What do Matthew Busche, Reid Mumford, Kiel Reijnen and Kristin McGrath have in common? They all went on to a professional team after winning the Best Amateur competition at the Nature Valley Grand Prix.
Australian Chris Winn (Team Rio Grande) wants to add his name to the list.
“Certainly having that Best Amateur Classification, for someone looking for a contract, looking to take the next step for next year, it’s certainly a big prize to stand out in front of the other teams and directors.” said the 26-year old.
Coming into the final stage, the tough Stillwater Criterium, Winn was 19 seconds down from green jersey Paul Martin (Panther p/b CompetitiveCyclist).
“It all came down to the last two laps of Stillwater and that’s was kind of the way I thought it would play out. For me, it was a matter of just staying quiet and not losing to much time in the time trial, the first stage and then waiting to see how things would play out with the Menomie Road Race and that stayed together with a bunch sprint so there was no time lost there.” he explained.
For Stillwater, “the plan was to stay up the front as much as I could, follow any moves, any attacks. Certainly Rory was the guy to watch and with two laps he started to light things up and I was happy to follow and stay at the front as much as I could.”
He did exactly that, following all the attacks to finish 4th on the stage, and 12th on GC at 1:14 down from the overall winner Rory Sutherland (UnitedHealthcare p/b Maxxis). And it gave him the coveted final Nature Valley Best Amateur jersey.
“It meant a lot because I pretty much set my main goal for this season to get this jersey for this year, a long preparation but it was awesome, it all worked out in the end.”
How serious was he in his quest? Well, taped to his bike stem during the race was a picture of the green jersey.
“During that week I came across a little flyer of the race and had a little cut out of the jersey and I figured I’d stick on the stem, a little extra motivation there.” he laughed. To get ready and cut down on travel fatigue, Winn flew straight to Minneapolis from Portland Oregon after the Mt Hood Cycling Classic. That gave him an extra week on site to also check out the stages again.
Getting the Best Amateur jersey was “absolutely” the biggest win of his short road career. “Definitely getting a jersey and finishing strongly in that race is the best result so far, it’s a great feeling.” Winn has only been racing on the road for three years.
From Mountain Biker to Roadie. After finishing college in Australia, Winn made his way to the United States for the first time in 2007.
“Knowing I wanted to chase cycling and pursue that avenue, I wanted to get something behind me so I got my college degree and put it in my back pocket and came over here with my brother actually.” The pair spent six weeks in an RV chasing mountain bike races.
He came back in 2008 and switched to the road full time after having “a little bit of trouble finding some team support on mountain bike.”
“I spent that first season full time on the road. It’s grown since to the point where I’m living and working here in the US and enjoying the adventure.” said Winn who now resides in Colorado.
After finishing 24th overall and 5th in the Best Amateur competition in 2009 as part of the Nature Valley Pro Ride, the 26-year old set his sights on winning the green jersey as one of his major goals this year.
Winn told his teammates and directeurs of his new team, Rio Grande. “At the start of the year, we all sat down and laid out our plans for the year and what our goals were. I said straight up to the directors and the rest of the team, ‘hey this is my goal, and I’ve been preparing solely for it and I think I can make it happen’.”
He received full support from the team. “They were happy to ride for me and support me for those five days and they did a fantastic job, they kept me protected, looked after that.” Winn said. “I was able to do it and it worked out perfectly.”
Another aspect was improving his time trialing. “Time trialing and being on the time trial bike, is not something that was a strong suit. I spent a lot of time of my time trial bike just to prepare for that stage, knowing that if I could keep the time losses fairly small there I could still make some gains on Stillwater and Menomie.”
Later on however, for the first time in the race, the organizers enforced UCI rule 1M1(h) where riders are restricted to mass-start bicycles: no aero clip-n bars, no disk wheels, no aero helmets. “I think it didn’t matter in the end, basically preparing for that first stage, and knowing that I had good legs in the end, it still turned out okay.”
Future. “Certainly I’m looking to sign a contract next year and find a professional team. That’s always been the dream, the goal, to try to climb the ladder and do the very best that I can.”
His strengths are hillier races, both stage and one-day. “ The hillier stuff is where I tend to do a little bit better, being a lighter guy and coming from a mountain bike background, more so than the big criteriums. I think last season, I tried to chase too many big races, I was heading to races for the sake of trying to get to a lot NRCs but ones that not necessarily that suited my strengths. Whereas this year, a new team and the guys laid out the schedule that were all the major climbing stage races, it’s been great, it’s been perfect.”
The ideal situation for Winn to be in three years would be to be racing professionally over in Europe. “I’m here right now but the sky is the limit. If I can progress next year to a professional team next year, and use that as a stepping stone to get over to Europe that would be fantastic.”
Races he would love to do include the Tour de France and more. “There are two hundred guys in the world that get to do that every year, and it’s just an amazing feat that they get to finish. That would be fantastic. And then hillier one-day races, the big classics, Flanders, Roubaix, the solid one-day races with some decent hills in there could be right up my alley.”
“Yeah why not.” replied Winn when asked if he thought he would make it. “You don’t want to put any limits on yourself otherwise you’ve already lost it.”
He continues to keep his eyes on the goal. Winn’s next race is the Larry H Miller Tour of Utah.