Chris Horner hopes to defend his Tirreno-Adriatico lead tomorrow in the final time trial, just two days after Bradley Wiggins did just that in Paris-Nice.

“Nothing Bradley Wiggins does in the TT encourages me, that’s what he does!” Horner told Cycling Weekly. “I’m certainly very happy I’m not doing the TT against Bradley!”

RadioShack’s American from Bend, Oregon, holds a precarious lead over riders several years younger, Roman Kreuziger (Astana) and Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale). After two of the race’s hardest days, he sits five seconds ahead of Kreuziger and 12 ahead of Nibali.

Horner eliminated rival Peter Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) yesterday prior to Nibali’s solo attack and win. Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) finished 10 minutes back on the mountain-top finish at 1450 metres.

The race faces the Offida circuit, 181 kilometres, today in the Marche region. The stage will suit an escape and should see the overall victory played out in San Benedetto del Tronto. On tap is a 9.3-kilometre time trail, the same parcours where Horner’s team-mate, Fabian Cancellara won last year.

“It will be close,” Horner continued. “Kreuziger and I are very even on the TT bike. I have five seconds on him. The TT can go five seconds either way.”

Horner has experience. He won the Tour of the Basque Country in 2010 and the Tour of California last year. If he wins Tirreno-Adriatico, it would complete a remarkable comeback. The 40-year-old has not raced since crashing last year in the seventh leg of the Tour de France to Châteauroux. He was only able to resume normal training and start his first race, Tirreno-Adriatico, this week.

“I’m sure there were many people that doubted my fitness.”

He said, “I had plenty of time to think about it, do some training, eating some In-N-Out hamburgers…” He had a laugh, but his situation was serious. He suffered a broken nose at the Tour, and still finished the stage, albeit with concussion.

Two weeks after the Tour, Horner was diagnosed with a blood clot on his lung. Doctors had him taking blood thinners until January.

“I’ll take it day by day, but I shoot for year by year at my age!” Horner said with his usual grin, the one seen when he is suffering on the climbs. He also smiles because he is happy to be racing at 40 years old, which is something he did not consider possible when he was just turning pro with Française des Jeux in the late 1990s.

“I am enjoying myself immensely at the moment.”

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Tirreno-Adriatico 2012: Cycling Weekly’s coverage index