“Last year’s group was relatively inexperienced. With our new recruits, we have taken that to a different level. Many of them are new to the UCI America Tour level,” said Silber Pro Cycling director sportif Gord Fraser as he sat waiting for his riders in the team car near the top of Mount Lemmon in one of the only spots on the mountain with a reliable cell reception.
“We are just getting started. As I get to know the guys and see their level, form, and characteristics then we can lay out a game plan. We will wait to see what it foreshadows but we have a lot of talent,” he said about the 2017 roster.
The Silber’s team camp was in full swing after a weekend of racing at the Tuscon Bicycle Classic. It’s the first and perhaps only time the whole Montreal-based UCI continental team, staff and riders, will be gathered together in one place. Over the winter, Silber moved their service course from Milwaukee to Tuscon where the staff felt the team’s equipment would logistically be easier to move around North America throughout the season. The first days of camp were dedicated to getting bikes and equipment prepped. The moment that was done the riders were pinning on their race numbers for the Tuscon Bicycle Classic.
A well organized local race was Fraser’s way of jump-starting the team’s bonding and was a good way to start to get to know his riders. It was valuable for dusting off the cobwebs as well. “I made a mistake with some of the information I gave them,” Fraser said about the race which Nigel Ellsay finished second in after losing the race lead to Travis McCabe (UnitedHealthcare) on the final stage. “It’s good to have a throwaway race at the beginning of the year.”
With a lot of new faces in the lineup such as Canadian youngsters Nicolas Zukowsky, Alec Cowan, Adam Roberge, and Dannick Vandale, Fraser said riders who have been with the team for a couple of years will be counted on to set the tone this season.
“Émile Jean is very instrumental in our race tactics. We are challenging him to dictate the tactis this season,” said Fraser about the Trois-Rivieres native. “Last year, [Nicolas] Masbourian was a great surprise as he made progress that we considered very significant.
“Nigel [Ellsay], when he is on, is really a core member of the team and capable of making the jump next year similar to the guys we graduated this year but for him it’s a quest for consistency,” Fraser said about the Courtney, B.C. native who came second overall at the Joe Martin Stage Race.
“It would be nice to lighten the load on [Ryan] Roth. He is a guarantee for two to five wins. He always steps up and when he is on, he is one of the best in North America,” Fraser said about the 2016 Canadian individual time trial champion and veteran who took big UCI wins for the team in 2016. Roth also finished 15th at the 2016 world championships in Doha, Qatar.
Another change for 2017 is at the level of equipment. “We are really looking forward to working with our sponsors. We were the very first team on Jamis’s new Xenith time trial bike and our change in sponsorship deck is one of the biggest adjustments. The riders take the time at camp to test the limitations of their new equipment,” he said.
With an eye on development this year, Fraser noted that the organization would like to find partners that will allow Silber to graduate the program to the next level along with its riders in the future. “We are engaging the business community in Canada and want to find a partner to get on board with this program to develop cycling with us.
“If we keep doing what we have been doing we will find some companies that will see a great opportunity to showcase their brand with the team,” Fraser said noting that the team’s development to this point would not have been possible without the support of Arthur Silber who has committed to backing the team for three more seasons.