A handful of stagiaires are reveling in their opportunity to work for ProTeams during the Tour of Utah held from August 9-14 in Salt Lake City. RadioShack's Dale Parker and George Bennet, HTC-Highroad's Zak Dempster and Lachlan Norris and Garmin-Cervelo's Danny Summerhill spoke about their challenging new domestique roles that have taught them invaluable lessons about being a professional bike racer.
"I'm loving it so far, it's been awesome, and the team has been really accommodating," said Bennet, who has not signed a contract for next season. "I was nervous about my form and then having the race favourites on the team like Janez Brajkovic and Levi Leipheimer. They are both doing really well and we have to make sure we can look after those guys. Everyone has been really good and I feel like I've been here all season. The guys on the team are cool, it's been great."
The Trek-Livestrong pair are learning first hand what it takes to work for a race leader for RadioShack this week. The team's overall contenders are Levi Leipheimer, who took over the race lead following the stage 3 time trial, and Janez Brajkovic, who was sitting in second place. The youngsters will no doubt be expected to set tempo on the front of the field during the stage four circuit race held in Salt Lake City and the 'queen' stage 5 road race that finishes atop the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort.
"It's been going really good so far," said Parker, who will race for one more year with Trek-Livestrong before joining RadioShack for 2013 and 2014. "I'm pretty much learning a lot and working hard and that will continue in the next two stages."
Norris joins HTC-Highroad from the Drapac Professional Cycling Team and is riding in support of the stage 3 winner Tejay Van Garderen, who is currently sixth place overall more than one-minute behind Leipheimer heading into the final two stages. The Australian native turned heads at his nation's championships along with several strong performances throughout the season.
"It's been going pretty good and I came here excited because it was a big opportunity for me," Norris said. "They are all normal people, cool and easy to deal with, so that made it easy to slip into the routine and feel like apart of the team. We've seen a fair bit of wind this week. Tejay is sitting in sixth and not out of the race yet. There are two hard stages to go and we will try and look after him. That will be tough, but we haven't had to do too much hard stuff so far."
Dempster, a sprinter, was hoping to shine during the stage two bunch kick in Provo, however, the final sprint didn't go according to plan. Following the Tour of Utah, he will return to his Rapha Condor Sharp squad and compete at the Tour of Britain and the Herald Sun Tour. In future, he hopes to be one of the top lead-out men.
"If I can go together with a sprinter that is my ideal situation," Dempster said. "I have not signed a contract yet but I am hoping to follow a sprinter, I can't say who yet."
Summerhill, who joined Garmin-Cervelo from the Chipotle Development team, is reveling in the opportunity to race for overall contenders including Tom Danielson and Christian Vande Velde at the Tour of Utah. The pair are currently sitting in seventh and eighth overall, more than two and half minutes behind Leipheimer heading into the final two stages.
"I've been having a blast and obviously I'm with some of the best guys that you could be around to learn from," Summerhill said. "Our primary goal is to make sure they stay as hydrated as possible and get them bottles whenever need be. I haven't had too many opportunities yet to be able to shelter them from the wind or set them up for a climb because I haven't needed to yet. We've done two road races and both were easy enough for them to situate themselves, nonetheless, I'm learning a bunch and having a blast."