American was denied exit from contract to find another team
American Chris Horner seemed to be a sure bet for Astana's Tour de France roster. After all, he put in a brilliant performance as a mountain domestique in the Giro d'Italia before exiting early after a crash with a broken tibia.
Yet when the team announced its final roster earlier this week, the Oregon resident was not on the list. Upset at the prospect of missing one of his last opportunities to race in the sport's big show, the 37-year-old's first reaction was to try to leave the team and find another squad which would bring him to the Tour.
Writing on his blog on OregonLive.com, Horner revealed the inner workings of team manager Johan Bruyneel's choice of nine riders for the Tour.
"Knowing there was no reason to get upset with Johan, I hung up the phone after thanking him for what I knew was a hard call to make, and for the fighting I knew he had done on my behalf with sponsors and riders on the team to get me on," Horner wrote.
Chalking up his exclusion to politics, he explained that one spot had to go to a Kazakh rider to please the team's sponsor, who scrambled to keep the team afloat after its financial crisis.
The top four riders on the team were given expected spots: Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden.
Horner explained that Haimar Zubeldia and Yaroslav Popovych were selected early as support riders, leaving two spots on the team. The first went to Gregory Rast, who is "a big guy who could help tackle the flats", and Horner thought he would surely get the final place on the team.
Instead, the place was given to Sergio Paulinho, who was Contador's choice as a support rider.
Horner did not place blame on Bruyneel, instead he thanked him, saying to his fans, "don't be too hard on him -- he has a difficult job and was stuck in an impossible position."
Cyclingnews was unable to reach Bruyneel for comments on his Tour selection.
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