Colorado native Danny Summerhill was sitting on a couch in Denver wondering what he was going to do with the rest of his season after his European campaign with Slipstream's Chipotle Development Team ended and he had no more races on his schedule.
Then the phone rang. On the other end of the line, UnitedHealthcare manager and team director Mike Tamayo was offering the 23-year-old from Englewood a guest-rider spot for the USA Pro Challenge, his home race and one of the biggest in the country.
"It doesn't get more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants than that," Summerhill said before the start of stage 1 in Durango. "I was just lucky enough to be close to the phone and hear the question, 'Do you want to ride Colorado?' So, of course, who wouldn't?"
UnitedHealthcare rider Philip Deignan was originally scheduled to race with the team in Colorado, but he had to return to his home country of Ireland because of an emergency in the family. Tamayo decided that Summerhill, who raced the USA Pro Challenge for Garmin-Cervelo last year as a stagiaire, was the best fill-in available for Colorado and through the rest of the 2012 season.
"Danny is an all-rounder who has experience racing in Europe," Tamayo said. "We're hoping he can be instrumental as part of our lead out, and he's also got good climbing legs. He'll be getting an opportunity to race with us at one of the highest levels in the United States. We focus on fostering the future talent of professional bike racing, and we are happy Danny could join us."
"Happy" could also describe Summerhill's feelings about the opportunity, although he seemed to draw a blank when asked.
"Words don't describe it," he said. "I think last year will probably take the cake for the most special, incredible feeling yet. But it's going to be phenomenal - hometown crowds and everything else. It's going to be a second dream come true. Unless you're at the Tour de France, it doesn't get any better than this."
Summerhill, who said his biggest challenge this week will be remembering "how to breathe at altitude," finished more than 12 minutes down Monday for 74th place on the stage after helping UnitedHealthcare pull back the day's major breakaway. UnitedHealthcare's Rory Sutherland finished fifth on the stage, which was won by Garmin-Sharp's Tyler Farrar.
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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.
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