In its 32-year history, the Redlands Bicycle Classic has had foreign winners from Norway, Great Britain, Poland, Russia, Australia, Colombia and Spain.
But no one from the US race’s neighbours to the north had ever stepped on the general classification’s top step until this year, when Canadian Matteo Dal-Cin (Silber Pro Cycling) made the breakaway in a hard-scrabble final stage to usurp the overall lead from Jamis rider Janier Acevedo.
Dal-Cin, a 25-year-old from Ottawa, told Cyclingnews he was “over the moon” with the victory, but Silber Pro Cycling director Gord Fraser wasn’t at all surprised with the progress that both his young rider and his upstart team have made. The win in Redlands was another step in the team’s upward trajectory.
“It has been a work in progress,” said Fraser, who took over the Continental team in 2014.
“This is the third year that I’ve been working with Silber. We’ve had some great results, mostly in Canada, but we’ve come down to the states and had some great results. Ryan [Roth] was in yellow here last year after the TT. I’d like to think we ripped Philadelphia apart last year to set Ryan up for the win. He was seventh or eighth, but we did the damage there.”
Fraser put the overall win at Redlands - which is the third event on USA Cycling’s new Pro Road Tour but is still considered by many as the defacto opener for the domestic national calendar - on equal footing as the team’s win last year at Gastown Grand Prix, where Roth overcame the highly successful UnitedHealthcare “Blue Train” to win with a solo move.
“We took on that UHC Blue Train and dominated them in three of the races up there [at BC Super Week in British Columbia - ed.], so we’re not completely off the radar, but maybe for mainstream American cycling fans maybe we’re a little bit of an unknown right now,” Fraser said.
“Ben Perry had the KOM jersey at [Tour of] Alberta last year,” Fraser said, continuing the roll call of his team’s accomplishments. “We were in every break in Alberta last year. We showed we can compete against those guys. We won [Grand Prix] Saguenay, a UCI race in Canada, after leading from start to finish. We were one-two overall, in fact. At Tour de Beauce we were duking it out with Caja Rural everyday. We had four riders in the world championships last year for Canada. So we have qualified athletes.”
Dal-Cin’s win in Redlands is the biggest victory the team has scored in the US, and it came just a week after the team suffered a devastating blow at the San Dimas Stage Race, where six riders crashed and two went to the hospital. Silber was competing at Redlands without team leaders Roth and Alex Cataford.
“It was really great how my young guns stepped up without our leader Ryan there,” Fraser said. “I rate Redlands as the most prestigious stage race after the big 3 [California, Utah and Alberta – ed.], so we are very excited and honoured to win Redlands.”
Dal-Cin was racing on a local amateur team from Ottawa in 2014 when multiple Silber riders crashed hard in a big melee at the Tour of the Gila. Two of the team's riders needed to be airlifted to a local hospital with serious injuries. Having two riders sidelined with potentially long recoveries forced Silber to look around to fill the spots.
“After Gila that year we signed Ryan Roth and Matteo,” Fraser said. “Ryan was on Jet Fuel,and Matteo was on Stevens Cyclery, a small local team from Ottawa. Right away they came in and stabilized our team and gave us real purpose in races. It’s been a snowball effect from there.”
Fraser said Dal-Cin has been “an animal” since joining the team.
“He’s just been so key for us since he’s come on board midway through 2014,” Fraser said. “He’s an Ottawa boy, and I’m from Ottawa. I knew his dad, and his dad was a racer back in the day of the old guard in Ottawa, so of course it’s just a pleasure to give him a break.”
The Ottawa connection has also paid off in another way for Silber Pro Cycling, as fellow Ottawa native Mike Woods, who rides this year for Cannondale and finished fifth overall at the Tour Down Under, is among the group that trains together with Dal-Cin and Cataford when they’re all home.
“Michael has shown them what work ethic is the last couple of years,” Fraser said. "And it’s paying off for them.”
It’s paying off for Fraser’s team, too. Silber will continue competing in the States this season until the team starts a swing of Canadian races in June.
“Joe Martin is next for us,” Fraser said. “Matteo is going to take Joe Martin off to concentrate on Tour of the Gila. We’ll do Gila, Winston-Salem, Philly and then the Canada swing: Saguenay, Beauce, our nationals, etc.”