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In Horner's absence, Busche flies US flag alone at Trek Factory Racing

Barry Ryan
January 13, 17:55,
January 13, 17:55
Second Edition Cycling News, Monday, January 13, 2014
Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing)

Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing)

  • Matthew Busche (Trek Factory Racing)
  • Matthew Busche (RadioShack Leopard) tries to hang on toward the summit
  • Matthew Busche (Radioshack) launches an attack on the climb.

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American targets Tour of California podium in 2014

And then there was one. When Matthew Busche turned professional with the nascent RadioShack team in 2010, he was one of seven Americans in a squad headlined by Lance Armstrong. Four turbulent seasons later and after a number of reconfigurations, the Wisconsin native is the lone US rider left on the revamped Trek Factory Racing team for the 2014 season.

“It’s an honour in one sense to be the sole American, but I don’t think it exerts any extra pressure on me,” Busche told Cyclingnews at the team presentation in Roubaix last week.

Last year, Busche had two compatriots for company at RadioShack-Leopard. Ben King has moved on to what ought to be more amenable pastures at Garmin-Sharp for 2014, but surprise Vuelta a España winner Chris Horner remains without a contract for the coming season.

“I’m a little surprised that he doesn’t have a contract but I don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes with that stuff,” Busche said of Horner. “He’s obviously getting older so maybe people don’t want to take a risk, thinking that if he had an injury or something, that could be it for him. But that could happen to anyone.

“He’s proven he’s definitely still got the ability to ride well, given that he won the Vuelta only five or six months ago. It’s a little surprising he doesn’t have a contract, whether it was here or at another team. Whatever happens, I hope he can find a contract and continue to ride as long as he wants.”

In winning the Vuelta just shy of his 42nd birthday, Horner became the oldest Grand Tour winner in history, and his shock victory was met with no small degree of scepticism. He was even moved to publish his blood values in a bid to allay suspicions, but Trek Factory Racing decided not to match his wage demands and other avenues pursued over the winter have led only to dead ends.

“We stay in touch a little bit, and he’s been doing well,” Busche said. “You know how he is, he’s kind of carefree, or at least puts off that vibe, but I’m sure he’s a little bit stressed about what’s happening. We’ve seen the news about him switching agents [Baden Cooke has taken over from Michael Rutherford – ed.], so I don’t know what’s going on there. Obviously he still wants to ride and he’s going to try and get back in the peloton whatever way he can. He’ll be back.”

While undoubtedly a significant factor, Horner’s struggles to secure a deal for 2014 are not predicated solely on his advanced years. The fall-out from Lance Armstrong’s belated confession to doping continues to be felt, and after initially avoiding the question, in November Horner denied that his was a redacted name in USADA’s Reasoned Decision on the case. Indeed, having turned professional on a team that was emphatically Armstrong’s, Busche is keenly aware of the concept of guilt by association.

“It’s unfortunate that I’ll forever be associated with that name because I was on RadioShack with Lance and Johan [Bruyneel] or whatever, but again, there’s nothing I can do to fix that,” he said. “It’s really unfortunate it hurt the sport so much, but you have to have that if you want to clean it up. For the future, I think it’s very important that it did come out so that we can learn from it and grow from it.”

California Dreaming

Though now 28 years of age, Busche remains comparatively young as a cyclist, given that he only made the switch from collegiate athletics six years ago, when, by his own admission, he realised he had reached the outer limits of his potential as a runner. “I’d just picked up the bike and seen a good amount of success at it at lower levels, so I decided to give it a shot,” he said, matter-of-factly.

Now in his fifth year at WorldTour level, the 2011 American champion believes that he still has ample margin for improvement. “I’m still relatively new to the sport, so hopefully I’m not at my full potential,” he said. “It’s been slow over the four years I’ve raced already, but I have improved a little bit each year, and I’m hoping I can keep going in that direction.”

Busche begins his 2014 campaign at the Tour of the Mediterranean, and is set to ride Paris-Nice, the Tour of the Basque Country and the Ardennes classics before his first major objective of the 2014 campaign, the Tour of California. He finished in 6th place last year, but just 24 seconds shy of the third step on the podium, and is hopeful that he will be in the mix again in May.

