Watson Lake cyclist Zach Bell took one for the team last week.
The 32-year-old was riding in a support role for his SmartStop Pro Cycling Team at the 30th annual Redlands Bicycle Classic, which finished Sunday in Redlands, California.
He helped SmartStop take third out of 25 in the team event.
“We were leading the race until yesterday, and then in the last stage, in the last 20 kilometres, we lost it to another pair of young guys,” said Bell. “Two guys got away and as a team we couldn’t control them.
“Going into it we wanted to have a good showing, get a stage win and have a decent GC (general classification). In the end we were in a pretty big cat-fight to win the thing. We were the strongest team but the way tactics played out, it didn’t roll completely in our favour.”
SmartStop dropped from first to third in the team event in the final stage. So did Bell’s teammate Travis McCabe, who placed third in GC after five stages.
McCabe wore the yellow leader jersey for much of the week. Bell helped keep it on McCabe’s back in Stage 4’s 90-minute criterium. Bell rode as sweeper for McCabe in the race and took 26th place out of 159 riders, helping McCabe snatch seventh.
“We were working to preserve Travis’ lead there, that’s where most of my work went in this week,” said Bell. “I was kind of there to be general on the road and make sure guys were doing what they needed to be doing and also to lend some strong legs to the guys we had up there in the GC.”
Bell’s best finish of the week was 14th in Stage 2’s short 7.8-mile time trial. Even there he was working for the team’s overall good, giving advice to teammates McCabe and Rob Britton, who placed seventh and fifth, respectively.
“The strategy for the team going in was to have as many guys as we could up there in the overall standing,” said Bell. “So I had to do a good time trial just so I stayed close. It was OK; I wasn’t super happy with it, but I wasn’t unhappy with it.
“I was one of the earlier guys out on course, so it was my job to feel it out and report back to the guys going late … give them some tips on how to go faster.”
This season is Bell’s first on SmartStop, which is based out of North Carolina. He rode for Hong Kong’s Champion System Pro Cycling Team last season and Spidertech Powered by C10 the previous two.
Though he was in a support role in Redlands, he isn’t always playing backup to the SmartStop team.
In the first event of the season, Bell took second place in Stage 7 of the 35th annual Vuelta Independencia Nacional in the Dominican Republic at the end of February. SmartStop collected a total of four podium finishes in the Dominican, including Bell’s silver.
Bell, who resides in North Vancouver, had arguably his best season to date last year.
The two-time Olympian became a national champion on the road with a first-place finish in the 2013 Canadian Road Championships in St-Georges, Que. Bell also took fourth place in the time trial and eighth in the criterium at the national championship.
Just two months after winning the national title in road racing, Bell returned to the velodrome to win gold in the omnium at the 2013 Canadian Track Championships in Dieppe, N.B.
He also won stages at the Tour of Korea and the Tour of Taiwan with the Champion System team.
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