Lupus Racing's Chris Horner told Cyclingnews Wednesday after stage 1 of the Redlands Bicycle Classic that the lung infection that has plagued him since the 2014 Tour de France has improved, but he lacks the training to perform at his top level this week.
"I'm just surviving," he said following the uphill finish of the Highland Circuit Race. "I was sick after the Dominican Republic with food poisoning and I only got two weeks training, and there's still the bug in the lungs, so I'm a little bit off. We'll see maybe if it gets better as the week goes on, but I'm not racing for GC here."
The 2013 Vuelta a Espana winner signed with Lupus Racing this year after spending last season on the US domestic circuit with Airgas-Safeway. He said his goal for this week is to just stick with the front group and see what he can do from there.
"Unless the form changes I'm kind of on the limit here," he said. "We'll see if I get a little luck, but you can't come in here undertrained, not at this level."
Horner finished 17th on Wednesday, 27 seconds behind solo winner Ruben Companioni of Team Jamis. Thursday's stage finish will take the peloton up the 8.6km climb to the Village of Oak Glen, where Horner was with the select final group on the climb last year but couldn't respond when eventual winner Phil Gaimon, who was riding for Optum at the time, attacked.
Over the past two seasons, Horner's performances have been hampered by a lingering lung infection that's plagued him since the 2014 Tour de France. He told Cyclingnews on Wednesday that his lungs are better but not quite 100 percent yet.
"They're better than last year, but they're still bothering me," he said. "I'm still coughing up all kinds of stuff, but it's not just completely closing down on me like it was last year. It's a bit better that way, but more now it's the lack of form from the food poisoning after the Dominican Republic.
"I lost a week off the bike and I only got two good weeks of training before here," he said. "You really need at least three. Maybe I can make something happen later in the race, but at the moment all I can do is follow."
Despite the setback in training, Horner said, he's been encouraged by how his lungs have felt during races so far this season. "Last year all year I had maybe two good races: US pro championships, [Tour d'] Azerbaijan went OK and then maybe Philly or something where I wasn't bothered so much by the lungs," he said. "I think the lungs are better though, so that's encouraging. I just don't have the training."