Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Velo magazine, the annual awards issue.
Tejay, Tom … Tsvetkov?
While Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) comfortably defended his title at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge, and Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) put in a valiant effort to come second in his beloved home race, Sergey Tsvetkov, of the comparatively minuscule Jelly Belly-Maxxis team, took the third step on the podium, an impressive result against a truly world-class crop of riders and teams.
It was all in a day’s riding for the soft-spoken Moldovan who races with Romanian citizenship.
“I try to race everyday like it’s another day; I don’t think about the GC and that’s probably how I get to be third now,” he told VeloNews in August.
Though his Pro Challenge performance had the uninitiated asking, “Who is this guy with the jelly beans on his kit?” others, including his two WorldTour companions on the podium, weren’t at all surprised to see Tsvetkov standing beside them in downtown Denver.
“I’m not actually surprised. He’s put in some really good rides; he’s two-time national time trial champion,” van Garderen said. “I was just thinking it was a matter of time before he had a breakthrough ride.”
Tsvetkov had an impressive rise through the U.S. domestic scene after moving over from the Tusnad cycling team in Romania. He won the time trial at the Tour of the Gila and finished 12th during the Folsom time trial at the Tour of California.
Tsvetkov crashed hard during stage 1 of the Tour de Beauce in June, but persevered to finish third overall in the Canadian race.
Tsvetkov won the overall at the Cascade Cycling Classic this July for a second straight year, after taking stage wins in the time trial and criterium. He nabbed three top-10 finishes at the Tour of Utah in preparation for the more gradual climbs of Colorado that he prefers. But his performance at the Pro Challenge, where he finished third on the climbing stage 3 to Monarch Mountain (20 seconds down on stage winner van Garderen), third in the sprint the next day on the circuit race through Colorado Springs, and third in the stage 6 Vail time trial (losing 1:08 to stage winner van Garderen), was a display of his comprehensive skillset.
“If you ask any of the Continental managers who have seen him race over the past four years, this is not a project that happened overnight,” said Danny van Haute, director of the Jelly Belly team. “He’s been in the States the past four years — two years with Exergy and two years with us — and we’ve seen his progress every year: 10 percent better, 20 percent better. And now it’s at that point that he needs to graduate.”
In early October, graduation came. Tsvetkov signed with the Pro Continental squad Androni-Venezuela. The move is something that Tsvetkov has prepared for.