Chris Horner didn't wait until the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah starts on Monday to get his adrenalin pumping. On the drive down from his home in Bend, Oregon, Horner nearly met with disaster in his truck-and-trailer combo.
"The connection between the dually and the 15,000 pound RV must not have been working, so the truck brakes overheated on one of the big descents," he told Cyclingnews on Sunday. "I had to miss a couple of turns and shoot it straight. Anyways, everyone survived and everything worked out. It was a little bit of a thriller for a moment, but after that I got everything back under control and back on the road."
Horner is no doubt hoping to get his racing under control and back on the road in Utah. After finishing second to Tom Danielson here in 2013 and 2014, Horner slipped to fifth last year. He says his form was OK, but his health, especially his breathing, knocked him out of contention for the overall win.
"Last year it was a difficult race here," Horner said. "I had problems with the lungs on the last two crucial stages. I had some power at different moments on the Snowbird climb; when we started the climb I had good power, and then the lungs shut down on me and I had to drop out of the group.
"I slowly opened the power back up and the lungs stayed open," he continued. "If you watch the video, I'm bridging across at the same time when [eventual overall winner Joe Dombrowski] is leaving the group. Power-ise we're doing the same power at that moment. I'm bridging 30 seconds and he's leaving those guys by 30 seconds."
Horner said after that he decided to preserve his fifth-place position rather than trying to attack, risking another lung issue, and possibly slipping to of the top 10. Horner said this year his lungs are good, but he's lacking power to attack the leaders.
Horner's 2016 season so far has been a mixed bag. Although he's raced aggressively, the results one would expect from a former Vuelta a Espana winner have been hard to come by.
Horner failed to finish his first race of the year with Lupus at the Tour of the Dominican Republic. He finished 18th at the San Dimas Stage race, 21st at the Redlands Bicycle Classic and ninth at the Tour of the Gila. Although he raced aggressively both days, he did not finish either the US pro road race or the Winston-Salem Classic. He was 45th at the Philadelphia Cycling Classic, did not finish stage 4 of the GP Saguenay and was 13th at the Tour de Beauce after finishing 10th on the final stage in St. George.
But Horner, who credited Dombrowski and Jelly Belly's Lachlan Morton as the two top general classification favourites this year, said he thinks the 2016 route will be the best yet for him.
"For me the first few days will be about staying out of trouble," he said. "For the rest of the team it will be simple: get in any break that they can or want and try to win a stage.
"We've got some guys who can climb pretty decent, but nobody that's shown that they can do GC throughout the whole week. Chad [Beyer] is climbing really good on his day, so he's going to have a little bit of a role on his own. [Joe Chavarria] is our newbie to the team, but nobody knows exactly what he can do. We're not sure yet. We think he can climb, but we're not sure.
"But for me it's easy: stay out of trouble and make Cannondale do every bit of work every stage, and then it comes down to the last few days. I'll follow Joe as long as I can and hope everything works out."
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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