Just over a month ago, Watson Lake cyclist Zach Bell was practically unbeatable at the Track Cycling Canadian Championships, winning four gold medals. However, as part of Team Canada at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, Bell is off to a slow start, finishing 15th in the strategic 160 lap, men’s 40 kilometre points race on Wednesday.
“I am not happy with the result but it was an all or nothing situation,” wrote Bell in an e-mail to the News. “I was riding well, but as the race went on, mitigating the team tactics became more and more difficult. As I am not peaked for the track, this made it more difficult. I gave all I could to get a medal and that meant putting in a hard move towards the end that would either put me back close to the podium or take me out of the race. Unfortunately it did the latter.”
The first of four races the 27-year-old will be competing in at the Games, the points race is a track event in which cyclists compete for points every 10 laps. Riders can also achieve points by lapping the field.
“(My strategy) was to stay close with the leader and try to be on the right side of the team tactics as much as possible, as an individual rider it was difficult,” wrote Bell. “It played out well for the first two-thirds of the race but one team move basically took me out of the race for the medals and there was not much to be done to change it.”
He made no emphatic declarations about India’s preparedness in hosting the Games and Bell sounded satisfied with Team Canada’s residencies and the organization of the events thus far.
“Accommodations are adequate and I think the volunteers and security are doing a good job keeping things running smoothly,” he wrote.
Bell will be racing in his second of four races at the Games, the scratch race, on Friday. He will also be competing in a road race on Sunday and a time trial on Wednesday.
“Friday will be another opportunity and I will do my best to execute better,” wrote Bell. “I will face similar challenges but it is my hope that I can use some of the things learned in the points race to have a better result Friday.”
The elite rider won four gold and one silver at the 2010 Track Cycling Canadian Championships in Bromont, Quebec, at the end of August. Bell picked up his golds – his national titles – in the individual pursuit, points race, scratch race and the omnium. He only came up short in the one-kilometre time trial, taking silver.
Bell, who cycles for Kelly Benefits Strategies Pro Cycling Team out of Minneapolis, is competing in his second Commonwealth Games, having competed at the last ones in Melbourne, Australia, in 2006, finishing fifth in the scratch race. Bell also set a Canadian record in Melbourne – four minutes and 31 seconds over four kilometres – in the individual pursuit, a record that stands today.
In mid-July, Bell won the Tour de Delta road race in Delta, BC, breaking away from the lead pack of 10 riders in the final eight kilometres for the win. He has also had top-five finishes in a couple American stage races over the summer and began the year winning two gold medals at a World Cup event in Beijing.
Bell also competed at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, finishing seventh in the points race.
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