Go ahead and call him a surprise winner.
Silvan Dillier called himself just that Thursday after nipping Serghei Tvetcov at the finish line in downtown Red Deer to win the second stage of the Tour of Alberta.
“Here I am a little surprised about this win because I didn’t come to this race and say now I am going to win this,” said the Swiss rider and member of the BMC Racing Team. “Probably you say I’m here to help my leaders from the team and to get them in a good place. I’m a little bit surprised now.”
Dillier and Tvetcov, from Moldova and a member of the Jelly Belly team, broke away from the pack about 30 km east of the city and were a good 90 seconds ahead of the next rider when crossing the line for the first time before making three additional four-km cycles within Red Deer.
“There was a right-hand corner before the climb (hills east of Red Deer), a little more than 30 kilometres to go,” said Dillier. “I said (to Tvetcov) that we have to go fast and try to keep the distance. We actually knew then that we had a chance (to break away) but that we had to go as hard as possible.”
At the finish line of the 175 km stage that started just after 11 a.m. at Devon, Dillier and Tvetcov were both clocked at three hours, 32 minutes, 47 seconds. Slovak rider Peter Sagan, who won Wednesday’s opening stage, closed the gap within the city to finish third — 16 seconds back — and kept his yellow jersey with a 26-second lead over Australian Rohan Dennis.
Sagan, a member of the Cannondale Pro Cycling team whose total time for two stages is 7:03.34, said he never considered chasing down the front-runners as they approached Red Deer.
“We did work hard today but just only for beyond the front,” he said. “For us it was good because we pulled hard all day yesterday and today we wanted a little more rest. In front are more hard days.
“I knew I could lose my yellow jersey, but it doesn’t matter because it’s impossible to keep working as I have. It was a tactic and it may also be the same for tomorrow.”
The 23-year-old Sagan, recognized as one of cycling’s finest young talents and four-time stage winner in the famed Tour de France, was referring to today’s third stage which starts in Strathmore and ends in Drumheller. The six-stage Tour of Alberta will conclude Sunday in Calgary.
“Every win is different but every win is really nice”, stated Dillier, when asked where Thursday’s stage victory ranks among his finest moments in the sport. “For sure, this one is special just because of the high level of riders here. I had some European under-13 titles but this is also really, really nice.
“Yes, this is for sure one of my biggest wins so far. It’s just amazing because here there are so many good riders. To win such a hard race is just fantastic.”
His performance Thursday may have helped Dillier earn a spot on the BMC World Tour team.
“We are talking and for sure this will be a good advantage for me to get into the world of the pros,” he said. “I am looking forward for the next few years. If you can win something it’s always good for your future.”
His confidence may also have been boosted just by beating Sagan and other top-ranked riders to the finish line.
“It’s already been a long time since we competed in juniors, but it’s nice to race again with these guys,” said Dillier. “They are already some more years at the pro level. I’m just coming up now and trying to progress here. I won a stage here and I am looking forward to the future.”
Dillier sits 14th overall, 51 seconds behind Sagan. Tvetcov is in 21st place, 59 seconds back of the leader.
Rounding out the top five after two stages are Tobias Ludvigsson of Sweden, who in third spot is 28 seconds off the lead, Cadel Evans of Australia and Brent Bookwalter of the U.S., who are a respective 36 and 37 seconds off the pace.
Ryder Hesjedal is the top Canadian rider. Hesjedal, who placed 28th Thursday, sits ninth overall, 46 seconds slower than Sagan.
The peleton (main group of riders) rode at an average speed of 50 km per hour Thursday.