The Transylvania Times -

By Park Baker
Staff Writer 

Cyclist Eyes Another Chance To Ride 'The Tour' – Brevard NC


Matthew Busche took part in his first Tour de France this summer and plans to compete again next year. (Courtesy photo)

Brevard cyclist Matthew Busche has returned from a full season of road racing, including the highlight of his season: the Tour de France. The Tour started on July 5 and ran through July 27, and then Busche went straight into the Tour of Utah.

He has just recently arrived home to rest and begin preparation for next season.

As previously reported, Busche was selected as part this year's Tour roster for Trek Factory Racing. Busche said he was nervous, but that he couldn't focus on that.

"Being chosen for the Tour is always tricky," he said. "Usually the Tour directors will make a 'long' list at the beginning of the season.

"The long list is 15 or so riders. Then, they will choose the final nine from that list. I knew from the start that I was on the long list, but it wasn't until after the Tour de Suisse (about 10 days prior to the Tour de France) that the final selections were made."

This year's 'Grand Départ,' the beginning of the race, was in England.

The Tour also passed through Belgium and Spain.

The stages totaled 21 altogether and covered a distance of roughly 2,300 miles.

Of those 21 stages, Busche road with some of the most dedicated athletes in the world through nine flat stages, five hill stages, six mountain stages (five of those finishes were at altitude), one individual time trial and only two rest days.

Busche is touted as a climbing specialist, and his time in Brevard training has helped him prepare for the stages in the French Alps and the Pyrenees mountain ranges.

Stage 16 began in Carcassonne and went 148 miles to Bagnéres-de-Luchon. The very next day, riders were shuttled to Saint-Guadens and raced another 77-mile mountain stage to Saint-Lary Pla d´Adet.

On the final three-day stretch of racing up and over the mountain passes, riders were shuttled to Pau and raced 90 miles to Hautacam.

These three mountain stages are considered the most difficult in the Tour, not only for the steepness of the roads, but being back to back the riders get no chance to recover.

Busche said he suffered a lot in the race, partly due to the high level of competition in the Tour, which he says is much higher than any of the other races throughout the season.

The weather, however, was a much bigger factor.

Rider safety is the concern for racers and organizers, as riders risk writing off an entire season of racing if they wreck, and organizers also endanger their reputation if a race or stage isn't called.

In the 1996 Tour de France, the race organizers scaled back the ninth stage from 109 miles to just 28 due to snow accumulation on the road.

"Weather was the number one culprit of suffering," he said. "We had rain on probably more than half of the stages, which increased the stress and tension within the peloton (the main pack of cyclists) and always makes things harder.

"For me, personally, I had six crashes: three in stage five when it rained and we were racing on cobblestones; two in stage six where we had strong crosswinds and it was raining; and one more in stage 12.

"The first five of those crashes were not low speed or low impact either, so the toll it took on my body was immense. The energy required by the body to recover from the crashes is so valuable. It takes away from the power that you have to fight in general each day.

"Due to the crashes, I was certainly suffering a little bit extra for many days, particularly off the bike, when I was supposed to be recovering and relaxing. I still have some physical wounds that are healing."

When riders are off the bike they should be recovering or traveling to the next stage.

A typical day for the racers involves waking up and having breakfast, preparing their suitcase for the soigneur (team helper) to be shuttled to the next hotel, and boarding the team bus to the start.

The transfer from the start can be short (less than 30 minutes) or longer (two or more hours) depending on how the race is planned.

Upon arrival at the start of the stage, riders will have a team meeting to discuss their plan for the day.

The next four to six hours are spent racing, and post stage the racers usually shower in the bus, eat and have another transfer to the next hotel.

Once at the hotel, riders wait for a massage from one of the soigneurs.

"Massage is an important part of daily recovery," said Busche. "It helps keep the muscles loose and flushes out the toxins produced by the body from riding hard each day."

The 29-year-old Busche finished 98th overall in the Tour de France's "General Classification," with Trek's top placing coming from Haimar Zubelda, who finished 8th overall.

Training for Busche, is different week in and week out.

"The Tour has been a major goal of mine all year," he said. "I found out I was on the long list before the season, so it shaped my training for the year a little differently. I started the season a little slower, with the hope of having my peak condition in June and July. It was different than how I'd done things in the past seasons, but it worked out well. Having the Tour as a goal definitely helped me focus at certain times and push myself harder at others.

"Every week of training is different. If I have just one week between races, then I might have lighter training while I try to recover a bit before the next race. Alternatively, if I have several weeks between races, then I will have harder/heavier training loads in order to increase my fitness.

"It is usually a basic progression of training and racing that will help get me to my main goal(s) of the season. During my biggest weeks I can have weekly totals of up to 30 hours of training on the bike, but usually it will be closer to 20."

A typical training week for Busche is one or two longer rides of five to six hours with several other days of three to four hour days, which usually have some intervals/exercises included.

"Off the bike training, including core work, stretching, and massages is always the hardest for me because it requires you to come home and not get distracted, and requires additional energy beyond what you've expended on the bike," he said. "I try to do it as often as possible, though, because that's the key to performance."

Busche signed a two-year contract with Trek.

He will then renegotiate with Trek or find another team.

He hopes to find another sponsor if he can't stray with Trek, so he can keep racing his bike.

"I'm looking forward to enjoying my off season here in Brevard," said Busche. "I'm going to be out enjoying everything here: fishing, camping, Hiking, mountain Biking, and road riding. I'm not sure yet what next year holds, but I definitely picked up valuable experience this year that will help me prepare for next season."


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