Danny Summerhill (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin) will kick-start his European cyclo-cross campaign this weekend. The two time U23 US national cyclo-cross champion will race at Lichtervelde - a race he came third in last year - on Saturday before competing at the World Cup event at Kalmthout.
The 21-year-old comes to Europe in fine form but due to a case of lost luggage will have to postpone his first outing in his national champion's jersey.
"I had a day or two at home after nationals and then I flew here but it's been a nightmare ever since because my bag was left in the US by the airline. I wore just compression kit and jeans on the flight so I have no underwear and my bag still hasn't arrived. It's still in Chicago, which is cramping my style," he told Cyclingnews from the US team base in Izegem, Belgium.
"I've got my first race tomorrow and I have no idea what I'm going to be wearing, but I'll be doing it somehow."
Luggage mishaps aside, this will mark Summerhill's second season racing 'cross in Europe. Along with this weekend's action, Summerhill and the rest of the US development team will compete in just under a dozen events until their adventure ends at the start of January.
"Over the years racing over here as the U23 I've learned more and more. The guys I'm racing against are all specializing in cyclo-cross whereas I specialize in road but happen to do cyclo-cross as well.
"I'm missing that last bit of an edge that they have. When I was a junior it was down to talent but now it's down to talent plus commitment. For some of the guys the cyclo-cross races are their entire jobs whereas it's just one discipline for me. I don't have the means to race over here so I'm playing catch up."
Summerhill has built a burgeoning career on mixing his 'cross talents with those on the road. Along with several national 'cross titles he has shone in several stage races, including last year's Tour of China, where he won a stage and finished fourth overall. However he knows that at some point he'll need to concentrate on either road of 'cross as his main bread-winner.
"I'm going to have to choose at some point but it's undecided right now. I think it will be road but even now kids my age are even specializing in the disciplines of road. Whether that's being a phenomenal time trialist or a climber, whereas it's so far and behind what it used to be about. It used to be Eddy Merckx would do it all, climb and sprint and everything but now it's so specialized."
Once back in the US, Summerhill - who will also race the Worlds in Germany – will put the finishing touches to his road calendar for 2011. Now part of the Garmin-Cervelo development team, the versatile rider will hope to have a strong enough season to be in with a shot of racing for the ProTeam in the future.
"The end goal is to go ProTeam and go to the next level. Essentially I'm a step away as I'm part of the set up that is the Garmin-Cervelo development team. I'm close to the next step but you have to have the ability and make that commitment. I'm planning on putting a lot of eggs into that basket and to try and be there. I'm the only person on the team that does cyclo-cross and road but I still need to abide by the team schedule but next year I'm hoping to have a full road programme."