Danny Summerhill trained hard to quality for the Olympics, but the U.S. men’s team didn’t make it. He’s redirected that fitness towards gravel.
Summerhill was part of USA Cycling’s men’s endurance team that was gunning for an Olympic berth, but did not qualify. Ashton Lambie, the recent world silver medalist in the individual pursuit, was on the same program. Lambie is also racing The Mid South.
“This is my very first race so obviously I am going to learn a lot,” Summerhill said. “But the general vibe of the sport seems so neat, and I’m really excited to be a part of it. It combines the three things I have spent the majority of my career fine tuning, between aero bars, long road races, and cyclocross.”
Summerhill was part of Jonathan Vaughters’ early Slipstream program before going on to race for UnitedHealthcare, where he did races like Paris-Roubaix. In cyclocross, he was a two-time U23 national champion.
Both of those disciplines should transfer to gravel racing a bit more directly than the team pursuit on the track, but training with the national team for the Olympics isn’t exactly the type of prep most participants at The Mid South have been doing, either.
“It looks like a long road race on gravel,” Summerhill said. “For me being a nerd coming from the track with aerobars, I really fell in love with the fact that you can really do what you want and show up as you are.”
When the men’s U.S. team found out that it didn’t quality, the riders had to recalibrate. Lambie went for a bikepacking trip across Scotland and Northern England. Summerhill, at the advice of LA Sweat director Kelli Samuelson and longtime friend Adam Rachubinski of Alpha Bikes in Colorado, pointed his fitness and free time at gravel.
For training, Summerhill said he has been doing 400-mile weeks for a month, riding his old Maxxis-Shimano cyclocross team-issued Parlee.
While Summerhill was insistent that he was new to gravel and wants to be respectful of the scene, he also is motivated and confident to race.
Asked if he shooting for the win against the likes of Payson MacElveen and Colin Strickland, Summerhill didn’t skip a beat: “Colin, I am coming for you, man.”