At 38 years of age, Chris Horner is one of the "senior" members of the new RadioShack team, but is by no means slowing down. In fact, he's had some of his best performances of his career this year even though his season was plagued with injuries.
It's surprising, even to Horner himself, that he has found probably the most ideal team and fitness that only gets better now that he's at the twilight of his cycling career.
Yet even though he's happy to be back on an American team and racing side-by-side with Lance Armstrong, he would have given all of that up for a chance to ride the Tour de France this year.
After being left off the Astana team roster by manager Johan Bruyneel, Horner asked for a release from his contract so he could look for another team which would put him in the Tour.
"I didn't get it, I didn't think I was getting it either," Horner said in a matter-of-fact way. "I'm glad to be here [with RadioShack], but if I had a team which would have picked me up and put me in the Tour, I would have left that day."
Horner's goal for this year and for every season is to race the top events Europe has to offer, and being left out of the Tour team so that Astana could please its sponsors with a Kazakh rider was a big blow.
"I go to Europe so I can race - if it would have been Garmin or if I could have talked to Cadel [Evans] and gotten on Lotto, I would have left that day. There's no doubt about it."
At the end of the season, Horner was approached by Alexander Vinokourov about staying with Astana, but Horner said it would have had to have been a "really good offer" to get him to stay with the team. After a season of troubles getting a steady paycheck, RadioShack was a sure bet.
"I really like Vino, he's a nice guy. He runs the team well - he's really easy to get along with. But if they called and gave me an offer, if it was even remotely close, you know I'd stay with Johan - there's no other team I'd go to for an even offer. It'd have to be better pay - but with Astana it'd have to be in another ballpark entirely."
For the next two years, Horner will enjoy the "more relaxed" atmosphere of the US-based team, and maintain his schedule of spending the majority of his time at home, jetting to Europe only when he needs to race.
"Johan has given me the ability to come back to the States basically whenever I want. Other teams just don't allow that. You live in Europe and come back for 3 weeks. I live in the States and fly to Europe to race. I'll keep doing it as long as I get paid and it's fun."
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