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Responding to a report Tuesday by La Gazzetta dello Sport stating that Chris Horner would not be given a contract extension for 2015, the rider’s Lampre-Merida team has denied that any decision has been made at this point in time.
“I think the info that La Gazzetta released was not correct,” team spokesman Andrea Appiani told CyclingTips Wednesday. “Under UCI rules, before the end of the month the team has to record ten contracts of riders. So in this moment we are okay with these ten contracts.
“Meanwhile we are waiting to define the the team budget. We are in no hurry. As soon as the budget will be defined, we will be able to evaluate the position of Chris Horner.”
Speaking prior to that clarification from the team, Horner’s agent Baden Cooke sounded mystified about the Gazzetta story. “That’s news to me,” Cooke told CyclingTips, when asked about the report. “I haven’t heard that.”
Horner won the Vuelta a España in 2013 and secured a contract with Lampre-Merida as a result of that. He has struggled with illness at times during the year, but the American said that he was in shape to defend that title in August. He was hoping to use that race to once again prove his worth and secure a contract for next season.
However he was prevented from starting the race as his cortisol levels were deemed too low, and thus in contravention with the regulations of the MPCC anti-doping organisation. His Lampre-Merida team is a member.
When that news was announced on August 22nd, his team doctor Carlo Guardascione said that the rider had been prescribed a treatment of cortisone by two specialists in relation to the bronchitis he had been suffering during the Tour de France and Tour of Utah. He said that a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) had been given and that the usage of the substance was permitted.
However, as per MPCC rules about cortisol levels – which can be driven downwards by cortisone – the rider was not able to start the race.
Horner will turn 43 next month and, after the retirement of Jens Voigt, is the oldest rider in the WorldTour. He has said he wants to continue racing and, according to Cooke, they are continuing to search for a slot for him for 2015.
“He is still looking. Talks are still ongoing with a couple of teams.”
According to Appiani, Lampre-Merida is one of those. “Baden Cooke spoke recently to Brent Copeland, and Brent gave Baden Cooke feedback,” he said.
“The proposition of Chris Horner is on the team manager’s table, and as soon as the position of the budget is clearer, we will be able to confirm about whether we will give a contract to Chris or not.
“At this moment there is not a firm yes or no.”