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Lampre-Merida officials confirmed Thursday that Vuelta a España champion Chris Horner will join the Italian team for 2014.
As VeloNews first reported earlier this month, the 42-year-old Horner ends his long odyssey to secure a new team, and will ride as GC captain for the Giro d’Italia, and will also defend his Vuelta crown.
Lampre officials confirmed the news early Thursday morning in Europe on the squad’s Twitter account: “Yes, now it’s official! @hornerakg is a @Lampre-Merida rider! Welcome on board Chris! (Soon all the official details from our website).”
The Italian sport daily La Gazzetta dello Sport ran a full-page article in today’s edition, reporting that ongoing negotiations were concluded this week. Horner is penned in to debut at the Mallorca Challenge next month in Spain and will carry GC duties at both the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta.
Horner played a patient hand in searching for a new contract for 2014. Horner said he turned down an offer from Trek Factory Racing and later dropped his longtime manager to sign ex-pro Baden Cooke to help expedite the late-hour search.
With many squads filling up their rosters and running out of money, Horner was linked to such minor teams as Christina Watches and Caja Rural, but Horner insisted he would ride for a UCI ProTeam.
The move will also bolster Lampre, which has languished in the grand tours the past few seasons. The departure of Michele Scarponi to Astana created a void the team wanted to fill, and Horner fits the bill perfectly.
Cooke told Australia’s RIDE Cycling Review that Horner’s one-year deal, which had effectively been done before the Santos Tour Down Under, is “very top-heavy with bonuses.”
“They’ve got no expectations from him,” Cooke told RIDE editor Rob Arnold. “They have taken him on as a successful rider who can bring a lot of experience to the team. They’re not demanding that he wins anything. They know that it was only around five months ago that he won the Tour of Spain. He’s one of the strongest guys in the world. But they’re not demanding that he wins races.”
Horner’s arrival also comes as Lampre is revitalizing its lineup under new manager Brent Copeland, who joined the team in October.
Along with the arrival of world champion Rui Costa, who will lead in the Tour de France, Sacha Modolo, who won the final stage in the Tour de San Luís, brings new firepower for the sprints. Diego Ulissi, who won a stage and finished third overall at the Santos Tour Down Under, is also taking a step up this season.