Cooke: Chris Horner hasn’t decided to retire, he is aiming to race next year

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Chris Horner’s agent Baden Cooke has dismissed as completely inaccurate reports in Friday’s l’Equipe concerning the rider’s future, saying that there is no truth to the suggestions that time has run out for his career.

“We are still talking to Airgas-Safeway,” the Australian told CyclingTips. “Basically I haven’t spoken to anyone regarding what he was doing next year. It has all just been made up.”

According to L’Equipe on Friday, Cooke has been unable to find a new deal and has advised Horner to retire.

He insists that this is not the case and that the American will be racing next year if talks go to plan.

Horner is now 44 years of age. He won the Vuelta a España in 2013, raced with Lampre-Merida in 2014 and then moved to Airgas-Safeway prior to the start of this season.

Cooke said that he is in talks with that team alone.

“We have been speaking for about a month now, longer than that even,” he explained. “It is progressing along, but he hasn’t signed yet.”

The team put a lot of its budget into covering his salary for 2015, but expectations that it would get an invite into big US events such as the Tour of California and the US Pro Cycling Challenge due to Horner’s presence proved inaccurate.

That was a source of great frustration to both he and the team. Cooke said that it is taking steps to ensure that doesn’t happen again in 2016.

“They are going to have a stronger team next year, a much stronger one,” he said. “I definitely think they are going to expand the team and to race outside the States as well. I am not sure about Europe, but I think they might do some stuff in Asia.”

Horner has had several setbacks since winning the Vuelta. He was unable the high-paying contract he sought for 2014 and eventually signed a smaller deal with Lampre-Merida. He was hit by a car while training in April 2014, suffering a concussion, and was below par for several months.

He was then blocked from defending his Vuelta title when the MPCC anti-doping movement, of which his Lampre-Merida team was a member, declared he couldn’t start the race due to abnormal cortisol levels.

The rider said that those levels were caused by the treatment he had undergone for bronchitis, but he nevertheless missed the race.

After another long period searching for a contract, he signed for Airgas-Safeway but then missed out on key targets when the team wasn’t invited to several of the US’s top events.

Cooke said that he is impressed by how Horner keeps pushing on.

“He has had probably had more knocks in the last couple of years than most guys have in their whole career,” he stated. “He just keeps standing up. His mental strength is second to none and his motivation is unbelievable.

“I don’t think there is every going to be an issue about motivation. If the body keeps on working, then the motivation will be there.”

Providing Horner gets an extension with his current team, how long could he keep racing?

“I think it is all about his body and how it goes,” said Cooke, not ruling out the 2017 season.

2016 needs to be sorted out first, though. The near future will determine if those talks are successful and if his career will enter its 20th season or come to an end.

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