Along with the nine Europeans who crowded the top 10 at the semi-classic Le Samyn on Wednesday was 22-year-old Park City native Tanner Putt of UnitedHealthcare.
Tanner joined seven Belgians — including winner Kris Boeckmans (Lotto-Soudal) — and two Frenchmen to finish ahead of riders like 2014 Paris-Roubaix winner Niki Terpstra (Etixx-QuickStep), Tour de France stage winner and compatriot Tyler Farrar (MTN-Qhubeka), rising sprinting stars Giacomo Nizzolo (Trek Factory Racing) and Bryan Coquard (Europcar), and many others.
“I was shocked!” he told peloton after the race. “There were some really big names and teams in this race, with a very hard course. I was hoping just to finish.”
The end of the race saw a whittled-down bunch sprinting for the line, with Boeckmans beating Gianni Meersman (Etixx-QuickStep).
In the team meeting before the race, his team director, Roberto Damiani, gave him the leadership role because it was “a good course for him,” according to Tanner.
Over the last cobbled section, five guys got away, and Tanner took third in the sprint in the second group.
“It was really important to stay at the front of the race on all the small and dangerous roads,” he said in a team statement. “The older guys on the team — Murphy, Frosi, Baz, and Jones — were excellent about putting me on the right spot. It was good to learn from them today as well. In the last lap I went with a few attacks but nothing stuck.”
Asked what eighth at Le Samyn meant to him, Tanner told peloton, “This result gives me the confidence that I can ride with the best in the world in the hard one-day races. It meant a lot having the older guys on the team help me out and believe in me enough to give me the protected role.”
Tanner twice won the under-23 US championship road race, in 2013 and 2014. Before signing with UHC last fall, he rode with the Bissell, Bontrager, and BMC-Hincapie dev teams. He finished 14th at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race in February.
At the 2014 under-23 world championship road race in Ponferrada, Spain, he took 13th. He has had top-10s at the Tour of Utah, the under-23 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and the USA Pro Challenge.
“This is one of the results I’m most proud of,” he told peloton. “It’s my first top 10 in [a UCI] 1.1 race as a neo-pro with UHC. I’m very happy with my team, and my ride.”
Asked what, for him, were the big differences between racing in Europe and the US, he said:
“Both have very strong and good riders. In the US the roads are bigger and easier move around in the field. In Europe the roads are very technical. Small roads that are always turning. It’s very aggressive racing over here. You can’t be caught sleeping at the back. You always have to be focused and at the front if you want to do well in Europe. Europe is also hard for an American being away from home and out of your element,” he said.
This spring, Tanner says he has more racing in northern Europe to build up for Paris-Roubaix. “After that I head back to the States to prepare for the Tour of California and nationals, and I hope to race Utah, Colorado, and Worlds at the end of the year,” Tanner said.
“I am not totally surprised from Tanner ‘s result today,” former Bontrager dev team manager Axel Merckx told peloton on Wednesday night. “Tanner has a lot of talent that many don’t know about yet. He will only get stronger and stronger racing those bigger European races. I am happy for him that he got a good result so early — it will give him lots of confidence for the rest of the season.”
You can watch the final kilometers of the 2015 Le Samyn below:[featured image via YouTube/Bontrager]
UPDATE: This post was updated at 12:03 a.m. ET on Thursday to include the quote from Axel Merckx. —DM
Correction: The number of Belgians who went top 10 was seven, not eight. Two Frenchmen finished top 10, not one. —DM