This December he added the U.S. U23 national cyclo-cross champion jersey to a closet already packed with stars-and-stripes titles. And as he has done for many years he is spending the rest of the ‘cross season as one of the invited riders at USA Cycling’s European ‘Cross Camp in Izegem, Belgium. Here he hopes to improve upon last year’s experience, culminating with the world championships in February. The Argyle Armada caught up with him while he and the rest of the crew were snow-bound and riding the indoor trainers:
Danny Summerhill has grown-up with cyclo-cross, so it is little surprise that he is very used to racing his bike year-round, instead of taking time off in the winter. In a way, Belgium is like a second home for him. “I’ve been here many years, since I was sixteen,” he said. “Between winter and summer I have never seen my house at Christmas in a long time! It’s kinda sad but also cool to see how much I’ve grown.”
But this season started off a bit different, with strong winter storms covering most of Europe and wreaking havoc on travel. “Getting here took eight hours longer! Some of the guys were waiting an entire day to get here. I’ve definitely had a lot worse in previous trips over here. I got all my bikes here in one piece so I have been fortunate with the travel.”
Traveling is something Summerhill is focusing on this year. Unsatisfied with finishing 32nd in last year’s U23 world championship he is taking a new approach to travel and mental preparation for this year’s worlds.
“Last year I was back-and-forth four times — this year I am staying here through worlds in February. I am going to England right after this camp for a quick break, so it will be nice to be in a country that speaks English, but then I’ll come back to Belgium with my batteries recharged ready for worlds. I’ll probably send out a Twitter message to see if anyone there want to go for a spin [while I'm in England.]
“I’m also trying to take a different mental outlook on it all. It’s just racing and there are a lot of other pressures in the world out there. So as much as I can I remind myself that I am here and blessed to ride my bike for a living. Thinking of it that way instead of focusing on a bad result, that is the biggest difference for me — changing my perspective on what is important. That comes from the people who help me along the way — coaches like Geoff Proctor and Noel [Dejonckheere.]“
“My biggest hopes are that I can maintain my nerves and ability right now, not fold at the end of the season like I did last year. Hopefully I’ll get a top ten or better, like my hopes last year. From what I’ve heard about the course there is a good chance for dry and fast conditions, and I’m pretty used to that coming from Colorado. That perked my ears up a bit!”
Coming into the European season with the stars-and-stripes on his back has been another perspective-changer. “Nationals was pretty cool! There were so many interviews after nationals. It is so nice to be done with the actual race because I was putting so much stress and pressure on me. Once the race was finally on a cloud just opened up and let me look clear ahead. Before that it was all world champs bids and everything, all just very important. Now I have a clear head and more tough mentally heading into Europe.”
According to Summerhill, not many people realized he flatted near the end of the race, including himself — something he forgot to mention in the hype and frenzy of the post-race interviews. “My mom was there in the pit watching me. I flatted with one lap to go and didn’t even know it until after the race! I pitted just to be safe and finished on my B bike. I don’t even really remember it, it was such a blur.”
“It will most likely sink in next year, when I might get some sort of say in the skinsuit design. Then it will definitely hit home. I don’t have anything special now so I am just wearing the national champ jersey over the skinsuit — kinda cheesy but it’s a UCI rule and it’s something like a $1,000 fine for not wearing it! Thankfully I’ve been in some of the Pearl Izumi thermal skinsuits which is nice! If I was just in the speedsuits I would have been a goner.
After the ‘cross season Summerhill will have about a week to transition back to the road. As such the Garmin-Transitions U23 director Chann McRae has already told Sumerhill what his initial focus will be for next year. “Chann told me that he wants me to focus on Redlands because I come off of worlds straight into hard training for road season. Everyone else will have many more base miles. I really enjoy that race and then U23 Roubaix — that will be my other big goal. I flatted last year and pretty much walked my bike into the velodrome.
Other than that just experiencing more races on the calendar that I went to last year. It’ll be nice to go back to stage races that I went to for the first time last year, and not be nervous and know what is coming each day!
With that Summerhill had to head off to bed to rest for another day of riding, likely indoors. But he did have one parting message. “I have to take my hat off to Geoff and the whole Belgiam crew that does so much for us. They don’t get the proper recognition they deserve!”