RadioShack's Chris Horner was forced to watch the last two weeks of the Tour de France from the sidelines after he suffered a concussion as the result of a crash during the seventh stage. The American is now focused on making a swift recover and will turn his attention to the upcoming UCI 2.1 USA Pro Cycling Challenge held from August 22-28 in Colorado.
"This was the last week that I could take off the bike and still get some form back for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado," Horner told Cyclingnews. "I'm not sure what kind of fitness I will have for that race. I spent a couple of days at the hospital in France after the crash, a day and half in Paris before flying home because the doctors didn't want me to fly right away. I'm going to take my time now and try and recover fully."
Horner was next scheduled to compete in the Clasica San Sebastian and the Tour of Utah but was forced to pull out of both events in order to allow proper healing time for his concussion and a subsequent tendon tear in his ankle that surfaced two weeks ago. He is currently wearing a soft cast to support his ankle to help speed up the recovery process before getting back on his bike.
"I couldn't afford to hit my head again," Horner said. "You can't have a double concussion. The team doctor has been great and supportive. He said with the severity of the concussion that I had, I can't afford to have two or three of those."
"I took four or five days off the bike when I got back from France and I started riding a little bit but my leg was hurting and it wasn't healing," he said. "I realized that I needed more time off to let my leg heal better and they put a boot cast on it just so I don't move it."
Horner acknowledges RadioShack's bad luck and Evans overall victory
Horner was sitting in 13th place overall during the first week of the Tour and targeted a podium finish. However, all eyes tuned in to the shocking and disturbing television footage of him laying motionless in a ditch at the side of the road following a crash in the peloton during stage seven from Le Mans to Chateauroux.
Once conscious, he rode the final 32km to the finish line while being monitored by the race doctor. He cross the line and appeared to be disoriented. He was rushed to the hospital where doctors confirmed that he had suffered a severe concussion.
"I don't remember anything about the crash," Horner said. "The memory from the crash, never existed. As far as I know, I woke up in the hospital the next day and I didn't remember anything, not the crash or the 20-mile ride to the finish, the trip to the hospital, and I don't remember doing the MRI head examination. The next morning I was sitting in the bed and talking to the team doctor with a sore leg and a very bad headache. I wanted to go to the start of the next stage and asked the doctor if we could go but he said no."
"Watching it on television later, I thought, I could have been dead," he said. "I wasn't moving at all and I saw that I was holding on to the race radio car. I've seen all the footage but I don't remember any of it. To me, it just looked like a guy who looked like me, who crashed and was holding on to the team car to the finish line. I don't remember that. It doesn't scare me really, but it makes me feel bad for all my family members who were watching that."
Horner spent two days in a French hospital and an additional two days in Paris before doctors would allow him to board a plane to fly back to the US, where he watched the final two weeks of the race from home on television.
"I was depressed, not bummed out, but totally depressed watching the rest of the Tour de France at home," Horner said. "I loved watching it, all the stuff that was going on between Andy and Frank Schleck and Cadel Evans, Thomas Voeckler. But at the same time I was depressed because I could have done something there too and been a part of that. It has been a good year all together so I can't complain."
Horner was a potential podium contender at the Tour de France after winning the Amgen Tour of California in May. The team also started the race with strong overall contenders Andreas Kloden, who won the Pais Vasco in April and Levi Leipheimer, who won the Tour de Suisse in June. Crashes during the first week of the race also took Leipheimer, Kloden along with Jani Brajkovic and Yaroslav Popovich out of contention.
Despite the disappointment of his team's bad luck, Horner acknowledged the hard fought victory of BMC Racing's Cadel Evans in his bid to win the Tour de France ahead of Leopard Trek duo Andy Schleck, who finished the race in second place and his brother Frank in third.
"It was a devastating Tour for RadioShack," Horner said. "I think one of us could have been on the podium. I think Evans did a lot of things correctly and I think he deserved to win and raced almost a flawless Tour de France. He deserves the win because he put in a lot of work and had a fantastic team looking after home. He had a good team all the way to the crunch periods. I would have loved to have been there, without a doubt.