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by Shane Stokes
November 7, 2014
Chris Horner’s agent Baden Cooke said this week that the rider could end up on a US-based team if a European squad they are in discussions with doesn’t agree a deal, but it appears that UnitedHealthcare is not a possible destination.
The American setup was one of only two Pro Continental squads from that country this year, competing in the US, Europe and elsewhere as part of its programme. The all-diabetic Novo Nordisk was the other.
Aside from BMC Racing Team and Garmin-Sharp, both of whom are WorldTour and thought not to have any plans involving Horner, the remainder of the teams are Continental level.
CyclingTips contacted UnitedHealthcare to determine if it was one of the possible teams Cooke referred to. It said that it was not.
“We are not in communication with Horner about joining the team,” press officer Bryson Ross said. “We’ve completed our 2015 men’s roster and will be announcing it in the coming days.
“Chris is a great bike racer and I wish him all the best,” he added.
CyclingTips also contacted Optum Pro Cycling vis-à-vis the rider. Performance director Jonas Carney responded and gave the team’s position.
“I have known Chris for 20 years,” he said. “He is a nice guy and a very accomplished cyclist who would instantly put any US team in GC contention at events like California, Colorado, and Utah.
“I am sure that plenty of US teams would love to have him if they could come up with the money. We are not one of those teams and we have zero interest.”
The team earlier signed Phil Gaimon, who raced with Garmin-Sharp this year.
It is not known which European-based Pro Continental team the rider has been speaking to. Brian Smith, general manager of MTN Qhubeka, told CyclingTips Thursday that his squad doesn’t have a place for the 2013 Vuelta winner.
“The thing is, I want to develop the African talent in the climbs and the stage races,” Smith said. “I think that is our future, these young guys. We have brought in the Classics guys because the guys we have got like Kudus and Meintjes aren’t down for the Classics.”
He said that the team had a clear strategy involved for 2015, and that Horner would not slot into how the team has been structured.
“The three main areas we are going to concentrate on is the Classics with the guy that I’ve brought in, and two Grand Tours with the Tour and the Vuelta,” he said.
“To bring someone like Horner on, where would he fit into the team? They [the riders] wouldn’t go into the stage race looking at the overall classification. We are looking at riders who want to try to win a stage, or like Serge Pauwels, to help the climber guys, to be with them and say ‘go now,’ that sort of thing.
“That is our philosophy anyway. I just don’t think Chris would fit into that strategy.”
Horner’s previous team, Lampre-Merida, said on Tuesday that it wouldn’t renew with the American rider.