Chris Horner’s long, injury-riddled career was further hampered Monday with the announcement the 41-year-old rider will not be able to ride in the pending Amgen Tour of California because of lingering knee pain.
Horner, the 2011 race winner, was scheduled to lead the veteran-loaded RadioShack Leopard-Trek team in the eight-day event beginning Sunday, May 12 in Escondido, California.
“(Chris) Horner still suffers from his knee problem. Pain and lack of condition make it impossible to compete at the highest level,” said a team spokesperson.
Horner, the veteran Tour de France rider, claimed the sixth edition of the Tour of California over former teammate Levi Leipheimer.
“So far the doctors have been optimistic about my knee problem, but as soon as I started training, the pain came back,” said Horner. “The last time that I was on the bike for more than four hours was in Catalunya. There is no way I can race now. All of my condition is gone. After Catalunya I was off the bike for four weeks.”
Horner is scheduled to visit a specialist this week in Scottsdale, Arizona.
“It is possible I have an alignment problem,” said Horner. “We will examine all possibilities. I want to race again. All of the doctors I have visited are optimistic that it will heal again, but it just needs time. The problem is that nobody is able to tell me how much time I need. This is not a collarbone fracture-like injury, where you can say exactly how much time you need to recover. My injury is more difficult. I can ride my bike but after two hours the pain returns.”
“This is such bad news for me,” continued Horner. “As the 2011 winner of this race I want to be there. Moreover, I live in San Diego, just 20 minutes from the team hotel. I will visit the team, but it will be with mixed feelings. It all hurts as I was so good in the early season. In Tirreno-Adriatico I was as good as the best riders in the world.”
Former U.S. national road champion Matthew Busche will replace Horner in the team’s lineup.
Said Team Director Alain Gallopin: “Matthew was impressive the last two years in this race, and he is ready again. We will try to get him on the podium.”
Busche finished 14th overall in the 2012 Tour of California.
“My best guess is the Tour de Suisse,” said Horner about a possible return to competition. “And then hopefully the Tour de France. The season is not over yet, there are still good races left, but this situation is heartbreaking for me.”
The RadioShack Leopard-Trek roster for the Tour of California:
Matthew Busche, Laurent Didier, Markel Irizar, Bob Jungels, Ben King, Andy Schleck, Jens Voigt, Haimar Zubeldia.