Chris Horner is making a later-than-usual start to the 2011 season, but plans to come out guns-a-blazin’ with a season debut next week at the Volta a Catalunya (March 21-27) in Spain.
The RadioShack rider has been holing up in California, holding off racing in Europe too soon because he plans a full and rich racing calendar that will run all the way through the spring classics, the Tour de France and the Quiznos Challenge in Colorado in August.
“I’m out training in San Diego for last few weeks. Catalunya is my first race of the year because I have a big program of races coming all the way through Colorado. The form is good though so I shouldn’t need much racing to be with the front guys in Spain,” Horner wrote VeloNews in an e-mail Sunday. “Tonight I leave for Bend, Oregon, to see the kids for a few days and straight to Spain.”
At 39, Horner is coming off his most successful season ever, capped by a time trial stage victory and the overall crown at the prestigious Vuelta al País Vasco in April and 10th overall at the 2010 Tour de France for the top American result. He also swept to top-10s at all three Ardennes classics (10th Amstel, 7th Flèche, 8th Liège) as well as notched second at the Giro di Sardegna and fourth at the Tour of California.
A pro since 1995, Horner shows no signs of slowing down and will be lining up for his eighth season since his European “comeback” in 2004 with Saunier Duval.
This year’s calendar looks similar to 2010. After Catalunya, Horner will return to the Basque Country to defend his title and try to win another “txapela,” the distinctive Basque hat awarded to the winners. He will barnstorm the Ardennes once again before returning to the Tour of California, where RadioShack will line up with a deep squad looking to win it all.
Then it’s back to Europe for either the Dauphiné or Tour de Suisse before another run at the Tour de France. With Lance Armstrong retired again, Horner could have free rein to give a go in the GC with a RadioShack team that will be deep with talent, but without a singular leader.
91st Volta a Catalunya
- March 21, Stage 1: Lloret de Mar-Lloret de Mar, 166.9km
- March 22, Stage 2: Santa Coloma de Farners to Banyoles, 169.3km
- March 23, Stage 3: La Vall d’en Bas to Andorra (Vallnord), 189.4km
- March 24, Stage 4: La Seu d’Urgell to El Vendrell, 195km
- March 25, Stage 5: El Vendrell to Tarragona, 205.8km
- March 26, Stage 6: Tarragona to Mollet del Vallès, 184.5km
- March 27, Stage 7: Parets del Vallès to Barcelona, 124.5km