Thursday, July 30, 2009

Horner to ride Elk Grove solo

By: Kirsten Robbins

Chris Horner (Astana) is back to race his fourth Tour of Elk Grove, a three-stage race set to begin today in Chicago, Illinois. The National Racing Calendar (NRC) event has attracted the top elite teams in the nation who are eyeing the $125,000 prize purse and the series’ points. According to Horner, it’s going to be tough to win without teammates but he’s will try regardless.

“I’ve been doing it since it started, it always comes after the Tour de France or when there isn’t a lot going on,” Horner said. “I get three days of great racing in and then head back over to Europe. They do a great job here and it has the biggest prize list in all the country.

“If I had the choice between doing a top quality race like this one or another local race, I’d fly to the top quality race every time,” said Horner. “Elk Grove Village mayor Craig Johnson puts this race on and he is so stocked to have the guys in.”

Horner’s team-mate Levi Leipheimer considered flying in to Chicago for the race before his untimely accident during the Tour de France where he broke his wrist. Racing alone means he will have to play his cards close to his chest against some heavy-hitting domestic sprinters and all-rounders over three day event.

“It’s going to be tough because I don’t have a sprinter and I’m certainly not a sprinter,” Horner laughed. “I’m going to try to win the time trial tomorrow. What ever happens after that, I will have to change the plans constantly according to what’s playing out each day.

“I can’t just drive it all day like I normally do,” he added. “That’s impossible at this level. I’ll have to pick the strongest team and go off their best GC guys. If there’s a sprinter in the top three after tomorrow - Then I think that’s who I’ll keep my eye on.”

Horner may be without team-mates but he is not without race support. Significant other and former cyclist Megan Elliot will try her hand at supporting hubby throughout the tour.

“She’s going to be my mechanic and soigneur and the go-to person,” said Horner, who noted that he will not be allowed to have a follow-vehicle during Saturday’s road race. “If this race is what it was like last year, I don’t think it’s possible to get back on if you have a mechanical. It’s flat out fast from the gun without a team car, to get back on? No way!”

Once back over in Europe Horner’s main focus will be on preparing for the Vuelta a Espana with his Astana team. He will not participate in the Tour of Missouri.

“I won’t be doing Missouri,” Horner confirmed. “I wouldn’t mind doing it but, I was having a fantastic Giro when I broke the leg and then I wasn’t selected to the Tour team. The Vuelta is my big Grand Tour goal this year.”

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