It really makes a big difference if I’m racing against guys my size and my build, versus racing against guys like Gilbert and Sagan. Every time we come around the corner these guys have so much more power than I have that I’m beyond my max. I’m really in the red every time we’re coming out of the corners at Amstel Gold and Liège, versus these bigger guys who are at 90 percent.
Paris-Roubaix is a great race to watch on TV and have a bag of chips in front of me, but I don’t want to have a bike in front of me. I’ll be on the couch for that one.
The team basically wants us to turn [Oprah-Lance] questions over to them, so they asked us to keep all our interviews focused on the new team and the races we’re doing. They’d rather keep everything positive for the new sponsors we’ve got coming in and of course the current ones. At training camp, they basically said, hey, we want to focus on the beginning of the season and keep everything positive. I understand why you’re asking the question, because it’s big news, but in the sport in general all the teams want to focus on keeping their sponsors happy and basically keeping their sponsors in the sport.
I absolutely want to ride the Tour again.
Nibali is kind of close to where the two Sky riders are, but clearly he wasn’t on the same kind of fitness as those two. I read all the same papers and stuff you do, where they talk about, well, Nibali lost only X number of minutes and that was only in the time trial. But maybe the only reason why he lost it in the time trial is that the two Sky guys didn’t have to attack him. If you’re three minutes up on the guy already, you’re not going to attack him on the last climb because you don’t have to. You just sit on him and win the stage. So when I read those kind of comments, I read that as absolutely nothing. If Wiggins were on the same time or 30 seconds behind Nibali, maybe he’d drop him on the next climb, but we never got to see that because he wasn’t behind. It’ll be interesting to see if Nibali can come up that extra level. He’s still a bit behind.
This spring I’ll do Strade-Bianche, Tirreno, Cataulyna, Basque Country, maybe a week off the bike, then four weeks training at home before Cali. Normally I come back after Basque Country and take a week off the bike, a week easy, then three solid weeks for California.
Clearly you saw last year that Froome and Wiggins were riding on very high form. But without Alberto there, it’s difficult to see if they’re on the same level. Andy’s ridden on the same level, too, so if Andy can find his form to come back, you’re going to see him battling again.
There’s a good climb not too far from my house in San Diego. It’s not very long. But it comes at the end of the ride so it’s a good test to see what kind of fitness you got. If you’re at the end of a five-hour ride and you can go up the climb good, then you know you’re pretty fit. If you hit the climb and you don’t feel like going up it good, then you know you need a little more training.
In the Contador era no one has given Alberto a run for his money as Andy did the year Contador tested positive. So it’s going to be interesting to see if we can get a really strong four- or five-way battle going on. We could see a really exciting Tour.
I didn’t do any cyclocross this year because I was just too busy skate skiing, snowmobiling, taking kids to elementary school, middle school, high school. In the past, just when I’d start to get a couple little skills there in the dirt the season would be over. I’d start with a lot of form and little skill, and about midway through the season I’d start to get even with fitness and skills, then I’d have absolutely no skills, and more skills than fitness, but that’s not really saying much.
Man, Corsica is a hard island. I went there to do Critérium International and they are very difficult roads—slow and up and down a lot, but you’re not really climbing. And there could be some wind out there too. It could make for a few interesting days at the start of the Tour de France.
I’ve been training here in San Diego and I’ll be here till the end of the month. Then I fly over to Italy and start off with Tirreno-Adriatico. Maybe I’ll do the race right before, the white sands one, the one where you race on the white dirt. Strade-Bianche. That would be something a little different for me, but I think I’d be all right. Fabian won last year. The finish has a nice little chicane or something. It could open up the legs for Tirreno.
I’d like to go good at Tirreno again. Tirreno and Paris-Nice are the first big WorldTour races of the year. I know you have the Tour Down Under and stuff, but the European season really starts with Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. They kind of set up the whole rest of the season. If you go good there, you’re not stressing so much afterwards.
I like doing Liège-Bastogne-Liège but the one-day races are just too difficult for me. I’ve gone top 10 at Liège and I remember being within a few kilometers to go in the front group with a chance to win it. But it’s really difficult for me—because of my size, everybody’s fresh, everybody’s got legs.
I don’t think I have a TT problem. Last year at Tirreno I tore a tendon behind my knee. I started to have problems with it on the big mountain stage and it only got worse by the last circuit road stage. Nobody noticed it, but we were kind of hiding it a little bit because of course you don’t need to let that out any sooner. But in actuality it wouldn’t have mattered much. It wasn’t like the time trial was going to go any slower than it went. If you’re hurt or not hurt they’re still going to race 100 percent. Had the TT been a normal road stage I don’t think I could have finished the race, but the TT was only eight or nine kilometers. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to not do it. If you do it with one and a half legs, or one leg, you’re still going to go top three.
I don’t see retirement at the end of this year. It seems realistic to do three or four more years.
California is a big goal again this year, and that’s why I want to start the season really strong. It’s hard to predict going into Tirreno whether you’re going really good, but I’m going to try. The problem is, it’s the first race of the season so it’s difficult to judge it. Certainly I’m not trying to be fit three weeks before Tirreno starts, because it’s just too soon. Can I arrive at Tirreno 100 percent? That’d be great, but if I’m a little bit under, that just means for the races afterwards I arrive 100 percent. So either the form comes at Tirreno or Catalunya or the Basque Country. But I plan to ride at Tirreno really good, so hopefully it works out.
I don’t even know if there are any pros in San Diego besides myself. I got a roommate here from team Jelly Belly, Sean Mazich, who stays at my place all the time. So I train with him.
Worlds is late in the season, but from everything I understand it’s a very good course. Normally we’ve talked about the one-day races being difficult on me, but given the steepness of the climb, it’s supposed to be really good and could fit my style of riding very nicely. And the difference with worlds is you just never have big accelerations. It’s not like at Amstel Gold where you’re coming out of 50, 70 corners at 100 percent. Worlds is never like that. It’s usually a circuit and it’s really fast and flows nice. The climb should be steep enough to be ideal for me and hurt the bigger guys, but there aren’t the stop-and-go accelerations.
Fans need to understand that when you come to a stage race the back-to-back racing really takes its toll and takes the bigger guys out of the picture. When you got a rider like Philippe Gilbert, who’s really strong in these one-day, shorter-climb stages, you take him into a grand tour and after two or three big mountain stages, that’s it, he’s lost the power.
I don’t download any of my power files or anything myself. My wife, Megan, takes care of all the computer work.
Boy, it’s going to be hard for Sky to pull off the Giro-Tour double. It’s possible to do both, but it’s not like they have 18 riders who are all that strong at the grand tour level. Certainly the nine at the Tour were really strong, but I don’t think they’ve got another nine in reserve. It’ll be interesting to see if they can ride at the Giro with Wiggins, but he’ll probably have eight different guys than he did at the Tour the year before.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but you’re already bringing 100 percent motivation to the Tour de France, so if you want to ride the Tour and you need any more motivation, I don’t think it’s going to come just because it’s the 100th edition. It might be easier to remember if you won a stage and afterward you tell everyone you won a stage in the 100th edition. But if you need extra motivation, you should probably retire or find an alternate job.
Read a Q&A with Chris Horner about the Tour of California in the May issue of peloton magazine.
You can follow Daniel at twitter.com/cyclingreporter