that page, with a big gap, you had Ullrich and Basso and occasionally some guy might land on that page but not by much, somebody like [Joseba] Beloki," recalls Horner of the Armstrong years. "Then you flip over to the next page and that is where you see all these other guys. On the second page was a huge list of riders that could possibly win the Tour, something like 10 to 15 guys. Now, everyone on that first page is retired and/or gone so the second page makes the Tour look pretty exciting."
Despite the long list of contenders, Horner still has a few favourites of his own. "Cadel has to be up there with a big target on him and then [Denis] Menchov I like a lot for the overall," he says. "A few of the CSC boys might come through, Sastre will be good, that's for certain and maybe one of the two Schleck brothers. I always like [Thomas] Dekker at Rabobank, too. He hasn't shown it at grand tours, but he has looked really good at some of the smaller stage races. He might be one of my more outside favourites."
To read the full interview with Chris Horner, click here.