Danny Summerhill. If you’re unfamiliar, he’s a cyclocross prodigy with a penchant for road racing. However, this is putting things lightly. As a junior, he became one of the first, and still only, American’s to stand on a World’s ‘cross podium. And now, going into his third season of racing for UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling, he’s quickly moving up the ranks of professional road cycling.
I caught up with him right before the start of the Tour of Utah to see how his preparations have been going, and just as importantly, to get a feel for one of American cycling’s rising stars. Below, we talk Harry Potter, music, power training, and UHC’s goals heading into America’s toughest stage race. Enjoy.
JS: Explain what’s going on here?
DS: Well, there was a time when Taylor Phinney, Walker Savidge, and I were auditioning to be in a boy band… Just kidding. I really don’t remember — that was ages ago!
JS: It’s no secret that you’re kind of a big deal when it comes to ‘cross. In fact, you’re one of only a handful of Americans to ever step onto a World’s podium. But with a few professional road seasons under your belt, where would you say that your heart belongs, cyclocross or road?
DS: My heart belongs on two wheels. At times, during a very hard road race, I might wish that I was racing a ‘cross bike, or when racing cross in the freezing mud, I might start to think about how nice it would be if I were on my road bike in a nice, sunny race. But all in all, I love doing what I do, and feel very fortunate to be able to call this my job. Road racing for the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team has 110% of my drive and focus. I’ll cross the other bridge when I get to it (No pun intended).
JS: After racing ‘cross and road around the globe, what would you say your favorite race has been?
I can’t name just one as my favorite, but how about a top three?
Paris-Roubaix, USA Pro Challenge, and the Tour of Utah all share the top spot in my book of races I have done and absolutely love. I may be biased as a Colorado native, but I think it’s hard for anyone to not love the USA Pro Challenge. Colorado gets so many fans lining the roads and the energy is infectious! The Tour of Utah overall finish in downtown Park City is looking promising this year, too!
JS: Rumor has it that you’re a fan of DMX, any other music on your playlist that we might not expect?
DS: I don’t know where you get your intel from, possibly an interview with the 16-year-old me? I like everything these days, and have even become accepting enough in my later years to appreciate country as well. A little Dixie Chix never hurt anyone, right?
JS: When it comes to using power meters, what do you find more useful — training with power or racing with power?
DS: I’ve trained with power for a number of years, but never until this year have I been so reliant on or impressed with a power meter like I have been with the Pioneer power system. The real-time data Pioneer provides while I’m training and racing is second to none. The dual strain gauges in each crank, that can tell you how and where in your pedal stroke you are being the most efficient, have really helped me towards the end of some races. Seeing that my pedal stroke and efficiency is off from where it should be is all the help and reminder I need to sit up straight, pedal properly, and help deliver teammates like Kiel to the line in first place. We have an incredible package of sponsors this year — just look at the Wilier bikes we get to ride everyday. The complete bike is an unbelievable race tool and Pioneer is an important piece of that.
JS: How has Pioneer made a difference in your performance?
DS: The real-time analysis of how I’m pedaling, for better or worse, has been extremely helpful in making corrections to my pedal stroke mid-ride, and especially mid-race, to get the maximum out of my body and my bike. When you’re several hours into a race, it’s like having a coach with you on the bike telling you what you need to work on in that moment. It’s tremendously helpful.
JS: What’s your role on the team heading into TOU? Any stages that you or the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team will be targeting?
DS: My role on the team, being one of the youngest, is to help get riders like Kiel Reijnen or Ken Hanson to the line in first. The Tour of Utah has a lot of great opportunities this year. We don’t target certain stages; we target everything.
JS: I heard that you’re pretty into Harry Potter, so it’s sorting Hat time: Gryffindor or Hufflepuff?
DS: What do you take me for?! Obviously, I’d be in Gryffindor. Thanks for your time. It was great talking with you!