Chris Horner is the 2013 Vuelta a España champion. Chris Horner is a transcendent climber. He’s 41, and has recently ridden the best he ever has, at least with the pressure on.
And yet Chris Horner doesn’t have a ride for next season. The transfer window is closing as remaining riders are snapped up by teams looking to fill out their rosters for the years beyond. Garmin-Sharp is exhibit A. Horner, though, is still working on his place for next year — seemingly very odd for a grand tour winner.
“I have nothing solid on the table with Trek,” Horner wrote in an e-mail to VeloNews Tuesday morning. He added, again: “Nothing solid.”
Horner has raced for the amalgamation of RadioShack, Trek, and Leopard since 2010, coming over with Johan Bruyneel after two years at Astana. Since then, Horner has notched wins at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country), Amgen Tour of California, and the 2013 Vuelta. He’s finished in the top 10 at Ardennes classics and stage races like the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Volta Ciclista a Catalunya, and Tirreno-Adriatico, all under the RadioShack colors.
Trek leadership confirmed on Tuesday morning that it didn’t have a deal in place with the American. Michael Mayer, the road brand manager for Trek, said the company was “still in negotiations” with Horner.
Horner is now the eldest grand tour winner in history and the first American to win a three-week stage race, at least according to the record books, since Greg LeMond.
Since winning that race, however, Horner’s had a rough go, facing withering skepticism that moved him to release his biological passport data online in hopes of beating back a rising tide of doubt. He also crashed out of the world championship road race in Florence, Italy, over the weekend. The broken ribs sustained in the tumble ended his season, though he wasn’t the only one to suffer in Florence; 70 percent of those who started the race Sunday abandoned.
Trek has signed a bulk of the RadioShack stalwarts, including Fränk and Andy Schleck, Fabian Cancellara, and Jens Voigt, as well as American Matthew Busche, but as of Tuesday afternoon, Horner hung in the balance. With the Euskaltel-Euskadi and Vacansoleil-DCM teams folding at the close of 2013, the openings at the sport’s top level are few at this point, though the winner of the season’s final grand tour should be chief among the available prospects in a crowded transfer market.