Rathe set for Pro Team debut at Qatar
In 2011, Jacob Rathe was warming up his early season racing legs at OBRA’s Cherry Pie and Piece of Cake road races next to Oregon riders like David Wells and Jake Hansen.
A little less than 12 months later, the 20-year-old from Portland is set to make his UCI Pro Team debut Sunday with Garmin-Barracuda at the Tour of Qatar, where he’ll toe the line alongside some of the biggest names in cycling, including three-time Qatar winner Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), defending champ Mark Renshaw (Rabobank), world champion Mark Cavendish (Team Sky), Thor Hushovd (BMC) and Fabian Cancellara (Radioshack-Nissan). Sixteen teams will field eight riders each for the six-stage race around the small, oil rich desert country across the Persian Gulf from Iran.
It’s a big jump for a young rider, but Rathe’s longtime coach and mentor, Oliver “Butch” Martin, himself a two-time Olympian and member of the U.S. Cycling Hall of Fame, said Rathe is ready.
“I think Jacob’s the real deal,” said Martin. “He’s a hard worker, he’s calm, he’s a quick learner and he doesn’t get too ruffled about things. He’s ready to move on to bigger and better. He’s always shown that to me anyway over the last four years. So I think that while this is a big step up, I think he’s going to assimilate quite quickly. I’m very optimistic for him and his future.”
“…He goes to (U23) Paris-Roubaix with the national team; he’s in the breakaway; he’s one of the best guys on the pavè; you can tell he’s super strong just by the way he goes over the pavè. It’s like wow!” — Chann McRae, Chipotle director sportiff
Martin, who also coached Steve Bauer, a Greg Lemond and Bernard Hinault teammate who wore the yellow jersey in the Tour de France for 14 days and took second at the closest-ever Paris-Roubaix in 1990, teamed up with Rathe when the rider was just 16 years old and has been guiding him ever since. As a top junior, Rathe rode with Martin’s Hammer Nutrition/CMG Racing program before moving on to Jelly Belly in 2010 when he was 19 and then to Garmin’s Chipotle Development Team in 2011.
Rathe used his season on Chipotle to get the attention of the UCI Pro Team by stacking up international race results throughout the season. Chipotle director Chann McRae said Rathe’s performance on the international stage made the decision to move him to the next level an easy one.
“He won at the Rutas de Americas, a UCI race that’s really tough,” McRae said. “It’s in the springtime, they were killing it, and he comes out and wins a stage. Then he goes to (U23) Paris-Roubaix with the national team; he’s in the breakaway; he’s one of the best guys on the pavé; you can tell he’s super strong just by the way he goes over the pavé. It’s like wow! And then he goes to (Tour of) Portugal, which is traditionally one of the hardest 2.1 races on the calendar, and he backs it up again and takes a stage win. He just secured the deal right there.”
McRae shared Martin’s optimism about Rathe’s future racing at the World Tour level, and he added that he wouldn’t be surprised to see his former rider in some of the bigger spring races in Northern Europe.
“I think if he performs well in the smaller semi-classics, he’ll get a start at Roubaix or Flanders,” McRae said. “But before that, he needs to perform well in the semi-classics. And by perform well, I don’t mean he has to get his own result. He has to be one of the best team players out there.”
One of Rathe’s jobs in the spring races will be protecting riders like 2011 Paris-Roubaix winner Johan van Summeren. And it will be a baptism by fire.
“If van Summeren needs positioning before a pavè section in a semi-classic, and Jacob does it right, and then he does it again,” McRae said. “Then Johan’s like, ‘Hey man, you know what you’re doing, you’re getting me into position before these pave sections, and then you’re coming back up to the front and doing it again. You’ve got the tools. We need you.’ That’s what they’re looking for so that he can get those starts.”
Rathe has also put in the miles this winter, including many chilly motorpacing sessions with Martin, to get ready for his debut. And his current fitness appeared to make an impression on Garmin-Barracuda team manager Jonathan Vaughters, who singled out Rathe as one of the most impressive newcomers during the recent team training camp at Calpe, Spain.
“Jacob Rathe was very impressive at the camp,” Vaughters recently told Velo Nation. “I think he’ll get a few starts at some of the bigger Classics. That will be a big deal for a new pro…”
But the road to bigger races starts Sunday in Qatar. Stage 1 is a flat 142.5 km jaunt from the Barzan Towers to the Doha Golf Club. Rathe will line up in the argyle Garmin-Barracuda kit alongside van Summeren, Ramunas Navardauskas, Robbie Hunter, Alex Howes, Murilo Fischer, Tyler Farrar, Thomas Dekker and Jack Bauer as they attempt to defend the team GC prize Garmin took home last year. Rathe appears to have put in the work and preparation to be in the position to help. It was no accident or fluke that landed him in his current spot. His results speak for themselves.
“Jacob doesn’t talk much but he gets the job done, and that’s why we respect him so much,” McRae said. “He performs. He’s just humble and he does the job. He works hard over the winter and all season. He trains his butt off and then he comes out and does what needs to be done.”
Garmin-Barracuda Tour of Qatar squad:
Jacob Rathe (USA)
Johan van Summeren (Bel)
Ramunas Navardauskas (Ltu)
Robert Hunter (RSA)
Murilo Antoniobil Fischer (Bra)
Tyler Farrar (USA)
Thomas Dekker (Ned)
Jack Bauer (NZl)