Since Canadaâ€™s Svein Tuft in 2007, Rory Sutherland is the first North American rider to capture overall win in the UCI America Tour. Or rather, the 30-years-old rider born in Canberra, Australia, represents an USA squad, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, and his hometown in the United States, Boulder, Colorado. This is where Sutherland won his best achievement, a stage on the USA Pro Challenge-Tour of Colorado â€“ his major success this season, ahead of the Tour of the Gila and the Tour of Beauce.
How do you see your final victory in the 2011-2012 UCI America Tour overall?
This is a nice added bonus that intervenes in the term of a long season. It shows to me that I have been doing the right things and following the right path for me as a rider. As the UCI continues to grow its global reach, each continental tour takes on more significance. To win the UCI America Tour is also a great final, thanks to our team UnitedHealthcare, my team-mates and sponsors. I appreciate the way our team has worked together and proud of the results we managed to obtain.
When did you feel it was possible to win the overall ranking?
You know, the team has never aimed at the UCI America Tour as a goal. It's something that when you are consistent, it kind of happens by itself. After the USA Pro Challenge-Tour of Colorado, in August, we figured out that I was probably leading the overall ranking. The race was a huge race with a deep field. Winning a stage there and elevating my UCI America Tour title was a manifestation of motivation.
So, the Tour of Colorado was definitely your best achievement this year?
Yes, I won the stage in Flagstaff Mountain, in my adopted home town of Boulder, in front of my friends, family and twenty odd thousand fans on a final five-kilometer climb that I know well. The race was broadcast on the TV on national and international channels and that added value also. Really it was a pretty cool moment.
Do you think your final victory in the UCI America Tour helped you to join the Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank in 2013?
That's a tough question. Do the points I gained help my new team [in the qualification system, Ed]? Of course they do. But in the discussions I have had with the Team Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank that isn't why I was hired. I generally think riders should be hired on their ability, results and potential better than on their points.
"Big American races rival anything in Europe in terms of fan support"
How would you compare the races in America and in Europe?
In North America there's obviously a huge history of criteriums and UCI races, but now we are seeing these bigger, greatly supported and sponsored races like Tour of California, Tour of Utah and USA Pro Challenge-Tour of Colorado. I think these bigger races rival anything in Europe in terms of difficulty and fan support. The Grands Tours remain of course in a different league, but I really think the fan support and interest in the USA is still building.
How do you see this interest raising?
If you look at the amount of spectators at the big events here you see how much people are getting into the sport. Even take Cyclo-cross, something that is drawing the crowd and participants. Places like the US obviously don't have the same history in cycling as European countries do, so I think people come to races more for the spectacle and atmosphere of something different than they do to sometimes see specific riders.
What about cycling in South America?
I raced there once, last year, on the Tour of San Luis, in Argentina. It was a great experience. Cycling is incredibly popular in South America, yet there aren't many high profile events there. It's fantastic that in this sport we are able to experience so many different cultures and see so many amazing places. That is one of the draws to cycling for me, the adventure.
As you lived and raced this year in the United States, did you consider the UCI America Tour as a goal like an African rider could target the UCI Africa Tour?
I certainly love to race in the USA and I do live in Boulder, Colorado since I signed for the HealthNet-Maxxis team in 2007. There's a fantastic community and I feel very much at home. However I don't consider myself American. I grew up in Australia, have an Australian and British passport, lived in Belgium for five years, and lived in the USA for six. So I guess I consider myself a bit more like a citizen of the world...
Credit photo: Jim Safford / USPCC - PhotoSport International uk usa asia