The field exploded at the bottom of Mt Nebo in the second stage at the Tour of Utah and who’s who of climbers were off the front, in the hunt for a stage win and the possibility of moving up in the GC. The select group included yellow jersey Francisco Mancebo and Rock Racing teammate Oscar Sevilla, Darren Lill (Team Type 1), 2008 overall winner Jeff Louder (BMC), Burke Swindlehurst (BISSELL), the OUCH-Maxxis duo of Chris Baldwin and Pat McCarty, Anthony Colby (Colavita/Sutter Home), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream), winner of the Gila Monster stage Phil Zajicek (Fly V Australia) and Matthew Busche (Kelly Benefit) …er wait Matthew who?
Riding in the Kelly Benefit team car that day, my first question to General Manager Ken Mills, was ‘who is that’? And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one asking that question.
“A lot of these guys don’t know who you are.” Mills repeated to his rider during the stage.
“I don’t know how anybody else was feeling, as far as the other leaders, if they were surprised to see me, no one really says anything explicitly but I’m sure a few people were wondering who I was, being the new guy and what not, and that was to my advantage because I wasn’t required to do anything really, I could kind of sit and watch. ” said Busche.
Matthew Busche – pronounced Boo-shay – is a new addition to the Kelly Benefit Strategies squad and comes from the ISCorp amateur team in Wisconsin. In his first official race with the team, his role was in support of the two GC men, Dan Bowman and Andy Bajadali.
“Baj and Bowman were our GC hopes but unfortunately Baj got sick and isn’t feeling so well. I just had good legs when we hit Mt Nebo, I was given free reign and yeah was able to put myself in good position. ”
Good position indeed. The tough 30 km climb to the top of Nebo starts off steep but Busche didn’t panic and found his own pace to stick with the group.
“I was pretty tired at the start or felt under pressure but I found a good rhythm and it was just about staying focused and staying relaxed and being confident in my fitness to be able to hang with those guys.” explained Busche.
Lill put in a major attack soon after the split and soloed away from the group which brought Rock Racing to the front to lead the chase. Busche stuck with the group while the gap went up to the rest of the field. Riders started to drop off, Swindlehurst, Zabriskie, Zajicek, Baldwin all slipped off the back and Mills coached his rider. “Okay Matt you’re going to have to dig really deep to stay with these guys.”
Busche kept pace, survived all late attacks and finished fifth on the stage to move up to sixth overall that day.
While the rest of us were surprised by Busche’s ride, he was pretty matter of fact about it.
“I didn’t come here with big expectations and I know that generally when the race gets hard and goes uphill, generally I do alright.” said Busche. “So I guess I can’t say that I was expecting to do this but I can’t say that I’m supremely surprised, not to sound arrogant or anything but I think the fact that the race is just hard and will make selections plays to my advantage.”
Busche crashed on the descent off Sundance in the Queen Stage, the tough road from Park City to Snowbird with three categorized climbs.
“I had to chase back on which I think burnt a little bit of energy which I could of used at the end but no excuses really, when it came to Snowbird, I just didn’t have the go that those guys had, lost a little bit of time and a couple of GC spots which is a little disappointing,” said Busche who finished tenth on the stage, “but I didn’t come here with big expectations and the fact that I’m top 10 on GC is still pretty exciting.”
In the end, Busche finished seventh in the overall classification.
So how does a rider from relatively flat Wisconsin become a climber?
“I have no idea where it comes from.” laughed Busche. “I have always been found of climbing for some reason, even when I was a runner. Hills were always to my advantage, I don’t really know what the deal is with it, but there is something a course, running or cycling, that will help make a selection itself, versus just a flat got-to-go-really-hard, plays to my advantage and I seem to perform better there.”
Signing Busche was two years in the making for Mills and Performance Director Jonas Carney.
“I think they had been watching me for the last couple of years.” said Busche who started talking with the team last winter and again at the beginning of the season.
“It’s been a process of making sure that things are a good fit.” said Busche. “Jonas and Ken look for the good personality fit and someone who will work well with the team, they were looking for that and hopefully we found that, and the team is great and all the guys are great.”
Next up for the 24-year old is the US Pro Road Race this weekend, but he will no longer be able to use his anonymity to surprise the field.
“Yeah, unfortunately.” laughed Busche.