RadioShack's Matthew Busche has been earning the respect of his peers with a show of selfless riding in support of his teammates at the Amgen Tour of California. Race leader Chris Horner praised the 26-year-old from Wisconsin after the stage to San Jose, where Busche was one of the riders on the team to up the tempo heading into the final climb to set up Horner and Levi Leipheimer to attack.
Busche has had a meteoric rise to the top of the sport, as he only started to focus on cycling in 2008 after a successful college career in running. He was offered a contract with RadioShack in just his second year of racing and is now learning from one of the most experienced riders in professional cycling.
"I feel honored to have Chris say those things about me, he's a veteran rider and a very good rider. He's been instrumental in my growth over the past two years," Busche told Cyclingnews. "He's helped me learn a lot of things, and he has tons of knowledge. He has helped me grow a lot as a rider, and it's great he felt positively about the work I did. I'm glad I could help him."
It was one of Busche's biggest moments on the bike, coming in his first Amgen Tour of California, and it has helped him gain the attention of the American audience after a limited career of racing in the US.
"In terms of work for the team, I had a really good day,” he said. “I'd like to think that I was helpful in setting Chris up to take the jersey and Levi to move up to second overall.
"The team was good all day, we rode at the front and definitely put our mark on the race. Everybody was strong all day. It was only fitting that I do my part to help those guys. I felt bad at the beginning of the day and then coming through the stage I started to feel better. Going up Mt. Hamilton I felt really good. I was sort of thinking I'd pull on Hamilton and break things up but they wanted to save me for Sierra Road.
"In the end, it turned out great. I wish I could have gone further, and pulled longer on Sierra Road, but I did my best and they delivered."
Busche said that with a year of racing in Europe behind him, he's starting to feel more comfortable racing at the top level.
"Going over to Europe last year I learned a lot really fast,” he recalled. “Now it's more comfortable and I feel more competent to race at that level. I just take it day by day, race by race and learn from every experience. Hopefully one day I can be a leader.
"Last year taking third in the Tour of Denmark was super fun. This year I came back and knew more what to expect. I've had a really good race program. I've been on some really good teams and it's been an honor to be at that level and be a part of the team here."
While most of the time working for the team is an exercise in self-induced pain, Busche found on the stage to Modesto that it can also lead to accidents.
"[During the stage] I was looking for Chris, I had a Coke for him. I went to the front of the field and he wasn't there, and I was slowly drifting back looking around. I lost track of where I was and overlapped wheels with a guy and lost control and went into the ditch. Thankfully I came out of it unscathed."
He was also spotted as one of several riders to go off the road coming down Mt. Hamilton on stage 4, which he said was no big deal. "It was a weird corner - it came up really fast, there were no markings, and we overcooked it a little bit. Thankfully there was a good shoulder, and I mountain biked it a little bit and got back on the road."
Look for Busche to be one of the slender climbers pacing Horner and Leipheimer up Mt. Baldy on Saturday's stage 7.