By Brecht Decaluwé in Castelsarrasin
American Chris Horner is one of the men who have been supporting Cadel Evans during this Tour de France. In the mountains he was supposed to be the last rider to stay with the Australian team leader from the Belgian Predictor team. At the finish line of stage 17 Cyclingnews caught up with the likeable American and asked him how he had enjoyed his day on French roads. "In the beginning - the first 80km - it was unbelievable," Horner reacted amazed. "It was up and down all day long but mainly during the first 80km it was really hard with the teams chasing the breakaway.
When the Caisse d'Epargne team finally came off the front everybody in the peloton was just cheering," Horner laughed. Horner is known to be a rider who loves the sport more than anybody else. In the winter when other riders are enjoying their time off the bike Horner competes in cyclo-cross races. We asked him if he was still happy to be in the Tour de France after the doping stories that have bothered the French stage race. "Absolutely, I love it. I wouldn't want to do anything else or be anywhere else in the world," Horner reacted convincingly. "It's real life. It's got it's ups and downs like everything. You just have to make sure that you enjoy the parts that are up," Horner explained.
The American wasn't surprised by the doping revelations that hit the peloton and explained it was nothing but a normal thing. "It's been around since the beginning of times and I mean not only since cycling times. It's people," Horner said, "not just in sport but everywhere. You just have to deal with it and get through the bad moments. The fans still appreciate what we do out there, the numbers are there - look at London - the crowds are huge, it's a beautiful sport."
After the departure of yellow jersey Michael Rasmussen - who seemed to be cruising to the overall win - the time trial in Cognac will decide on the eventual winner. Currently Alberto Contador is leading the GC with an advantage of 1'53" on Evans while Contador's team-mate Levi Leipheimer is 2'49" down. Chris Horner believed that Evans could become the first Australian winner of the Tour de France. "The podium shouldn't be a problem although there are still so many thing that can go wrong.
"Anything can happen out there: the right break goes up the road with the wrong guy in it and there's too many numbers so you can't pull it back, worse is if he crashes or has a flat tyre at a bad moment," Horner warned that the race was only over in Paris. "But the podium looks incredibly realistic and the jersey looks... I give even odds on it. I you have to give odds then you might give Contador a little bonus but not enough to bet your house on it."