Teamless Horner misses Vuelta unveiling

Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:43am EST
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By Alasdair Fotheringham

CADIZ, Spain (Reuters) - Champion Chris Horner, without a team for 2014, missed the unveiling of this year's Tour of Spain route on Saturday and may not defend his title this year.

Horner, the oldest winner of any grand tour after victory in the three-week Spanish race last September aged 41, left the American RadioShack squad at the end of 2013.

Barring a last-minute signing, the Oregon-based rider will not be at the start of the race in the Andalusian town of Jerez de la Frontera on August 23.

"We invited him, and he is totally welcome. We are very proud of our winners and Horner is the current defending champion," Vuelta director Javier Guillen told journalists.

"Maybe he didn't want to come because he has no team, but I really don't know the reason."

Alberto Contador of Spain, double Tour de France winner and a former team mate of the American, looks the favorite for the 3,181.5-km race this year

"See you in Jerez next August 23rd," Contador, who won the Vuelta in 2008 and 2012, told reporters in a televised message from his Canary Islands base.

Eight summit finishes, starting with a 5km ascent to the mountain town La Zubia in eastern Andalusia on stage six, will favor the climbers.   Continued...

Chris Horner of the U.S. celebrates on the podium after retaking the overall race lead in the 181-km 19th stage of the Vuelta, Tour of Spain cycling race from San Vicente de la Barquera to Alto del Naranco, September 13, 2013. REUTERS/Joseba Etxaburu