Lampre working on new Rui Costa contract
Lampre-Merida have decided not to send Chris Horner to the Tour de Suisse next week, instead opting for the rider to train in Italy as he builds up for next month's Tour de France.
Horner, who was hit by a car in April and suffered a punctured lung in the accident along with broken ribs and a cut to his head, missed the Giro d'Italia last month but he and his team last week discussed riding the Tour de Suisse as part of a Tour build-up programme.
Although the American rider has made a swift recovery, the medical staff on the team believe that serious injury could occur if Horner crashes once again on his partially healed ribs. Therefore, he will skip the Swiss race and train in Italy instead. Horner may still race before the grand départ with the Tour of Slovenia a possible option.
"We're not going to have him do Suisse. There will be good weather in Italy and he has a good training programme ahead of him so we'd prefer him to recover completely," Lampre-Merida team boss Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews.
"Then he could do Slovenia, so then he would at least have four days of racing in his legs before he goes to the Tour de France. That could be a good option but he’s training well and looking good. We're really pleased with how he's coming along. His recovery has been amazing."
Starting the Tour de France would be remarkable achievement in itself for any rider in Horner's circumstances but Copeland believes that the veteran rider can play a hand in the GC battle if he regains his full fitness, giving the team two potential leaders in Horner and world champion Rui Costa.
"That we'll have to see closer to the time but if we can go there with two cards to play between him and Rui on GC, that would be the ideal situation. If he can get the condition that he had at the Vuelta last year then he's a GC rider, definitely. Everything depends on his condition before we give him the final role as at the moment we're talking in ideal scenarios."
Possible contract extensions for Horner and Rui Costa
Both Rui Costa and Horner arrived at Lampre-Merida on one-year deals but Copeland added that the team were in the midst of working on a new contract for the world champion, and that team were also keen on extending Horner's stay on the squad.
"With Rui that should be happening before the Tour de France and we're working on that at the moment," he said in relation to a new contract offer.
"We'd like to keep Chris as well. He’s a great rider and great for the youngsters. He has a positive attitude around him and is completely dedicated. It's one thing getting a lot of youngsters or board but you need a rider who can teach them about being in the group and no one is better at reading a race than Chris. We'd like to keep him for those reasons but also if he can be fantastic in races."
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