ESTEPONA, Spain (VN) — For Matthew Busche (RadioShack-Leopard), riding deep is part of his job, but it’s easier when he’s pulling for teammate Chris Horner.
The 28-year-old Busche and the 41-year-old Horner might be on opposite ends of their respective careers, but there’s a sense of mutual respect that was on clear display in Saturday’s critical climbing stage at the Vuelta a España.
Busche buried himself Saturday, first bridging to the day’s main breakaway, and then taking huge pulls up the final kilometers of the Peñas Blancas summit. And he did it with pleasure.
“I’ve been on the team with Chris since day one of my career. He’s been real influential in me with my growth,” Busche told VeloNews.
“He’s helped me learn a lot. He’s always teaching me tricks about riding in the field, about positioning. He’s helped me grow a lot as a cyclist.”
Busche is paying that back in spades this Vuelta as he and the rest of RadioShack rally around Horner and his GC run at the Spanish tour.
Horner, who started and ended the eighth stage in second place, counted on excellent team help Saturday.
Fabian Cancellara set a brutal tempo on the lower flanks of the final climb, while Busche rode into the day’s main break, taking pressure off the team for the meat of the stage.
“It wasn’t a team plan to have someone in the break, but when you have a big move, it’s good to have someone present. Once that move was getting bigger, I could see Movistar and Katusha pushing riders up, so I jumped on,” Busche said. “It’s not easy, but I got in.”
Busche was part of a 15-man group that pulled clear that also included grand-tour rookie Alex Howes (Garmin-Sharp) and Christian Meier (Orica-GreenEdge) in what was the largest breakaway so far in this Vuelta.
With Bartosz Huzarski (NetApp) a threat on GC, Astana wouldn’t let the break gain too much time. Huzarski eventually sat up, and later pulled to set up teammate Leopold Konig for the stage victory, allowing the front group to gain a gap that hovered around three minutes.
For Busche, it was all about measuring his efforts, with one eye on a possible stage win if the break got a big head start, and the other on having some legs to help Horner if they were caught.
“I tried to save energy in the front as best I could, depending on how much time they would give us, so I could either go for a stage win, or as it played out in the end, help the team,” Busche said.
“I knew they were coming, so I was saving my energy to help my team at the finish. The team rode great today. I am happy with how I felt; hopefully that bodes well for rest of the Vuelta.”
Busche, a former runner who didn’t start racing until university, said he’s relied on Horner to help him shorten his learning curve and is happy to repay the favor.
“I am glad that I can pay that back to him by helping him in the climbs,” Busche said. “Last year at Utah, he helped me on the last day to keep second on the overall. It’s give and take. I’m glad that I have taken. I am glad that I can give back.”
Once the GC group reached Busche, he set a steady tempo all the way to the final kilometers. Those were big pulls, and Horner was appreciative.
“The team was great today,” Horner told VeloNews. “Rasta [Gregory Rast] pulled first, then Cancellara took over, who was just phenomenal. Then we had Matthew Busche, who put on a show for the fans back in the U.S. It was really solid, with real good power.”
Horner said he’s more than happy to help out younger riders as they work up through the ranks, adding that Busche has a big future.
“Matthew Busche, he’s always solid. He’s a phenomenal U.S. rider coming up. He’s looking better and better every year,” Horner said. “For me, it’s fun to see the young guys coming up, and help them out.”
Over the next two weeks, they will be fighting all the way to Madrid to see how far Horner can go in this Vuelta. If the next two weeks are anything like the first, it could be higher than anyone ever expected.