Horner makes successful return in Italy

Fahlin (HTC Columbia Women) was best young rider.

Fahlin (HTC Columbia Women) was best young rider. (Image credit: sirott)

American Chris Horner returned to competition this weekend one month after crashing in the Vuelta a España. He rode with the favourites in Giro dell'Emilia in Bologna, Italy, which included five climbs up San Luca.

"It was a little bit better than I expected. I expected to be near the front, but I was at the front," Horner said to Cyclingnews.

Dutchman Robert Gesink (Rabobank) won the race ahead of Jakob Fuglsang (Saxo Bank) and Thomas Lövkvist (Columbia-HTC). World Champion Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) chased and caught Horner's Astana teammate Alexander Vinokourov on the San Luca climb for fourth. Vinokourov finished fifth and Horner finish 18th at 1:20 back.

He also finished with the main group one day later at the GP Beghelli.

Horner fractured his left and pelvis in the fourth stage of the Vuelta a España on September 1. He returned to training first on a stationary bike for one week and then spent two weeks on the road. He said that he could tell from his training that he was going well.

He will line up for his last race of the season on Saturday, the Giro di Lombardia. The 242-kilometre race is one of cycling's toughest, taking in the Madonna di Ghisallo, Civiglio and San Fermo climbs in the final 60 kilometres. Horner has finished in the top 10 for the last two years.

"I would like to end the season with a win," he said. Vinokourov and Janez Brajkovic are also favourites to win, said Horner.

"I've had bad luck throughout the year, but my form has been some of the best of my career. Not considering the crashes I've had, it's one of my best seasons."

He had four separate crashes that involved fractured bones this year, in the Tour of California, the Vuelta a País Vasco, the Giro d'Italia and the Vuelta. Despite the crashes, he wore the leader's jersey for one day and finished second overall in the Tour de l'Ain.

Horner announced last week that he will leave Astana and ride for Lance Armstrong's new RadioShack team for the next two years.

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