Horner climbs to victory in stage 5 of Tour of Utah
Chris Horner, 41, made his return to racing this week in the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and reinforced his return to form by taking an exciting uphill finish at the well-known Snowbird ski resort, earning the yellow jersey in the process.
“This is more than I expected. Utah is my first race in 5 months. The knee is 100 percent – it’s recovered. As soon as I knew I would miss the Tour de France, I knew Utah would be my next objective. Honestly I came here a little bit under-trained but with the few days of racing, I was able to get a little more training in and it worked out really good," Horner explained after being celebrated on the podium.
"I expected to be good after Utah, but I am already thinking I’m not so bad. Of course I feel bad, but all riders do at high altitude. In all honestly, Tommy D was a little bit better than me on the climb, but I had an awesome team and I was able to take the win,” Horner continued.
It was a major show of strength from the RadioShack team in Saturday’s 182.7 kilometer / 113.7 mile climbing stage from Snowbasin to Snowbird. After thinning the front group on the category 1 climb of Guardsmans Pass, Horner and friends were ready for the final task at hand. At the bottom of the Hors Categorie climb of Little Cottonwood, Horner was surrounded by teammates Matthew Busche, George Bennett and Tiago Machado with only BMC Racing Team's Yannick Eijssen ahead of the riders left in the small group.
Race leader, 21-year-old Lachlan Morton (Garmin-Sharp), was down to teammate Tom Danielson to aid in the defense of the yellow jersey. The RadioShack riders went to work to distance the young rider and knock him off the top step of the podium. Once Morton cracked, Danielson had no choice but to attack the group in an effort to bridge to Eijssen. George Bennett responded first and was soon replaced by Horner who rode the wheel of Danielson as the finish line drew closer.
“It was team tactics. I had three teammates behind me and we were playing tactics all day. We had Jens jumping, we had Tiago jumping, we had George jumping. I had to do a big effort to get across to Tom when I saw that George was dropped. He was up there alone so I knew I had to go across. After that I had three teammates behind and I didn’t have to pull at all,“ Horner continued.
Team RadioShack Sports Director Kim Andersen added “Maybe the strongest rider today was George Bennett, but Chris has so much more experience. He knew he could ‘relax’ on the wheel of Danielson. If Danielson would not have worked, he would have been in a situation of him against three RadioShack riders. Then Bennett or Busche would have attacked and Danielson would have lost some 20 seconds. With three guys in the top 5 we may be happy with what we achieved. We had a plan this morning and all riders sticked to the plan. How happy can we be?”
Horner and Danielson reeled back Eijssen, who made one last attempt to get away, but the American duo quickly distanced him and battled ‘mano-a-mano’ for the finish line. Horner came around Danielson in the closing meters to take the win and the yellow jersey. Danielson is tied on time for the general classification with Horner and Lucas Euser (Team UnitedHealthCare) is 32 seconds behind in third place.
“Hats off to Garmin-Sharp and Tommy Danielson. They rode a great race,” Horner concluded.
Sunday’s stage 6 will bring the 2013 Tour of Utah to a close. It’s a shorter stage at 125 kilometer / 78 miles and difficult climbs are featured on the route, but no uphill finish in Park City.