“I think I can get on the podium if I race well,” he said. “Racing is partly luck but also experience and being in the right place at the right time. If everything works out fine, if I avoid any crazy bad luck, if I stay alert and race well, then the podium is very realistic.”

It remains to be seen, however, whether a strong ride in California would be enough to earn Busche a berth at the Tour de France for the first time. The American has two Vueltas a España in his legs – he was part of the team that helped Horner to victory last year – and with a Trek Factory Racing’s roster weighted towards helping Fabian Cancellara in the cobbled classics, there are comparatively few climbers on board in 2014.

“We don’t have a lot of true climbers, so assuming Andy and Fränk [Schleck] are going for it again, they’re going to need guys to help them in the mountains, so hopefully that adds to my chances to get there,” Busche said. “If I perform well in the beginning of the season, I’m hoping I can be there, but at the end of the day, it all comes down to the directors. I guess we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”


nowhereman 8 months ago
Get over this "Horner" thing. This is the headline- Busche flies US flag alone at Trek Factory Racing. That's it, period. My word the Horner thing is such History it's ridiculous already
PCM Geek 8 months ago
I thought the exact same thing when I saw the title on this article. I expected to read an article about Busche being the only American rider on Trek. Unfortunately 3/4 of this article turned out to be another lament and rehash of Horner's inability to get a contract. More non news by CN I guess...
jvajda 8 months ago
It"s a shame of on American sponsor not to have more American on board. Good look "Trek"! You may by able to sale more bike in Europe. I for one sure will not buy one.
Patrick D'hont 8 months ago
It was ridiculous in the first place...
ridein 8 months ago
It is more than strange that there aren't more Americans on such a prominent WT team. Any other WT team has diversity for sure, but often each team has 10-15 riders from their sponsored country.
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Lexman 8 months ago
"...his first major objective of the 2014 campaign, the Tour of California. He finished in 6th place last year, but just 24 seconds shy of the third step on the podium, and is hopeful that he will be in the mix again in May. “I think I can get on the podium if I race well,” he said. ..." One can't be ambitious enough in life....
reubenr 8 months ago
Is the Amgen going to do drug testing this year or skip it again?
ziaboulder 8 months ago
Busche is from Wisconsin and to be with TREK is a great combination. It would be nice to see more Americans on the TREK team but with the great riders coming over from RS / Leopard there is little to complain about. Matthew really has a chance to be strong support rider with some chances to prove himself at the right events.
rickpaulos 8 months ago
Like the US Postal squad had a real mail carrier on the team. Name withheld to see if any of you know.
velogeek 8 months ago
Ken Labbe.
rickpaulos 8 months ago
1 usa guy out of how many on the team? About the same ratio of usa made vs china made Trek bikes?
nepetalactone 8 months ago
Kind of a low blow as Trek is the only large American company with any domestic carbon production.
Lucas Jackson 8 months ago
They might be the only team with bikes actually produced in the country the team is registered in.
rickpaulos 8 months ago
Perhaps but the carbon bikes probably make up less than 1% of Trek's bikes.
azureskies 8 months ago
I own a 2006 TREK MADONE, made in USA. I ride bikes made in Italy or USA. Boycott Chinese products. Nice machines, Campy only also. Really though does it really matter?
Christian 8 months ago
He seems like a nice guy and had some good performances last year. Shame he just missed that Dauphiné stage win. Don't know if he'll be of much use in the Tour, but I would be happy for him
Karl Von Drais 8 months ago
Sponsoring a WT team is about money and marketing. Clearly Trek's interest is not in the American market right now. It would be interesting to see their balance sheet and understand where they are looking to invest and see how that is reflected in the team's structure.
Brian Handy 8 months ago
Really a shame Trek didn't go after some of the American Bontrager boys graduating to the world tour level this year. Not sure when his contract is up but I think Phinney would benefit greatly from riding Roubaix with Spartacus a couple of times. I'll give 'em a year grace period but if the team doesn't have more Americans next year I'll be supporting another team (and their sponsors) in 2015.