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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (VN) — Danny Summerhill is coming out.
Not only is he having his best cyclocross season ever, he unveiled the colors of his new UnitedHealthcare team at the first day of the Derby City Cup, the third stop in the Trek USGP of Cyclocross series.
There have been hints here and there — he’s been spotted warming up at previous races in UHC kit — but Saturday was the first time he donned the full white and blue skinsuit for a race. It was a rather unexpected twist for a rider who has been associated with the Garmin development team (which has gone under different names, Chipotle-First Solar being the latest iteration) since 2007.
“Surprise!” he said just after the race.
“This is official. I could have waited until January 1 when the contract is official but I figured, these guys [UHC] are so awesome — they’ve already done so much for me picking me up after our Garmin development team got folded — they deserve all the credit I can give them, you know? So if I can help do that in the wintertime, off season when we don’t have any road races, then that’s great.”
Slipstream CEO Jonathan Vaughters confirmed that Chipotle had stepped down as title sponsor and said the team was still seeking a replacement.
In 2007, Summerhill rocketed to a silver medal at the world cyclocross championship at Hooglede-Gits. His talent and raw abilities were apparent; he scored the U23 national cyclocross title in 2010, and rode as a stagiaire for UnitedHealthcare at the USA Pro Challenge in August.
In the 2012 cyclocross season, he is coming out every weekend with an aggressive strategy — go early, go hard, and make the race difficult for everyone, including himself.
Summerhill stirred the pot on both days of racing at the previous USGP stop, the Smartwool Cup in Fort Collins, Colorado. After a fourth-place showing on day one, a mechanical forced him from his bike on day two. But he lit up the course and the fans’ enthusiasm when he came charging from behind to catch a chase group just off the podium, then take the four-up sprint for fourth.
At the Boulder Cup, he and Ryan Trebon (Cannondale-Cyclocrossworld.com) waged a dramatic duel that came down to the last 75 meters of the dirt finishing straight. Trebon led into the final 180-degree corner, then slowed the pace considerably before finally jumping from the apex and taking victory by the width of a tire.
Just after Saturday’s Derby City Cup, after another four-up sprint that saw him take the third spot on the podium, Summerhill revealed his secret to success at the press conference.
“The less I give a crap — pardon my language — the better I do!” Summerhill said. “I’ve just been caring less and less about training — if I can get a ride in great, if not, no worries — and it’s been great.”
National champion Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) leaned over to “whisper” in his ear: “That’s called talent.” Of course, all who had gathered could hear the words of wisdom from another man who is having his best season yet, as Powers continues to dominate the domestic cyclocross season.
What comes next for Summerhill? If he continues to ride as he has been, he doesn’t want to rule out petitioning for a spot on the U.S. team for the world cyclocross championship, to take place here in Louisville in February.
“But it really comes down to the road team,” he said.
With the talent he’s been showcasing this season, and the speed and craftiness he showed on what will be a similar worlds course, it would be a shame — and another surprise — if one of the best American ’cross racers this season wasn’t able to represent the United States at the first world cyclocross championship on American soil.