A few milliseconds are all that separated Zach Bell from another national championship medal on Saturday.
Racing in the Canadian Road Cycling Championships in Saint Georges, Que., Bell just missed out on making the podium, placing fourth out of 151 riders.
“It was just inches on the day again and I was on the wrong side of those inches,” said Bell. “But I was happy to have another shot at it, get to the line and have the opportunity. But it wasn’t in the cards for me unfortunately.”
Bell, who is originally from Watson Lake, was one of eight cyclists to log a time of exactly 4:34:00, with a ninth cyclist coming in at 4:34:04 and another three at 4:34:06. It was that close.
Bell, who is captain of the SmartStop pro cycling team, won gold on at the championships two years ago on the same 186.2-kilometre course.
SmartStop teammates Robert Britton and Kristofer Dahl in 14th and 31st, respectively.
“In 2013 most of the strong guys on the course were flying solo on individual teams. This year we were basically all packed on three big teams,” said Bell. “Our team, SmartStop, being the smallest, we had three guys there.”
Two days earlier Bell raced to a 10th place finish in the Canadian Time Trial National Championships. The two-time Olympian completed the 42-kilometre course in 1:01:30.28, just 4:16.65 behind the winner. Britton claimed a fifth place finish in the race.
“The time trial course didn’t suit me very well and as far as national time trial results go, it’s probably pretty low on my list,” said Bell. “I haven’t been putting a lot of energy into that discipline in recent times.
“I think the road race was pretty decent for our team. I had a shot at it. It’s the same course as I won on (in 2013). It came down to a very similar scenario in the end with a small group sprint. I didn’t get the corner quite right this time and had something working against me on the way in – having to do some work on the last 20 kilometres that I didn’t have to do last time. There were some fast, fresh guys still sitting in the group.”
Bell is just getting back into the swing of things since taking a month off of racing. The 32-year-old took a break after feeling worn out by a busy start to the season. He pocketed a podium spot at the Vuelta Independencia Nacional in the Dominican Republic way back in February.
“I had a really heavy piece of the calendar at the beginning of the year for the first time, so I trained really hard in the fall and winter and coming into the spring I did a lot more racing than I have in years past,” said Bell. “It was a bit of a gamble. We knew there was the potential it would either make me or break me and in the end it kind of broke me.
“Fatigue caught up with me and I had to cut a couple races out.”
All rested up, Bell might compete in some races in the BC Superweek that kicks off next week with the Tour de Delta. He also plans to lead his team at the Tour of Utah early August and the Tour of Alberta in September.
“I felt like my form is coming back, so that was good. Hopefully that’ll mean good things in the near future as I go into the second part of the season,” said Bell.
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