Horner still without a contract for 2015

Lampre-Merida rider hopes to race more Grand Tours

American veteran Chris Horner reached the end of his racing season with Lampre-Merida at the WorldTour finale Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on Sunday with no signed contract for 2015.

"No contract, nothing is done yet," Horner told Cyclingnews. "Everything is open for next year and we'll see what happens. I haven't signed anything yet for next year. It's stressful to a degree because it's always nice to have things lined up, especially at my age."

His age, 42, combined with a turbulent year that included tendonitis, bronchitis and a serious accident while training in Italy in April, which left him hospitalized and recovering for weeks, would have some riders questioning their return to the sport. Horner, however, remains confident that he is still capable of racing at the highest level for at least one, perhaps two, more seasons and that a suitable contract will come to fruition.

"I would like to do another year, maybe two, we'll see how it goes," said Horner, who believes that his age, not his capability, is the main reason he doesn't have a finalized contract yet.

"Obviously at my age it's difficult because nobody wants an older guy," he said. "I'm six or seven years passed the expiration date. I have to fight against that. I don't think age should matter but obviously it does because if it didn't I'd have 20 teams wanting to sign me because I'm a Grand Tour winner, instead of just a few."

Horner ended his 2013 season on a high note with a win at the Vuelta a España. This year he started out with top 10s in stages at the Volta ao Algave and Tirreno-Adriatico but he was forced to pull out of both Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya early because of a worsening Achilles tendonitis.

In April, he was hit by a car while training near Lecco in northern Italy that left him with a punctured lung, four fractured ribs and a series of scars on his head and body, and he was forced to skip the Giro d'Italia, a race that he was expected to lead his Lampre-Merida team. He returned to racing at the Tour de Slovenie and was named as a last-minute addition to the team for the Tour de France, where he placed 17th overall.

"I'm tired and I've been going since January," Horner said. "The only real time that I had off the bike was in the emergency room after being hit in the tunnel. I feel 100 percent better from the crash."

His season took another hit ahead of the Vuelta a España, where he was prepared to start as the defending champion, however, he was forced to withdraw due to low levels of cortisol.

He had suffered with bronchitis after the Tour de France and Tour of Utah, and was prescribed cortisone by his team doctor, and applied for a Theraputic Use Exemption (TUE) via the UCI, but his cortisol levels fell below the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible (MPCC) standards, of which Lampre-Merida is part of.

"Not racing the Vuelta was a bummer, but I had bronchitis," Horner said. "I'm still recovering a bit. I think I have to take time off and actually stop training. It's hard to heal from bronchitis when you're training, racing and traveling all the time."

Horner had hoped to become the oldest Grand Tour winner at the Vuelta a España this year and although it didn't happen, he hopes to continue to be a main player in the Grand Tours in the future.

"Grand Tours are always what I aspire to do, and do well in," Horner said. "They're the best events for me. They're where all the big powerful guys can't handle the climbs the way that I do.

"It becomes easier for me to target the Grand Tours because the really strong guys get tired there. I recover well there and the climbing stages are better for me."

As for a contract, Horner hopes to get a renewal from Lampre-Merida. The delay? He said the team doesn't have the full budget in place yet and so it hasn't been ready to confirm its line-up for 2015.

"This team [Lampre-Merida] is still working on their budget," he said. "Except for Rui Costa, most of the other guys haven't signed yet."

It was reported in July that Lampre-Merida extended Costa's contract through the end of 2016. He will be joined by returning riders Mattia Cattaneo, Kristijan Durasek, Sacha Modolo, Max Richeze and Diego Ulissi along with new signing Luka Pibernik.

When asked what other teams have shown an interest in signing him, should Lampre-Merida fail to come through with a contract renewal, Honer simply said, "I don't know, that's my agent's job. I try not to spend time worrying about it."

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