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Jacob Rathe has gone in one year from Jelly Belly amateur to stage winner in one of the toughest mid-level stage races in Europe. The 20-year-old Chipotle Development rider is set to move again in five months when he joins the top level of the sport with the Garmin-Cervélo ProTeam.
Rathe took a tactical, nine-man sprint Sunday in the final stage of the Volta a Portugal in Sertã after a long breakaway. It was Rathe’s second professional win of the year, after an early season victory at the Rutas de America in Uruguay. With UCI 2.1-level sanctioning, the Tour of Portugal is on par in the federation’s eyes with races like next week’s USA Pro Cycling Challenge and the Tour of Utah.
After his final-stage win Sunday, Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters announced via Twitter that Rathe would make the move to the elite team at the end of the year:
“Here’s some great news! Jacob Rathe wins stage 9 Tour of Portugal! JR was 3rd in u23 Roubaix earlier this yr & comes to the pro team in 2012.”
Rathe is the first neo-pro signing announced for Garmin heading into 2012. American Danny Summerhill is currently riding as a stagiaire trainee with the elite squad in the U.S. and, at 22, could be in line for a promotion. Longtime team member Alex Howes, who was set to join Garmin in 2011 before restructuring his contract last fall, is also likely to make the move to the top-shelf squad at the end of the year.
After his success in Uruguay and subsequent narrow miss in the third stage of the Giro do Interior São Paulo, Rathe won a bronze medal in the U23 road race at the Pan-American Games in May and later that month was third again, at the Paris-Roubaix Espoirs.
In June Rathe finished second in the U23 national championship road race after tagging onto a late acceleration by teammate Rob Squire. The two Chipotle riders rode together to the finish, with Squire taking the win. Three years ago a similar situation developed in the nationals road race when Kirk Carlsen led the squad to a sweep of the podium ahead of Peter Stetina and Tom Peterson, who both went on to join the top-level Garmin squad.
Rathe was not immediately available for comment.