After a stellar start to his 2012 season with a second place overall finish at Tirreno-Adriatico, Chris Horner (RadioShack-Nissan) had intended to next compete at the Volta a Catalunya, which began today. However, the 40-year-old American has opted to skip the Spanish WorldTour race to provide some healing time for a minor injury suffered at Tirreno-Adriatico.
"I have a little bit of a break period," Horner told Cyclingnews. "I have a little problem behind the knee that I'm resting up. It's just a tendon below the hamstring that was sore from Tirreno-Adriatico. I'm waiting for that to heal. That will give me a week's rest that I wasn't planning."
Tirreno-Adriatico was Horner's first race in approximately eight months after a crash ended his 2011 Tour de France, and ultimately his whole season. Prior to starting Tirreno-Adriatico, Horner's last day of competition was stage 7 of the 2011 Tour de France on which he suffered a broken nose, cracked ribs, concussion and a blood clot in the lung which forced a premature halt to his 2011 campaign.
Horner was justifiably pleased with his performance after a lengthy break from racing.
"It's a good way to come back," said Horner. "It doesn't leave too many doubts as to whether the blood clot did some permanent damage, that's for certain."
Horner has had two previous experiences at Tirreno-Adriatico earlier in his career, with two DNFs to show for it, but the 2012 parcours proved to be particularly appealing.
"I did it in 1997 and 2005 and both times it sent me to the hospital, so I didn't have a really good track record there. But [this year] the course was perfect. When Dirk Demol showed me the profile it was an absolutely beautiful profile for me. They added in a summit finish plus there was a team time trial, although not good for me but really good for the team, so I knew that would give me a very good shot at having the leader's jersey during the race."
With the Volta a Catalunya off of Horner's schedule, his next race will be the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, April 2-7. Horner has had enviable success in recent editions, with an overall general classification victory in 2010 followed by a second place overall in 2011 behind teammate Andreas Klöden. The Basque Country race is one held in particular esteem by Horner.
"I believe the Basque Country race to be the best quality GC racing field in the world," said Horner. "The only thing that will match the quality of field you get at the Basque Country is going to be the Tour de France. Not even the Giro, not the Vuelta, not the Dauphine, not Paris-Nice - none of those races compare with the GC contenders that you have in the Basque Country. It's really a fabulous race."
Horner followed Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco last year with a victory at the Amgen Tour of California. In 2011 he didn't compete in the slightly more than one-month interval between them, but his absence from Volta a Catalunya may prompt a slight deviation in his race programme.
"We'll see if I continue a little bit longer beyond the Basque Country or not, but at the moment I'm supposed to be flying back to the US after the Basque Country. You're not going to have any better preparation there [in the Basque Country], then take a little bit of a break afterwards so I can arrive into California fresh."