Team RadioShack’s newest hire, Matthew Busche, doesn’t know what his cycling future holds.
No, really. He honestly doesn’t know.
The 24-year-old all-rounder appears to have unlimited potential, as evidenced by his brilliant rise in the sport over the last two seasons. He only “got serious about biking” prior to the 2008 season, which he started as a Cat 2. The two-time Wisconsin state road race champion quickly moved from the regional IS Corp squad to the Nova Cycle Sport team and then to the powerhouse NRC team, Kelly Benefit Strategies, which he joined mid-season this year.
After just a few weeks at KBS, Busche scored a seventh place overall at the Tour of Utah, sixth at the Univest Grand Prix road race and then a brilliant fifth at the professional road race championships in Greenville, South Carolina, where he was one of just eight men left at the front after the final trip over Paris Mountain.
So what’s next, now that he’s on one of the most closely watched teams in the world?
“I really haven’t done anything with (RadioShack) yet,” Busche told VeloNews. “I expect I’ll be playing a supporting role; I wouldn’t imagine I would be on the Tour roster. But at this point as far as races, I have no idea.”
KBS director Jonas Carney had been talking to Busche since late 2008, but still is impressed with his rapid rise.
“I don’t think most people realize how fast he has come up,” Carney said. “I mean, in August he was on a regional, Wisconsin team, and then he made a pretty big jump up to our team, and then by the time of Tour of Missouri, he had already accepted an offer from RadioShack. That’s remarkable.”
‘OK, this is not normal’
Busche (his name is pronounced boo-SHAY) grew up in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa, and was a runner in high school and for his first two years at Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa. At the Div. III Luther, he was a conference champion and All-American in cross-country and the 10,000-meter. He also was ranked in the top-ten nationally in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
(Luther’s arch rival is Wartburg College in Waverly, Iowa, the alma mater of Tom Zirbel, another former college running star who will do his first season with a ProTour team, Garmin-Slipstream, in 2010.)
Busche began cycling for cross training after a knee injury in his freshman year. He was soon introduced to a Luther English professor and Cat. 1 racer, Novian Whitsitt, one of the few bike racers in the town of less than 10,000.
Whitsitt remembers his first ride with Busche.
“It was uncanny. This kid just rode right next to me in the wind, with no miles in his legs. I said, ‘OK, this is not normal,’” he said.
The two trained together a lot over the next four years, and Whitsitt said he was not a bit surprised to hear his protégé had joined RadioShack, but shocked it happened so quickly.
“I wasn’t surprised, I knew his potential. But to see it happen so quickly, it was as real as if Peter Pan had come to me and said ‘let’s go to Neverland.’”
‘Kind of surreal’
Bruyneel called Busche soon after the Greenville championships.
“It was kind of surreal,” Busche said. “It took us a while to actually connect … he said he had seen some of my results and thought I could be a good fit on the team.”
At 5-foot, 8-inches tall and 155 pounds, Busche is a classic all rounder. “I climb fairly well, but I don’t know that I am a world class climber. I’m fairly well-rounded; I’d like to be able to ride a solid TT.”
Busche is spending the fall in Las Cruces, New Mexico, taking some classes at New Mexico State University, where his fiancée is a graduate student. He expects to learn a bit more about his 2010 season at the first RadioShack training camp, in Tucson early next month.
“I hope to ride the Tour of California and do some American races, still close to home turf … in a perfect world I’d like to do everything perfectly. Realistically, my goal is to be the best as an all rounder and a GC rider. I’d like to improve my climbing and my time trialing and just my overall strength.”
Busche’s rapid rise might be throwing him in to the deep end of the cycling pool very early in his career, but his Iowan mentor, for one, has no doubts he’ll fight his way to the top.
“Regardless of where he is, he’ll find a way to improve,” Whitsitt said. “He’s truly gifted athletically and he has a good competitive head on him, too. He has a tremendous motor combined with a real sick capacity for suffering.”
Some of Busche’s amateur results.