The purpose of this post is, first and foremost, to thank Elliott Doyle and Michael Le Rossignol for their contributions to the team.
Their departure, however, is related to the second thing I want to talk about: what it means to run a development team that has to deal with both riders moving up to the next level and with others getting older and feeling the anxious urge to refocus on school or enter the workforce in another capacity.
I’ve been careful about making grand pronouncements, and even more deliberate in my efforts to gradually grow and professionalize the team. I’ll say this now: the ownership group of Silber Pro Cycling has initiated a 3-year plan to assess going Pro Conti but we will NOT do so until we are ready with the right infrastructure and of course the right partners. In the meantime we’re extremely happy to take on the challenge of continuing to be a better Continental team. For Silber, that means becoming a better development team that has to deal with the mixed emotions of seeing great riders and people, like Elliott and Michael, move on.
Elliott and Michael are both fantastic ambassadors for the sport, and both are exceptional athletes. As a team owner, it was a privilege for me to work with them. Elliott was with the team since its inception 3 years ago. In fact he was part of Team Medique p/b Silber Investments: the club team that became SPC in 2014. Both riders and staff will really miss Elliott. He’s a classic gentleman–and an excellent sprinter. His friendly demeanour and athletic panache make him very popular with fans, especially in Quebec. This was helped by Elliott’s incredible “fan club”.
At the end of 2014, Michael gained notoriety as a climber after winning the challenging App-Gap stage of the Green Mountain Stage Race in one of his first bike races. Around the same time, he posted on Strava what was then the fastest time up Camillien Houde, the major climbing feature of the World Tour race in Montreal, Canada. I went to the Quebec Championships in part to see him race and then signed him in 2015. He raced with the team for two years. Michael is a character with a great heart and considerable talent. He came to the sport late and therefore like many racers in their mid-to-late 20s knew his window for success was narrow, and battled the desire for a tangible career.
In 2016 Elliott won the MK Delta Crit, and he and Michael finished 2nd and 4th during the memorable Stage 4 Crit at Redlands. Elliott will be studying Pharmacy at the Université de Laval full-time and will be racing with another team (to be announced). Michael will continue to work in the cycling industry. In their own ways they helped build Silber Pro Cycling – and they will be missed.
On one hand it’s tough to see guys move on. This year has been particularly hard because we lost a lot of guys who helped the team grow immensely. Alex Cataford and Ben Perry are with Pro Conti teams but guys like them, as well as Matteo Dal-Cin, Elliott and Mike – this is why I started this team. I wanted to help young athletes with character get to the next level and inspire the next generation of cyclists.
When Matteo won Redlands it was the first time a Canadian had won the overall in the 37 year history of the race. That was huge and he stamped his authority on the peloton so forcefully during the last stage it made a real impression on the huge Californian cycling audience. But check the pics. Brian Hodes captured his young teammates cheering and celebrating at the finish. Everyone was so happy for ‘Teo’. And check the social media. Cyclists in Matteo’s home town of Ottawa went nuts. They do the same for Mike Woods. And in Matteo’s case, he comes from a cycling family as his father was a well-known racer and race organizer. Matteo’s win therefore had an effect that rippled through his family, friends, hometown, country, cycling peers and made Silber Pro Cycling known to US audiences.
We have similar pics from when Ben won the final stage of Beauce in 2015. Brian again caught great shots of the team surrounding him after the win. There’s also a shot of Masbourian congratulating an exhausted, sweating, loose-helmeted Roth sitting on the curb after winning the Delta RR solo. We’ve got a shot of Ben and Kris coming 1-2 at the National Crit Championships with fans on both sides of the road leaning over and banging on fences as the celebrating riders pass them. When Kris won in Utah, one of our mechanics, Richard Knutson, ran down the road so fast to give him a hug he would have finished in the top 3 if he was in the sprint! Kris was surrounded by so many well-wishers that he took too long to get to the podium so our soigneurs were looking for him and didn’t have time to wipe his face. Check the pics. He looks like a dusty mess. That’s from all the hugs that delayed him. Then there’s the shot of the team spraying champagne all over the stage after winning the team classification at the Tour of Alberta, with Cataford wearing the red Top Canadian jersey.
People sometimes ask me if losing riders is tough and the answer is yes – we are not immune to the challenges of being a development team. But we’re building something here at the funnel of a sport where a lot of excellent cyclists are trying to be some of the very few that become pros. It’s harsh and exciting. A threshold. Ben and Alex are nudging their way through the funnel, but what about Nigel Ellsay, Alec Cowan, Nicolas Masbourian, Emile Jean and the guys whose names you don’t know… yet.
Here’s Silber’s current threshold: I’m a realist with a vision which means that – for now–we are a Continental team invested in helping riders get to the next level. At the same time, we are assessing whether to take the team to the next level by investing in the next generation of cyclists and partnerships with stakes in the future of a harsh, exciting sport. Giordana has our new kit ready. Who’s going to step up in 2017?