Thrice the Fun! Team Radioshack done proud at Amgen Tour of California, Giro d’Italia, and US Cycling Professional Road Race National Championship
It’s been quite a month for the riders of Team Radioshack (RSH), quite a month indeed! No lie, plenty of racing to be had, and the Shackers showed up big time and done a mighty fine job! Here’s a recap of their racing efforts in Amgen Tour of California (ATOC), Giro d’Italia, and US Cycling Professional Road Race National Championship.
Team Radioshack (RSH) went one two in the ATOC this year, with Chris Horner taking the overall and Levi Leipheimer joining him on the podium in the number two spot. Along the way, Matt Busche worked tirelessly throughout the week, even coming back from a crash off the road during one of the stages, to help shepherd Horner and Leipheimer to their fine finish. Busche would have more to show for his own racing soon there after the ATOC celebration was complete.
There was another big race another Shack squad was competing in during May that started the week prior to ATOC: none other than the first grand tour of the year, the Giro d’Italia!
The start list for this year’s edition was a bit longer than usual, with special dispensation given for 207 riders in the peloton to start the race this year.
Alberto Contador’s position as the pre-race favorite held true. Robbie Hunter’s tweet at the conclusion put it pretty succinctly: “6 grand tours in 7 starts: 2 Giro, 1 Vuelta, 3 Tours. Impressive no matter what way u look at it.” Indeed. But this Giro won’t only be remembered as Contador’s second victory. There was tragedy along the way.
First, the week prior leading up to the race, Xavier Tondo of Movistar was killed in a freak domestic accident, as he was preparing for a training ride. Near the end of the Giro his teammate, Vasili Kiryienka, won the penultimate stage after a decisive solo ride over the two major climbs of Stage 20. Kiryienka paid tribute to his fallen teammate as he crossed in the line, touching his chest and pointing to the sky.
Tondo’s death was a wicked foreshadow to the awful scene that would play out during Stage 3 of the grand tour. On a lightning fast descent of Passo del Bocco, Wouter Weylandt of Leopard Trek crashed hard when his bike clipped a guard wall on the road. Weylandt lay motionless in the road and heroic efforts to revive him were for not. The doctor interviewed later said Weylandt most certainly was killed instantly from the fall.
After the accident, race officials and all teams neutralized Stage 4, a touching tribute of sportsmanship and camaraderie in the wake of Weylandt’s death. After a pre-stage ceremony to honor Weylandt, the teams road (not raced) the day’s course, each team taking a turn at the front. Leopard-Trek then lead the peloton along the final stretch of the stage and across the finish. As if that tribute wasn’t enough to flow the tears, Weylandt’s close friend from Garmin Cervelo, Tyler Farrar, road across the finish line with the Leopard squad. Stricken with grief, Farrar and the entire Leopard Trek pulled out of the race to grieve the very next day.
The sliver lining in the Giro for Team Radioshack were stand-outs Tiago Machado and Yaroslav Popovych. Machado would end up with 9th place in the Individual Time Trial (ITT) and 20th overall. Popovych would end up 5th in the ITT and 64th overall. Popovych also secured the distinction as “the race’s most combative rider”. The rest of the Shackers who finished the three-week race were Philip Deignan, 47th overall; Fumi Beppu, 67th overall, Ivan Rovnyi, 78th overall; and Bjorn Selander, 129th overall. Not too shabby for the first grand tour of the season.
The icing on the cake for the month had to be the results of the 2011 US Cycling Professional Road Race National Championship held in Greenville, South Carolina on Memorial Day. Shacker Matt Busche would not only compete, but surprise the field, including three-time champion and perhaps the best all-around US road cyclist, George Hincapie, with a photo finish win over the hometown Team BMC favorite.
The 115-mile/186 kilometer race was hard fought, with a strong group of eight riders able to build more than three minutes on the peloton. That group included the likes of Tejay Van Garderen (Team HTC-HighRoad), Hincapie, Busche and Team Liquigas-Cannondale’s Ted King as the leaders headed into the finishing circuits.
In the end it was Busche staying with Hincapie in the homestretch and outsprinting the five-time Olympian for the national title and the coveted Stars & Stripes racing kit of the US Champion.
Ever the gracious competitor, Hincapie had this to say about 26 year old Busche beating with the photo-finish win at the line: “It was a great race by Matthew. I gave everything I possibly had, put it all on the line and I’m proud of my effort. I’m proud of Matthew’s effort. He hasn’t been racing that long and he’s done very well, here, in particular. I’m disappointed that I didn’t win, but he’s a very suitable national champion.” Well said, George.
All in all, a fine month of racing for Team Radioshack. Looking forward to the next races on the schedule, and more Shackers up at the front of the peloton and hopefully on the podium too!
By Jeff Ludlum, staff writer