While racing this past weekend at the US Gran Prix of Cyclocross Derby City Cup in Louisville, Kentucky, Danny Summerhill announced that he had signed a contract with the US-based UnitedHealthcare Pro Continental squad for the 2013 season.
While Summerhill previously had a stint in UnitedHealthcare kit earlier this season, with a last-second call-up as a trainee in August to race Colorado's USA Pro Challenge followed by the Thompson Bucks County Classic in Pennsylvania, he notably sported UnitedHealthcare kit yet again during Saturday's USGP race.
The 23-year-old Colorado native took a four-rider sprint for third place to secure the final podium spot, and while he joined winner Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) and runner-up Ryan Trebon (Cannondale p/b Cyclocrossworld) at the post-race press conference he took the opportunity announce his jump to the Pro Continental ranks for next season after spending 2011 and 2012 with the Continental Chipotle Development, the development squad for the Garmin-Sharp ProTeam.
"My contract says as of January 1st that I'll be a UnitedHealthcare racer and athlete, but in all this winter downtime, the team didn't have any races so I'm just doing my part to try to get them some extra publicity," said Summerhill. "It was official awhile ago, but they've done so much for me, picking me up and taking me to my first Pro Continental team, that I want to do all I can to help the sponsor and help the team."
The following day, however, Summerhill had to resume racing in the Chipotle-First Solar Development Team kit per current contractual obligations.
While Summerhill is looking ahead to his growth as a professional road rider, he has a strong affinity within the cyclo-cross discipline, most notably confirmed by his silver medal at the 2007 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship while in the junior men's ranks. And despite his admitted "under budget, low-key" approach to 'cross these past few seasons, this go round Summerhill has already notched solid results prior to a podium appearance at Saturday's UCI C1-ranked event at Eva Bandman Park, the venue for the 2013 UCI Cyclo-cross World Championships in February.
Summerhill earned a pair of fourth place finishes during the USGP weekend in Fort Collins, Colorado on October 14-15, followed up by another fourth place finish on October 27 at the Colorado Cross Classic. The next day, however, Summerhill reached the podium for the first time this season at the Boulder Cup, where he narrowly lost to Ryan Trebon in a two-up sprint for the win.
"Getting out-sprinted at the Boulder Cup by Ryan by a couple of inches really hurt," Summerhill told Cyclingnews, and provided the motivation to better that result in Louisville. "I wanted that [podium finish], I wanted that a lot. To be honest, I really wanted to win," Summerhill said regarding Saturday's race at the Derby City Cup, "but Jeremy and Ryan obviously deserved it."
"I've got to say the less that I give a crap - pardon my language - about cyclo-cross the better off I've been doing," said Summerhill, regarding his 'cross season. "I'm just having more fun with it and it's pretty cool to be on the podium again at a USGP."
"It's called talent," Powers interjected at the press conference.
And what of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to race 'cross Worlds on home soil in February?
"Who knows, I certainly don't know if there's any chance in me going to Worlds," said Summerhill. "That's based on what the road team has me doing as far as early season road races. It's truly up to them what I'm allowed to do. The ball's in their court as far as the rest of my ['cross] season entails.
"If it's in my cards to race Worlds and the road team's ok with it then I'll definitely be petitioning to make the US team on our first American world championships. If not, then so be it, but I'm having a blast so far and really enjoying myself."