Lampre-Merida team manager Brent Copeland has told Cyclingnews that the Italian team is close to adding Chris Horner to its roster but is awaiting approval from a key sponsor before the two sides can complete an agreement.
Horner has been searching for a new team since winning the 2013 Vuelta a Espana but has so far been left without a place for 2014. Trek refused to reach his salary demands and after months of uncertainty, Baden Cooke has stepped in and agreed to act as Horner's representative.
Horner turned 42 in October and has been injury prone in the past, but Copeland is convinced Horner could fill an important role for the team.
"We're definitely interested in Chris, and I've talked to him several times in the last few days. I don't know if Chris has other offers he's considering but we think he'd be good fit for us," Copeland told Cyclingnews.
"We're awaiting the final OK from a key sponsor. I'd hoped it would be finalised on Friday but it now looks like it will happen next week."
"He'd fill an important gap in the team and give us an extra rider to help our race roster. We want to be a more international team and Chris would be the first American rider to ride for Lampre-Merida."
Giro and Vuelta, USADA not a problem
Copeland told Cyclingnews that Horner would ride the Giro d'Italia and Vuelta a Espana if he joins the team, while world champion Rui Costa would focus on the Tour de France and other WorldTour races.
"I think the only race Chris and Rui Costa would ride together would be the Tour of the Basque Country, which isn't a problem. He would target the Giro and the Vuelta, while Rui has the Tour de France as his big objective. So there's no problem at all."
Horner has denied being implicated in the USADA Reasoned Decision following the doping investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service Team. Copeland said he has been assured that Horner is not implicated in the case.
"We've heard about it but it doesn't seen to be a problem. Cooke has assured me there's nothing to worry about."
If Horner does join Lampre-Merida, he is likely to make his first appearance for the team at the annual Merida presentation in Mallorca in early February.
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