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Busche aims for freer rein at 2012 Tour of California

By:
Barry Ryan
Published:
January 10, 2012, 16:48,
Updated:
January 10, 2012, 16:50
Edition:
Second Edition Cycling News, Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Race:
Tour of California
Matthew Busche (Radioshack) dons his arm warmers

Matthew Busche (Radioshack) dons his arm warmers

  • Matthew Busche (Radioshack) dons his arm warmers
  • Matt Busche in the colours of US champion.

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American champion ready to defend title

Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Nissan) has earmarked May’s Amgen Tour of California as one of the main objectives of his season. The US national champion looks to continue his rapid progress at the highest level after his late arrival to the sport.

Busche impressed in California last year with a series of strong rides in support of Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer, the RadioShack veterans who dominated the event. While the 26-year-old will again ride in the service of Horner, he acknowledged that he may be given a slightly freer rein this time around.

“I’d like to repeat California and help Chris defend his title, and have a good performance myself in helping him do that,” Busche told Cyclingnews. “I could see myself even having a little bit of leash this year. In helping him, I could potentially do the GC myself and maybe be the team’s third man for the GC.”

Busche’s effervescent form on Californian roads last May carried across to the national championships in Greenville, South Carolina the following week, where he out-sprinted George Hincapie (BMC) to take the stars and stripes jersey.

“2011 was a dream,” he said. “I didn’t really know what was going to happen going into the season, but I had a really strong May. That was a big delight for me to be able to perform on a big stage like California and then carry it through to USA Pro Championship. It was an outstanding year for me.”

A cross-country runner at Luther College in Iowa, Busche only began cycling competitively in 2008 when his collegiate athletics career came to an end. His performances in the amateur ranks were enough to earn a trainee slot with Kelly Benefit Strategies in late 2009, and remarkably, he was snapped up by RadioShack that winter.

“It’s not a transition I predicted,” Busche said with no little understatement. “It’s been relatively smooth all told, although it’s had its rocky moments. My first time to Europe was in 2010 when I came to the first training camp, so that was step one. Then when I moved to Girona after training camp, that was a whole new learning experience, too. But when I came back in 2011, I’d had all those experiences and everything was much smoother.”

It’s a fair leap from collegiate athletics to WorldTour cycling, but Busche matter-of-factly stated that the transition from running to cycling “sort of occurred naturally.” Winner of the Iowa Conference cross-country championships in 2007, Busche explained that his endurance background has helped him in his new discipline.

“There’re a lot of similarities,” Busche said. “It’s still an endurance sport and my background in running taught me a lot about discipline and how to suffer. There are some differences, but I still think my background has helped me to succeed a lot, and I have a lot of people around me at the team who can help me become an even better cyclist.”

Olympic dreams?

Given his background in athletics, one might anticipate Busche to have particular aspirations of competing at the London 2012 Olympics, but he admitted that he has never been one to set himself such targets.

“I’ve never actually set myself a dream long-term goal that I’m going to ride in the Olympics or run in the Olympics, or win this race or that race,” he said. “I always take everything step by step. But that said, I guess I do have long-term goals because I’m not really ever satisfied. I always like to keep improving on myself in whatever way that is.”

Nonetheless, Busche is hopeful that he can force his way into the reckoning for the five-man American selection for the London Games. “I would be honoured to go ride for the USA at the Olympics, I think it would be a really good experience,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d say it was a dream, but it would be really neat to ride at the Olympics and something I greatly honour.”