As this weekend’s National Championships in St.-Georges, Que. loom, Benjamin Perry of Silber Pro Cycling is in a unique, well-earned position to be feeling optimistic. After all, it might have been Caja Rural that won the 30th Tour de Beauce earlier this month, but it was Perry’s drive in Stage 5 — a 122.5 km urban circuit on June 14 and the final one of the race — that won the day’s competition for he and his team.
“I played my cards and I expected good opportunities,” he said at the time, reflecting on the win. “This is my career’s best result, and I am very happy for my team to be able to win the stage.”
This weekend’s event in Quebec could provide the opportunity for yet another defining leap forward for Perry and Silber Pro Cycling, and in conversation with Canadian Cycling Magazine, the 21-year-old Canadian cyclist said that he sees the same cards working in his and Silber’s favour. “I wasn’t too confident up until Saguenay,” Perry said, looking back at the Grand Prix Cycliste de Saguenay. “Then things went better than expected at Beauce. I don’t have any real doubt in my ability; I think it’s a good team. I think it’s a really good opportunity for us — for me personally, too. So I’m just going to keep rolling with how things have been going.”
For Perry, those things have been rolling increasingly smoothly throughout the season. It started somewhat more slowly — a 55th-place general classification at the Joe Martin Stage Race; 43rd in Stage 4 of the Gila — but when Saguenay rolled around in late May, Perry’s numbers started to change. An 8th-place finish came next at the Grand Prix’s Stage 4 race in Chicoutimi, Que., with a 2nd overall placement in youth classification and a ranking of 9th in points, as well as a 7th-place general classification finish. By the time the Beauce came along, with Perry’s powerful Stage 5 win, the momentum for the Silber rider had already been building.
It’s that momentum, he says, that he’s counting on when rubber meets road in St.-Georges.
His confidence in his teammates to deliver it, too, is evident. “I think we arguably have the most well-rounded team in terms of guys who can make it over all the climbs and then have a good shot with the sprints,” he said. “There’s obviously some better sprinters and some better climbers. [But] in terms of numbers and overall ability, I think we’ve got the best team here for that. So I think we’ve got a lot of cards to play, and if things can shake out right, we can hopefully walk away with both under-23 and Elite titles.”
Looking back over the course of the season thus far, Perry suggests that his own gathering strength has been hard-won. His demonstrated success in having built that strength, though — learning from early season difficulties, and boosting his own training to compensate — might prove decisive in riding for national titles.
“It was really challenging at the beginning of the year,” he recalled. “I did Silber Camp, and then I went and did the Nations Cup and it was raining that whole week. Then I crashed in Flanders and La Cote Picard, and then the last race I was kind of over it — I was still trying but I was a little tired.”
“It was five races in one week, and a lot of the nations had a different team for the middle of the week race, so I was kind of tired,” he explained. From there, it was on to the Gila — another trying experience, he recalled, but one that helped to set the season’s remainder, giving Perry the drive to turn things around. “I think, in the long run, it’s given me some pretty good form, racing every three days,” Perry said. “It was really hard and I didn’t perform that well, but it toughened me up and gave me some pretty good miles on my legs for this part of the season. It seems like it’s paying off.”
Perry is well aware that the field of competition this year is deep and aggressive, though, meaning that both he and Silber may be leaning hard on the fruits of that payoff. “I think the team that is most notable is Optum,” he said. “They’re kind of all at extremes, where they’re either really good climbers or really good sprinters. They’re a team that’s got a lot of cards to play.”
Going forward, despite the remaining season possibly bringing the Tour of Alberta for Silber and efforts to qualify for more UCI-level competition, Perry nonetheless remains focused on the Nationals. The near-term priorities are to break some serious ground in Quebec. Everything else, he said, comes after.
“For right now,” he said, “I’m just looking towards Nationals and then planning what comes next later.”