What was supposed to be a momentous end-of-season of racing on home soil for Trek Factory Racing’s US road champion Matthew Busche has turned out, from the very onset with a crash at the Tour of Utah, to be a struggle. As a result, he is uncertain if he will garner one of the six spots available on the US national team for the elite men’s road race at the UCI Road World Championships in Richmond, Virginia.
"I would love to ride Worlds," said Busche, following Trek Factory Racing’s victory in the team time trial at the Tour of Alberta on Wednesday. "It would be a huge honour to race for the US, in the US. It doesn’t happen very often. I haven’t had too many chances to perform after my crash. It’s been a hard year for me mentally and physically but I would love to go to Worlds."
Busche took a triumphant victory at the USA Pro Road Championships in Chattanooga, Tennessee, at the end of May to win his second stars-and-stripes jersey in a hard-fought, rain-soaked finale against Joe Dombrowski (Cannondale-Garmin).
He returned to the US after a block of racing overseas, and prepared for strong performances at the Tour of Utah, USA Pro Challenge in Colorado and the Tour of Alberta in Canada. A dramatic high-speed crash during the third stage in Utah, on August 5, derailed his plans and has left him in a state of recovery-mode ever since.
Despite his injuries, Busche decided to start the USA Pro Challenge two weeks later, where he acknowledged that he was not 100 per cent recovered but nonetheless vowed to help his team and give it his best effort. He survived the seven stages in Colorado to finish 36th overall.
"Riding in Colorado was already a big stretch and I wanted to make it through the race," Busche said. "This week in between has been really tough for me, with a lot of travel and not as much recovery as I had hoped."
Realistically, Busche is still playing the game of catch up at the Tour of Alberta this week. To the surprise of many, including Trek Factory Racing, the team won the opening team time trial held on a 19.6km course in Grande Prairie, a victory that has put Busche’s teammate Bauke Mollema in the first leader’s jersey.
Mollema led Trek Factory Racing over the finish line with four teammates that included Marco Coledan, Hayden Roulston, Jesse Sergent and Busche.
Busche was the first to admit that he wasn’t able to contribute as much as he would have liked during the team time trial, however, being the invaluable fifth rider to cross the line gave him some much-needed confidence and the knowledge that his form is back on the upswing.
"I would like to do well here in Alberta but I’m not carrying the greatest load of confidence right now," Busche said. "That doesn’t mean that I’m going to give up at all. I’m going to try my hardest, and clearly Bauke is the stronger of the two of us. We’ll take it day-by-day and moment-by-moment.
"It’s my first time here and I’m looking forward to Jasper [the host of two summit finishes on stages 3 and 4]. Bauke is really strong, so I will be riding for him and for the team. I hope I got all the cobwebs out and will make it through tomorrow to help Bauke in the mountains."
After the Tour of Alberta, Busche will travel east with his team to compete in the World Tour races in Quebec City and Montreal on September 11 and 13, where he hopes to continue his progression back to good health and top form. The two races are important because they will be his last opportunity to prove that he is deserving of a spot on the US team for Worlds.
"The selection committee will take the whole year and definitely some of these last races leading into Worlds [into consideration when selecting the six-rider team]," Busche said.
"Crashing at Utah and then not performing in Colorado as I had hoped - it doesn’t look as good on paper, but on the other hand, maybe I have a little bit of freshness in my body, if I can recover enough.
"The progression of racing coming up could lead me into Quebec and Montreal and then into Worlds. That would be a perfect preparation. It’s all up to them [USA Cycling] and what they see, and how they feel about who is prepared enough."
In addition to making the Worlds team, Busche is hoping to finalise his place on a team for the 2016 season because his current contract with Trek Factory Racing expires at the end of this year.
"Next year is still a little bit up in the air," Busche said. "I definitely would like to stay with Trek but it depends on what places there are with in the team, so I will have to see how it plays out."