RadioShack update: Knee pain derails Horner, boss denies sponsor woes

Team boss Flavio Becca classifies report of main sponsor RadioShack's imminent departure as "pure speculation"

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GIRONA, Spain (VN) — RadioShack-Leopard was hit with a double-whammy this week as Chris Horner was forced out of the Volta a Catalunya with knee pain and rumors hit the press that title sponsor RadioShack was out at the end of the season.

Team boss Flavio Becca called that report in Tuesday’s L’Equipe as “pure speculation,” but admitted the team’s future is anything but certain.

“It’s pure speculation. We still do not know if RadioShack will continue its sponsorship,” Becca told the Luxembourg daily Wort. “We are in constant conversations with our sponsors. The team has to show something. With good results, we can give our sponsors to join us. No one at RadioShack has notified me of their intentions.”

So far, RadioShack has only scored two victories during the 2013 season. Rookie Bob Jungels won the GP Nobili in a solo breakaway and Hayden Roulston won the New Zealand time trial title.

The team has been wracked with injuries and continued doubts about Andy Schleck’s ability to return to elite competition.

Becca said reports last week of a drunk Schleck in a Munich hotel were “not true. Andy has assured me that it’s ridiculous. We’ll talk about it later. We hope that the results will come.”

Schleck continues to struggle with his fitness and his ability to finish races, let alone be competitive. With the Ardennes classics just around the corner, the pressure will be on Schleck to post some solid results.

In Spain, American veteran Horner pulled out of the week-long Catalunya tour Tuesday, complaining of intense knee pain. He is scheduled to go to a Swiss hospital this week for consultations.

“Already at Tirreno, he had some knee pain. [Monday] everything went well in the first part of the stage, but in the final, the pain started all over again,” sport director José Azevedo said on the team’s Web site. “[Tuesday] morning, Chris even had trouble walking. Chris will have his knee examined in a hospital in Basel.”

The pain is a setback for Horner, who came gangbusters to finish sixth at a hard-fought Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this month. It’s unclear if he will be ready to compete at a high level for the Vuelta al País Vasco, which he won in 2010.

Azevedo admitted RadioShack blew it in the opening stage Monday when Sky drove the winning breakaway over a late climb that saw only 13 riders stay clear. None of them wore RadioShack colors.

“Thirteen riders made it in the front but no one from our team. No excuses — this is unacceptable,” Azevedo said. “I am really disappointed in my team. Riders with such vast experience cannot let themselves be surprised like that. We came to Catalunya with big ambitions and after one stage, it does not look good.”

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