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As was the case at this time last year, Chris Horner finds himself in a very uncertain position: unsure whether or not he will have a pro contract come the new season.
Last Autumn the American rider had just won the 2013 Vuelta a España but, despite that victory, his 42 years of age plus rumoured high salary demands combined to give some teams cold feet.
He eventually secured a one year deal with the Lampre-Merida team but, after a season affected by injury and illness, the climber finds himself on another steep uphill and without the prime line yet in sight.
Horner is yet to receive a firm offer for the 2015 season and knows that there is a chance his career could be at an end. His agent Baden Cooke believes there’s still time to secure something, though, and said that two possibilities potentially exist.
“He has nothing sorted at the moment,” Cooke told CyclingTips Wednesday. “We are waiting to hear back from a couple of teams. As you know, it is a pretty tough year to get a job, but we are still hopeful.”
Cooke didn’t name the squads in question but said that one of them was WorldTour level and one not. “Nothing is certain yet. Chris is preparing for the season, his mentality is that he will keep going. He is back in the States and is waiting patiently…that’s really all he can do.”
Horner’s Vuelta a España performance saw him beat Vincenzo Nibali, the Italian who went on to win this year’s Tour de France. The American didn’t get much of a chance to renew their rivalry there; in April he crashed hard while on a training ride, suffering fractured ribs and a punctured lung.
He returned to racing and finished 14th in the Tour of Slovenia, but was hampered by a chest infection in the Tour de France and finished 17th overall.
Second in the Tour of Utah pointed to what could have been a strong Vuelta title defence, but instead he was prevented from starting the race due to high cortisol levels.
Horner said that the issue was caused by a treatment of cortisone recommended by two specialists in relation to the bronchitis he had suffered for several weeks beforehand. While he said that a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) had been given, his Lampre-Merida team is a member of the MPCC anti-doping organisation and had little choice but to comply with rules which decree that riders with suppressed cortisol levels must take a break from racing.
Last month La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Lampre-Merida had decided not to retain his services, but team spokesman Andrea Appiani told CyclingTips this was not the case.
“I think the info that La Gazzetta released was not correct,” he said then. “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.”
Cooke said that he hoped to have a clear answer as regards the rider’s situation by the end of this month.
According to him, the demise of the Cannondale team and the non-progression of the Alonso FACT team project have put an additional strain on the market. As a result several of the riders he represents are in the same uncertain position as Horner.
“There are heaps, actually,” he said. “It is really bad. It is not as bad as last year, but it is pretty bad this year. That’s due to Cannondale stopping and Alonso not going ahead. It is pretty grim. It would have been okay if Alonso had come in, but that didn’t happen.
“If you look at the situation, each team takes on two, maybe three young guys per year. Then if a whole team folds, there are some people who are just going to be left out in the cold.
“Everyone who is signed up is pretty happy at the moment, but those who don’t have a contract have a further wait.”