Chris Horner has confirmed that he is ready to sacrifice his overall placing in the Tour de France to help teammate Rui Costa. After his horrific accident in Italy in the spring, when he was hit by a car in a tunnel, the 42 year-old Lampre-Merida rider is just happy to be racing in France in July.
"I came out of the emergency room two months ago. I didn't know if I'd make the Tour or not. I had some severe injuries and thought my career was over when I hit by a car in the tunnel in Italy. So I have to be happy with where I'm at," Horner told Cyclingnews after finishing 17th at Chamrousse and pacing Costa up much of the 18km climb to the finish.
Horner looked stronger than the current world champion but is ready to sacrifice his overall classification ambitions to help the Portuguese rider. Horner is 15th overall, at 10:44, while Costa is 9th at 8:35 despite two difficult days.
"For sure Rui is going to be better than me (later in the Tour), so we've got to keep it regular. Both him and I have gone through some weird bronchitis in the lungs that has given us some problems. He was better today and hopefully he'll be better tomorrow. We're trying to minimize the damage because if he comes good, he can be with the best guys up there," Horner explained.
"He's still on antibiotics and I've just finished mine. We're just hoping that if I pull on the climb, he can recover and the more he recovers, the more he gets better. I don't think my form is going to put me in the top three and so 9th or 15th doesn’t make much of a difference. But if I can help Rui and he gets better, we can be in the front group, that would be great."
Explaining the fight for the top five overall
Immediately after crossing the finish line in Chamrousse, Horner didn’t know that Nibali had broken away alone and won the stage to extend his overall race lead to more than three minutes.
He was surprised that nobody had tried to isolate the Sicilian and gave a perfect explanation why the tactical fight for a place in the top five often helps a dominant race leader. Lampre-Merida hopes that Horner and Costa can work together to place the world champion in the top five.
"We saw that Nibali was isolated but nobody has any gas to get away from him," Horner said.
"Nibali is the best, we all know that. So it's going to come down to tactic or maybe he will get bronchitis, too. Or maybe if his team blows there could be some action but his team didn’t have to ride today.
"That's the problem with the Tour, there are always contrasting tactics that help a race leader like Nibali, we saw it with Froome last year too. A podium spot is too important in the Tour for people to risk things to take on the race leader. Instead of making him and his team work to then maybe attack him, other riders and teams are riding to protect second, third, fourth and fifth places. That's a pity but that's the Tour."