Ben Perry joined the UCI Pro Continental ranks with the Israel Cycling Academy for 2017. This spring has been a crash course in the spring classics where the 23-year-old has been rolling with the pros in the cobbled classics. The move to a largely European racing schedule has seen the St. Catharines, Ont. native take up residence in Girona, Spain where it’s climate and beautiful roads make it the perfect training ground for many pro cyclists from abroad who have taken up residence in Europe.
“I really love the lifestyle here in Girona. There is a great community here and I haven’t found the adjustment hard at all,” Perry explained about the move overseas. “Although I am in the process of learning Spanish, everyone speaks English. I miss Canada sometimes for friends, family, and familiar things like Tim’s and hockey, but it’s easy to be happy here.”
Perry’s early season race schedule has seen him ride many of the cobbled Classics which take place in the Flanders region of Belgium including UCI WorldTour events like Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Dwars Door Vlaanderen and Gent-Wevelgem. He hasn’t finished all the races he’s lined up for but each adds to his growing experience.
“It’s an insane battle for the cobbles sometimes starting as far as 30 km out. They ride hard but not crazy on them, then go full, full gas after,” Perry said about riding against the world’s best. “Every flat classic I do I wonder if it’s not the ideal riding for my body type. You see plenty of guys weighing a good 10 lbs more than me smashing it all day.”
The learning curve in these races had been steep and this has lead to some disappointing days on the bike including at Gent-Wevelgem. “The pace was immense and I could hardly stay in the pack. I spent all day in the tail end of the bunch. Add all the tiny roads, corners and stretching pack, I didn’t last long. It was a real off day.”
Despite the elevated level of competition, Perry has ridden in the breakaway at Dwars Door Vlaanderen and on Stage 2 at Three Days of De Panne.
“It was amazing!” Perry said about the experience. “At two races I got in the break and then had the golden opportunity to jump in with the leaders but both times I was spat out in the crosswind. It’s hard because for me I am doing around four hours PB’s then I need to accelerate in the wind or on a climb to follow Boonen or Gilbert and I just can’t.”
The coming months should hold more opportunities for Perry as his schedule transitions to events that are better suited to his characteristics. “I have a bit of an easier schedule, moving away from full-on classics with De Brabantse Pijl (April 12), GP de Denain (April 13), Tro-Bro Léon (April 16), Tour d’Azerbaïdjan (May 3 to 7), Tour of Norway (May 17 to 21) and ITC Netherlands (June 2 to 4) before coming home for nationals (June 25).
“I would love to get on the podium in one of the UCI .1 races and hopefully get a bit deeper into the fold in a break or two,” Perry said about his ambitions. “This year is all about learning.”
While not racing Perry is enjoying his time in Girona. A typical day starts with coffee before training at 9 am. “Most people ride at 11 or 12 so I often train with my mate Rich who is a super strong local physio as we both agree on getting going early.”
After riding Perry enjoys walking around the cities markets or the old town followed by of course more coffee followed by some school work in the evenings. “I’ll try to get to the beach as much as possible now that it’s getting super warm here.”