After three years of racing with the development arm of the organization, 22-year old Danny Summerhill got the call up to become a stagiaire with Garmin-Cervélo at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.
“It’s anyone dream come true to be able to be invited to ride with some of the greatest guys in the world and obviously the Tour de France. Being able to learn from them and all that good stuff is just a dream come true.”
The seven-time national champion in both road and cyclocross as a Junior and U23 admits to being nervous before the start of ‘America’s Toughest Stage Race’.
“Obviously I’ve been given such a major opportunity here, I think what made me the most nervous is not wanting to blow it up, screw it up on the first day. Thankfully once the race got underway and I didn’t get dropped, a lot of the nerves really went out.” Summerhill said after the Salt Lake City stage.
“All the big boys have really been helping me enjoy myself here. I’m with some of the best American cyclists in the world.”
Summerhill’s job was to help his teammates Christian Vande Velde, David Zabriskie, Tom Danielson and Peter Stetina anyway he could, a job that put him on the front on stage 4, the tough circuit race in downtown Salt Lake City.
A large break split from the field on the first of 11 laps with Summerhill at the front, pushing the pace along with a few other riders and riding aggressively. The goal was to get a stage win for Vande Velde or Stetina who were also in the 26-rider move.
“Pete and Christian are obviously real pros, the first goal was to try and get either one of them the victory, other than that if we were get to get any bonus seconds, or bonus minutes, that would have been great. I think the first and foremost goal that we set out was to get Christian to win.” Summehill, who goes by the nickname of Summy, explained.
The 12-km course which included a steep kicker to the Capitol before hitting the finish line followed by a false flat and a sweeping descent back to the bottom of the hill.
“The first part of the climb was by far the hardest part of the race and then, once you got up to the finish line area it really started, it was pretty gradual all the way to the feedzone. I think the second hardest part of the race was actually the false flat up on the ridge, essentially the highest part of the course and just getting to that point because it was windy and open, really big road, that was probably the second most difficult part of today, just making it through there every time.” Summerhill said.
The fast descent did offer a bit of recovery. “It was way more of just watching everyone else because we did have such a big group breakaway that half the guys weren’t really in the mood to work and every once in a while would try to attack and make the group smaller. We were all able to recover on that nice gradual downhill but it would still pretty stressful watching over your shoulders and trying to make sure that no one was going to try and jump around you.”
While tough circuit and the heat, hovering around the 100° F mark was taking its toll on the peloton, Summerhill continued to work for his teammates, putting pressure on the team of the yellow jersey Radioshack.
“I think that once we realized that we were in a breakaway, they hadn’t brought it back by lap three or four to go, then it was obviously just going to be a breakaway sprint type to the finish.” Summerhille said. “No one really rode like we were trying to get time on Radioshack, it was more just trying to save the most energy and trying to be the lucky one to the line.”
Mid-way through the stage, the gap had grown to 2:50 which almost put Vande Velde in the virtual lead, a fact that Summerhill did not know.
“Without radios, that was actually pretty difficult to know, that and the fact that we actually saw a timeboard every, maybe once a lap so I didn’t actually know that. Obviously hindsight is 20:20, so I didn’t know that at the time but the goal was still just to get a stage win and set those guys up so they can have the most energy left in their legs.”
Though they didn’t win the stage, the stage moved Vande Velde up to fifth on GC, at 1:18 down on the yellow jersey Levi Leipheimer with one stage to go.
The final time up the hill, a smiling Summerhill pulled a wheelie to the finish line. (Caught by flahute)
For his effort at the front, Summerhill was awarded the Most Aggressive Jersey after the stage.
“Honestly, I would have much rather preferred to get Christian or Pete a stage win but obviously, it’s nice just being the little baby on the team to get something out of it apart of just bottles.” he laughed.
One year ago, Summerhill suffered tremendously in the Park City Criterium. “I was just telling our director Robbie that last year on this day was the toughest day of my career, that crit just about killed me.”
This year he was animating the race.
“I just want to call it growing, hopefully I can just keep on growing and getting better.” he said of his progression. “Obviously I’m pleased to be able to finish today and not think that I’m in a miserable amount of pain like I was last year so it’s nice that I have at least grown and got better or good enough that I’m not dying out there.”
So after hard racing in Utah, does Summerill feel that he belongs with the big boys?
He smiled and replied. “I wouldn’t say that yet but hopefully soon.”
Summerhill will continue his ‘internship’ with the big boys at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge in Colorado next week.