Horner's future with Lampre is fifty-fifty, says Copeland

Cunego moves closer to the exit door

Chris Horner’s future with Lampre-Merida hangs in the balance, with the team’s general manager confirming that contract negotiations with the 42-year-old American have yet to be concluded.

Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews that at this stage, “it’s fifty-fifty at the moment on whether he stays.”

Horner, who will turn 43 in October, has had a difficult season. He was hit by a car during the spring and suffered injuries that kept him out of the Giro d’Italia. He made it through the Tour de France but was withheld from defending his Vuelta a Espana crown due to low cortisol levels detected in his system. He raced the Canadian WorldTour events earlier in September, but they were the last races of his season.

“We don’t know what the situation is at the moment and nothing is confirmed,” Copeland added.

“It’s not a yes or a no. We’re still talking to the sponsors and looking for an answer from them. There’s been no offer of a contract yet. We’ve talked to his agent and Chris wants to carry on. It comes down to budget to a certain extent and that’s what we’ve been sorting out with the sponsors.”

Lampre have focused their recruitment drive on supporting Rui Costa, having tied down the former world champion with a long term contract. The team still have a small number of spots to fill for next year but must deposit ten rider contracts with the UCI this week. At present they have more than enough signed riders with which to do so, and Copeland, while keen on keeping Horner, is keeping his cards close to his chest.

Part of the explanation may lie in the fact that the team are still in the dark over the future of Diego Ulissi, who returned an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol at the Giro d’Italia. The team suspended the rider at the time but are waiting on the UCI to announce their decision on the case.

Copeland ruled out a possible scenario in which if Ulissi remained on the team, Horner would be forced to look elsewhere.

“Chris could be a leader or a GC rider for us in the Giro or the Vuelta but we don’t know the situation with Ulissi who wants to try for GC in the future. However it’s not a case of, if Ulissi stays Chris can’t.”

“Two weeks have gone by in the Ulissi case. We don’t expect him to be cleared completely but it shouldn’t be a long ban.”

“However, after the signing of Rui, the roster will stay more or less the same. There will be a few riders that we’ll decide on in the coming weeks and replacements will be announced in the usual press release way. We only need to deposit ten contracts with the UCI this week and we have thirteen who have two-year deals.”

One rider who looks close to leaving the team is Damiano Cunego. The Italian rider has struggled for results in recent years and Copeland is aware that the former Giro d’Italia winner is talking to other teams.

“Cunego probably will not stay, but Pozzato will as he has a contract for next year. With Cunego I’d say it’s 70-30 that he will go. His agents have said that he’s got quite far with a few teams but haven’t said who but, a change may be good for him.”


 

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