Dahl surprises all but his director with stage 1 win in Utah

24-year-old Canadian rises from amateur contest winner in 2013 to pro race stage winner three years later

Never let it be said that Silber Pro Cycling director Gord Fraser lacks confidence in his riders. Seated at an outdoor café in Cedar City on Sunday, Fraser didn't hesitate when asked who would win Monday's opening stage at the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah.

"Kris Dahl," he said succinctly, and he was right.

Dahl took the opening stage of the race after surviving two categorised climbs and coming out on top in a hectic sprint that no team was able to control. Dahl crossed the finish line located in front of the Southern Utah University campus ahead of Axeon Hagens Berman's Colin Joyce and BMC Racing's Rick Zabel.

"He's come off a full 10 days of crit racing at BC Superweek, where he was knocking on the door every time," Fraser said, explaining his confidence in Dahl's ability to win sprint stages this week.

"I figured with the rosters that they would field here with a race like this, that perhaps that pure crit-type speed wouldn't exist and with the climbs being where they were placed and Kris being really good on the climbs, I was confident he would be in with a shout. It's always a pleasant surprise when we win, I'm not going to lie, but I was super confident he would finish off the job."

Monday's win is the pinnacle result so far this year in a season that has been filled with breakout performances and top results for the four-year-old Canadian Continental team.

"This is the cherry on top," Dahl told Cyclingnews after the stage. "We've done a lot of great things on GC. We've had a lot of solo wins, especially with Ryan Roth. He seems to just be able to ride away from anybody. We've had time trial wins, but we've yet to really have one big sprint win. And this kind of justified all the work we put in this season building the sprint team."

So far in 2016 the team has notched wins at the Redlands Bicycle Classic, the Winston-Salem Classic, a stage and the overall at the Grand Prix Saguenay, the Canadian time trial championship with Roth, the White Spot Delta Road Race and Monday's win in Cedar City.

"This whole season has been one of seeing investment pay off in all these young guys that we've been supporting since they were very young, and just giving them opportunity after opportunity," Fraser said. "Every once in awhile they take it with both hands and be repaid for all their efforts. These guys work really hard. They're a great team, they're great bunch and I couldn't be more proud of them."

This season is Dahl's first with Silber after spending two years with SmartStop. Dahl signed with that short-lived US Continental team after earning a berth with the team at the 2013 Tour of Alberta by winning an amateur Canadian race. He's turned that opportunity into a fledgling racing career, and on Monday he added his biggest cycling victory to date.

Dahl's win in front of some of North America's fastest finishers came as a bit of surprise for a lot of people, but Fraser was obviously not one of them. When Cyclingnews asked Fraser after the stage if he anted to pick the stage 2 winner and go two for two, however, he demurred.

"Two for two?" he asked. "Talk to me later today at the café."

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