Stagiaire Dillier shows that anything is possible, even beating Sagan

The BMC rider was in a two-man breakaway that beat Sagan to the line by 16 seconds in Red Deer

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

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RED DEER, Alberta (VN) — A 23-year-old stagiaire has reinforced the notion that the Peter Sagan (Cannondale) Wheels Across North America Tour can actually make room for the occasional other person on the top step of the podium.

Switzerland’s Silvan Dillier (BMC Racing) charged to the line ahead of Moldovan Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Kenda) to win Thursday’s second stage at the Tour of Alberta. So instead of running the table at this first-year, six-day event, Sagan will have to be content with retaining the yellow leader’s jersey heading into Friday’s stage 3, from Red Deer into the Badlands hills and a finish in Drumheller.

Dillier joined teammates Tejay van Garderen and Mathias Frank, plus Janier Acevedo (Jamis-Hagens Berman) — all of whom won at the USA Pro Challenge — in a select group of people that have won stages against Sagan on this continent in the past 10 days of racing. Sagan won four times in Colorado and the first two days in Alberta, and the fact that he didn’t win Thursday was almost as big a surprise as who did.

“As a stagiaire you don’t come to race and say, ‘Yeah I’m going to win this,’” Dillier said. His only other win came in the relatively minor UCI 2.2 Tour de Normandie in March. “You say, ‘I’m here to help my leaders from the team to get them in a good place or [so] they can win then,’ so I’m a little bit surprised now.”

Good timing and a peloton with tired legs after a fast (51 kph) first 100 kilometers and a series of futile attacks allowed Dillier and Tvetcov to make their move after the second sprint, at Ponoka with 80 kilometers left. Their gap grew to more than five minutes and they still had nearly that in hand when they made a turn just before the descent to the Red Deer River and then the rise up to the day’s lone KOM point.

“There was a right-hand corner before the climb, probably about 30k to go there, and when we went through the corner, we had really a good gap,” Dillier said. “I said, ‘Now we have to go fast.’”

A rapidly closing peloton led by Garmin-Sharp and Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies chopped the gap to about two minutes when Dillier led Tvetcov plunged into Red Deer for the first of three finishing circuits. Tvetcov, whose runner-up finish was a career best, tried to drop Dillier on a rise with a bit more than 1km left but he had nothing left.

“I tried to attack [on] last lap in the climb … because I sprint bad,” Tvetcov said. “So I just [took] my chance. That was the bike race.”

Dillier kept close, then bolted around Tvetcov and cruised home the last 100 meters. Remarkably, 16 seconds later, Sagan managed to open a two-second gap to win a bunch sprint over Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEdge).

Afterward, Dillier reminded Sagan that they’d raced together as juniors. And he said he’d like to make it a habit if BMC brings him on for a full ride next year.

“It’s a long time since the juniors, but it’s nice to race again with these guys,” Dillier said. “They are already [with] more years on the pro level. I’m just coming up now to try to progress here. … I’m looking forward to the future.”

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