Following an off-season in which he did not renew his contract for the upcoming season with the Chipotle-First Solar Development Team, and then an overture from a possible Italian-based Saxo Bank U23 squad led nowhere, 21-year-old Max Durtschi is on a mission to prove himself this year.
The winner of the 2009 junior criterium and road race US national championships said he will spend his 2012 season in Europe with the U23 national team trying to nail down the big results that get the pro teams' attention.
"I'm strong this year and I'm focused," Durtschi said from Portland, Oregon, where he's been training for the upcoming season with his former junior coach, Oliver "Butch" Martin. "Unfortunately in the off-season some things happened in terms of I was looking at different teams and things didn't work out. But I have a strong program with the national team, and I know that what I have to do is go to the big races and have big rides. And if you can do that then the pro teams notice."
This will be only the second season that Durtschi has focused solely on cycling, said the former ski racer from Idaho who spent several seasons on the Nordic national development team, and he hopes the increased intensity in cycling-specific training and focus will be the final piece he needs to put his cycling puzzle together.
"At this level you have to focus 110 percent on one sport – one goal – and go for it," he said. "After I won nationals as a junior, two weeks later I was already at a US ski team training camp in Vancouver. It was very difficult. I was racing full time all year round and eventually it just became too much. My first year with (Garmin's development team) I did a ski race literally five days before training camp. So I think that while some people may have thought that they knew what type of rider I was, I'm developing very fast."
The U23 team program will begin in early March with a stage race in Croatia before the classics group moves on to Belgium for the spring races. That's where Durtschi said he hopes to show off his latest form.
"My biggest goal of the year and my favorite race is U23 Paris-Roubaix," he said. "I finished that race last year. It was the hardest race I've ever done, but at the same time it was my favorite. I remember that night after Paris-Roubaix just being exhausted from doing it but wishing that I could do it again the next weekend. So for me I think I can really excel at those big classic races over there."
Durtschi has also been putting in time on the track as part of the US men's team pursuit program, having recently returned from a camp in Los Angeles with USA Cycling coach Ben Sharp. He said what started out as a way to train for his road racing, with its big power and high-speed efforts in the time trial position, has turned into a bit of a passion.
"It's exhilarating and high speed," he said. "You're locked in on a fixed-gear bike. You can't coast, you can't stand up or change gears. When you get rolling at high speed it's a pretty cool feeling. Ever since I started to do the work I got more and more enthusiastic about it. So I'm hoping that I can continue to develop doing that as well."