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Horner ready to work in California

Chris Horner (RadioShack) looked relaxed before the start

Chris Horner (RadioShack) looked relaxed before the start (Image credit: Stephen Farrand)

Chris Horner (RadioShack) is in prime condition to fulfill his domestique role for teammate and three-time defending champion Levi Leipheimer at this week’s Amgen Tour of California. As the race heads into the mountains his proven early season form will be invaluable in protecting Leipheimer’s number one goal of capturing his fourth consecutive title.

“It’s been a little while since I’ve raced and mentally I wasn’t prepared to come here and race for the win,” Horner told Cyclingnews. “I came here ready to race for Levi. He is our guy 100 percent, there’s no doubt about it.

“I’ve been on vacation a little bit; been on domestic duties with the kids and so I don’t think I would be 100 percent to be a leader anyway,” he added. “But if something happens, like Levi crashes or something, of course plans change and we have a stellar squad that could come through for sure. Levi is certainly the guy to win this race.”

Horner capped off a successful early season campaign when he won the overall title at the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco in the sixth and final stage. He followed the ProTour victory with a leadership role at the Spring Classic’s and placed eighth at Liege-Bastogne-Liege.

“It was fun, a great time and my form was good,” Horner said. “I wasn’t necessarily the team leader for that race at the start. We had a lot of strong guys there. We always had three guys racing like leaders until we hit the time trial. Once we hit the time trial I was lucky enough to win that and move on. For the Classic’s I was a little more of a leader than at the Basque Country.

“I feel like I had a lot of those leadership moments last year,” he added. “You know in the race if you have good form or not so certainly at the Basque Country this year I felt spectacular. But last year at the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana, I also felt spectacular. Those are races that ended spectacularly bad too.”

Horner hopes his consistent success will garner a spot on RadioShack’s Tour de France squad this year. He was not selected last year, despite his well-documented injury comebacks, due to political reasons with the former Astana team. “My targets are to have a good Dauphine Libere and to make the Tour squad,” Horner said.

“Everyone wants to race the Tour with Lance Armstrong; it’s a whole different angle,” he added. “I’ve seen it from a bunch of different angles with different teams. It would be one more way to view a spectacular race. I’m going to train for the Tour as if I’m going.”

Asked what he thinks his chances are of making the Tour selection, Horner said: “It doesn’t matter because it’s irrelevant what I think.”

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