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Under-23 rider wins spot in Tour of Alberta

20-year-old Calgary rider to appear in September's six-day race

Kristopher Dahl is interviewed after winning a stagiaire contact with SmartStop presented by Mountain Khakis. He'll also be the sole Albertan in September's Tour of Alberta. Photo credit: Tour of Alberta
Kristofer Dahl is interviewed after winning a stagiaire contract with SmartStop presented by Mountain Khakis. He’ll also be the sole Albertan in September’s Tour of Alberta. Photo credit: Tour of Alberta

This past Sunday, Team H&R Block rider Kristofer Dahl won the final stage of the Banff National Park Bike Fest Stage Race. It was the third stage the 20-year-old from Calgary had won. While his overall placement was fourth in the race, he had secured a notable prize. He won a spot in the Tour of Alberta.

In May, the organizers of the new UCI 2.1 stage race announced the Making the Tour program, which would award the highest-placed, under-23 rider from Alberta in the Banff National Park Bike Fest a stagiaire contract from Aug. 1 to the end of December with the U.S. continental team SmartStop presented by Mountain Khakis. A day after the Banff race, I reached Dahl during a layover he had in Montreal. With the win still fresh, he was travelling to Quebec for the national championship races Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

Matthew Pioro: Was the spot in the Tour of Alberta a goal of yours going into the Banff race?

Kristofer Dahl: I was initially planning on racing Tour de Beauce, but as soon as it came out that a young Albertan could be in Tour of Alberta, I changed plans. I talked to my director Mark Ernsting and he was supportive of me going to Banff and qualifying for this spot.

MP: What was one of the biggest challenges within the race?

KD: I think the biggest roadblock was that Trek Red Truck sent their full squad, seven solid guys. We had five guys there because half the team was out at Beauce. We had a bit of a split squad going on, but we still managed to put on a good show. That was definitely one of the hardest things to overcome, the level of the racing. In previous years, it’s been a really solid race, but this year it definitely stepped up to another level racing. It was really good to see that the race was so competitive, but it put a lot of pressure on us to try and win some stages and get that Tour of Alberta spot.

MP: What’s it like having a team racing for you so you can get off the team?

KD: [laughs] I never really looked at it that way. But the whole goal of H&R Block is to develop riders and to get them to that next level. This opportunity for me was something that the team was pretty pumped on and they helped me achieve it. It’s pretty awesome to be a part of Team H&R Block when they’re really willing to do what it takes to develop young riders like me.

MP: What was it like for you on Sunday after you’d won the stage and the spot in the Tour of Alberta?

KD: The whole experience of racing Banff, and the stage wins right in front of my family, was great. I had the whole family there: grandparent and parents. It was really emotional for them as well. It’s really awesome to have that.

MP: So, you will be the lone Albertan in the Tour of Alberta. Ryder Hesjedal has been known as the “Weight of the Nation.” Are you the “Weight of the Province?”

KD: I don’t’ know if I’d say “Weight of the Province.” Because everybody knows everybody in the Alberta cycling community, I think I’ll definitely be watched at the very least. There will be a lot of checking in and seeing how things are going, so there’s definitely an element of pressure there to put on a good show. But at the same time, I wouldn’t say there’s the weight of Alberta on me. I think just getting there is one hell of an experience.

MP: What are your hopes for nationals?

KD: Definitely the under-23 time trial on Thursday. That’s definitely a big goal. I’d really like to try and get a podium in that. I’ve had a decent time trial in the past and hope I can pull of a good one. There’s the under-23 road race and, of course, the crit on Sunday. If I can get the crit to come down to sprint, then I can be competitive. Also, I’ll  have the help of Aaron Schooler and rest of H&R guys. We’ll all be working together to get somebody up there.