Trek Factory Racing manager Luca Guercilena has explained that he has not signed Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner for the 2014 season because his team could not match the American’s wage demands, preferring to place its emphasis on younger riders.
The 41-year-old Horner was a surprise winner of the Vuelta but is not among the RadioShack-Leopard riders who will continue with the team in its new guise under the Trek banner in 2014.
“We have to prioritise the youngsters and above all, I can’t give Chris what he wants: we have other priorities,” Guercilena told Tuttobici.
Horner’s Vuelta victory was greeted with considerable scepticism, prompting the American to take the step of releasing his biological passport data on his personal website, although he had earlier refused to answer Cyclingnews questions on whether he was a redacted name in USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the Lance Armstrong case.
Guercilena acknowledged that Horner’s victory “has raised infinite doubts and suspicions” but offered a qualified explanation for his startling performance at the Vuelta.
“Starting with the premise that I would never in my life put my hand in the fire for anyone, I think that Chris’ victory can be explained as follows,” Guercilena said. “Chris rode very little this year due to injury and a subsequent knee operation. Furthermore, his direct rivals – from Nibali to Rodriguez to Valverde – were clearly more worn out than him after a very long and wearying season.
“If you look close at the data, you’ll realise that the average level [of the race] was relatively low. I didn’t see incredible things.”
While Horner remains without a team, his fellow veteran Jens Voigt will continue with Trek into 2014, and Guercilena said that the 42-year-old could join the team’s management staff as soon as he retires.
“During the course of the season, Jens Voigt could climb into the team car, whenever he decides to hang up his bike,” said Guercilena.
While Kim Andersen and Dirk Demol remain as directeurs sportifs with the team in 2014, and Adriano Baffi joins from the Leopard Trek Continental squad, Alain Gallopin has yet to decide on his future.
Guercilena confirmed that Fabian Cancellara is still considering trying to break the world hour record and suggested that he may make an attempt after next year’s spring classics. “But it’s also true that next year is the first year of a new project and we have a lot of things to sort out. The winter will help us understand more and to take better decisions,” said Guercilena.