With the Tour de France just under three weeks away, teams are announcing their selections to the biggest race on the planet. RadioShack-Nissan published their long-team for the Tour de France and there was a surprise.
Regardless of the public war of words team manager Johan Bruyneel had with Andy and Frank Schleck there was really no doubt that the team, owned by a Luxemburg real estate mogul, wasn’t going to include those two for the Tour. Others such as Fabian Cancellara were a lock. But to a lot of people’s surprise Chris Horner was not listed as a potential member of the Tour squad.
On Facebook Bruyneel defended his decision to not include Horner by stating that the 40 year old’s back was not healed. However, in an interview with Neal Rogers of Velonews, Horner states the opposite.
“My back is fine,” Horner said. “There is no problem with my back. It was tight after California. It spasms up from time-to-time. I needed five days to rest it, so I took a week off the bike. I could have shown up to Suisse but I wouldn’t have had form.”
As a reminder, Horner is ranked 25th on the UCI WorldTour and is the highest placed RadioShack rider. Let’s also remember that this is a “long team” list – this group will be culled further as the Tour approaches.
An even more of a head scratcher is Horner told Rogers that he hasn’t had any communication with the team since the Amgen Tour of California. How do you not have any communication with one of your marquee riders?
So why did Bruyneel flick Horner? So far we only have his statement referring to Horner’s back injury. I wonder if Horner and Bruyneel might have bumped heads as Chris will let people know his thoughts – whether they want them or not. Also, Horner didn’t follow the team script. He was supposed to race the Tour de Suisse, didn’t and as a result, “No Tour for you!”
Also, Bruyneel obviously had some pressure from team owner Flavio Becca to include the Brothers Schleck. What surprised me is the lack of influence RadioShack or Trek has on the team.
Americans love to root for Americans. An American title sponsored team that doesn’t include an American in the world’s biggest bike race is a marketing mistake. I realize that marketing cannot decide a team selection, but Horner isn’t a mercy pick – he’s a rider that would be a supporting rider to Andy Schleck as he loses the Tour. And not to harp on this point too much: Horner wasn’t even on the long list!
The root of this squad’s composition isn’t focused on overall victory. RadioShack-Nissan will not win the Tour de France. At this point I’d be surprised if they get on the final podium. Bruyneel went to plan “B” – try to win stages. Cancellara is a favorite for the time trials in this year’s edition. Linus Gerdemann could snag a stage (?). Horner is a great support rider in the mountains, something the team doesn’t need as the Schlecks won’t win regardless.
RadioShack-Nissan has had a poor year even by their standards. The public drama that has unfolded must be ten-fold privately inside the team bus.
I’d be surprised if Horner is riding for RadioShack-Nissan next year. With a pick like Tony Gallopin it is obvious that Bruyneel has favorites and perhaps Horner’s “tell it like it is” approach rubbed the Belgian the wrong way. As I Tweeted earlier, you can expect Horner’s agent to start beating the bushes for a new team.
And since we’re entertaining possible transfers: how about Horner joining Levi Leipheimer at Omega Pharma-Quick Step? He would an excellent man for the mountains either supporting Leipheimer or visa-versa. Just throwing it out there…