With his solo ride on the Sierra Rd. ascent, Chris Horner, of then Team RadioShack, won stage 4 of the 2011 Amgen Tour of California. His win by over a minute helped him take the leader’s jersey. Horner held the yellow jersey all the way to Stage 8 Thousand Oaks finish. He returns to the 2012 edition of the Amgen Tour of California as the defending champion.
“It’s always great to come back as the defending champion,” Horner, now with RadioShack-Nissan-Trek told podiuminsight.
“First off you have already won the race which means you’re the favorite. Of course when you go into the next year you get the exposure but you also get the belief in your team mates. You don’t have to come into the race fighting for your position. I knew that the Sierra stage last year would decide who would be he leader of the Radioshack team that day. Until I actually went solo on the Sierra climb I was still the second rider on the team. You have a rider like Levi (Leipheimer),who has won the race three times, for me, I understood what the Sierra stage meant. I knew six weeks before, I knew when I was riding in the Tour of the Basque Country (Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco), that the Sierra stage winner would win the Amgen Tour of California. It was really cut and dry last year. This year is a bit different as there is no clear cut stage. There is no stage where if you are good on that day you will be the Tour winner. Last year I knew weeks before I got here what to do. It made it really easy to stay focus on the Sierra stage and to stay motivated. Certainly when the day started I knew I had excellent legs in the first few pedal strokes. It was matter of how good was the climb going to go. Would I go solo or am I going to be working for Levi all the way to the top. It was a big day….and emotional day for me. My wife and I did a lot of sacrifices all geared towards that day. That day was going to sent me up for the Tour of California.”
“Everything had gone that one level better recovery, one level better diet, and one level better training,” continued Horner. “Everything was set up for that day. My wife really helped out at home making sure everything was in place. I had a mechanic come over and take care of my bike so that I did not have to worry about the bike. I had solid five weeks preparing for the Tour of California last year. That day was incredibly emotional. It was absolutely fabulous. When I look at this year’s race I see that special day being the Baldy stage. The problem is I see a lot of things that could go wrong before Baldy.”
“Sierra stage win really did set me up for the rest of last year. It set me up racing in the Tour de France. It set me up training for Tirreno- Adriatico this year.”
Horner finished second in the Tirreno-Adriatico general classification. In the final time trial stage, Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished ahead of Horner and won the leader’s jersey. This year’s Amgen Tour of California will be a rematch between Horner and Nibali.
When asked about prepping for this year’s Tour de France, Horner responded, “I do believe to come into the Amgen Tour of California 100% on form and then try to be 100% on form for the Tour de France is hard. That’s the difficult question. Can you come into the Tour of California at 100% and then carry that all the was to the Tour? The window between when this race finishes and the Tour begins is really close. It gets difficult to balance out everything. Last year I rode the Tour at 95%. I was missing that little something. Hopefully I will try to tweek some things here and there. I hope to start the Tour even better than I did last year.”
The Amgen Tour of California remains a special race for Horner. “It made a major part of my career, especially late in my career. It was a huge impact. The Tour of California win was definitely a highlight of my career.”