Silber Pro Cycling ready to roll the dice in Utah

The downside of a Continental team having a super successful season is what follows: Top riders move up the food chain, leaving the third-division squad to start over.

That's the position Silber Pro Cycling director Gord Fraser found himself in this year after his team's breakout season in 2016 was followed by the loss of Ben Perry to Cycling Academy, Matteo Dal-Cin to Rally Cycling and Alex Cataford to UnitedHealthcare.

Silber, now in the first year of a three-year deal with the title sponsor, has re-upped this year with a younger roster and is entering into its most important racing block of the season, with the Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah, Colorado Classic and Tour of Alberta coming up in quick succession.

"The biggest challenge for us was just dealing with a few injuries we had this year, with Nicolas Masbourian with his concussion from Saguenay, and Danick Vandale with his tendonitis, it's left us pretty thin," Fraser told Cyclingnews after last week's Cascade Cycling Classic in Oregon. "We brought in Marc-Antoine Soucy from Qubebcor to kind of help us with bodies. He's a great addition. He's already fit in well at Cascade."

Fraser is hoping to start out this week's Tour of Utah in a similar fashion to last year, when Kris Dahl stormed to the sprint win in Cedar City. Monday's opening stage includes two climbs up and over Logan Canyon before a 60-kilometre mostly downhill run to the finish in downtown Logan.

"We are a younger team this year,” Fraser said. “The average age at Utah is 21, so it's going to be a learning experience for the guys. But I thought things went really well at Cascade, and I was happy with the way Nigel Ellsay was willing to roll the dice and risk a lot on both road stages, using breakaways to try and move up from his top-seven, top-eight position on GC.

"The way the guys rode at Cascade – there wasn't much to show for it in terms of results – but we rode hard and rode well together," Fraser said.

Silber was close to getting a stage win in Oregon on the final day, but confusion reigned in the finale as the men's and women's fields converged. Silber's Stephen Bassett got caught up with one of the women riders as he opened an advantage in the final closing 200 metres, hitting the deck and ending his chances for the stage win. Fraser was livid and called out both the race organisers and officials for not handling the situation better. He's since apologized.

"In the heat of the moment after the race I was definitely upset,” Fraser said. “I should have taken a moment to cool off. I think it was a preventable thing, and I think in the future it won't happen again. My concerns remain the same, but I definitely could have handled it more diplomatically. I want to apologise again to Chad [Sperry] and his team there at Cascade Classic, and also to the crew from USA Cycling and the UCI."

Contrition complete, Fraser is fully focused on getting some results and experience for his riders in Utah.

"I think the stages when GC has been settled a little bit and when the stages aren't over-the-top hard is probably our best bet, something where a breakaway has a relatively good chance at succeeding," Fraser said. "That's kind of where our strengths lie.

"In the flatter sprint stages, obviously we're getting there," he said. "Our speed department is progressing. In the high mountains we're maybe not at the WorldTour level yet, so we'll wait and see what the big mountain stages hold for us. But I think those kind of stages, where it's opportunistic and the GC is set, there are some opportunities for some breakaways to succeed. That's where we really need to shine the most."

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.