Two Watson Lake cyclists took on the best in the country at the 2012 Canadian Road Championships in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, last Thursday and over the weekend.
Zach Bell and Jesse Reams, both of whom were in the U23/Elite division, are not altogether thrilled with their results, but they both have reasons for why they didn’t get the placements they were hoping for.
Bell is already focusing his training on track cycling, the event he will be representing Canada in next month at the London Olympic Games.
He did, nonetheless, place sixth in the 39-kilometre time trial on Thursday, coming in with a time of 50 minutes, 52 seconds, just 3:31 behind the first place finisher.
“The time trial could have gone a little better; I didn’t have a great day,” said Bell. “We’ve been putting all our energies into the track … The heat was pretty bad and I don’t know if I didn’t adapt to it that well – it wasn’t totally out of line, but it wasn’t as fast as I thought I could have gone.
“It was a bit disappointing, but not a big deal,” he added.
Bell then placed 25th in Saturday’s road race, completing the hilly 182.2-kilometres course in 4:37:34, just 2:13 behind the first-place finisher. A 25th place result at a national championship is nothing to scoff at, but he was primarily out to support his SpiderTech teammates.
“We were trying to execute a strategy because we had big hitters to take down,” said Bell.
“Our plan was to use our numbers to put the other guys on the defensive and the way it worked out, I was one of the guys that kept an eye on things at the back of the pack while the other guys put the pressure on up front.”
Reams, who cycles for the American team Hagens Berman and was at the championship for Team B.C., competed in all three races. Like so much of the field in each race, Reams did not finish all three days, still feeling the effects of an illness.
“They didn’t go as I would have liked,” wrote Reams in an email to the News. “I was hoping for a result in the time trial but that didn’t happen. I was sick for a few weeks leading into nationals and I was hoping to regain some form but the legs never really came around.
“This year if you weren’t on your game for the time trial it really showed. The 32-degree and very humid weather added another element to the equation, and being a Yukoner, it’s one I don’t have much experience with.”
Bell decided to forgo Sunday’s 42-kilometre criterium, an event that can carry a higher level of risk. With the Olympics just a short time away, Bell figured he had bigger fish to fry.
“It probably would have suited me a little bit better than the hilly road race, but the criterium is a bit more dangerous,” said Bell. “Last year our team had some pretty unfortunate crashes and it’s a national title that doesn’t mean anything to our team.
“Our staff and directors basically said, if we want to do it, we’re on our own.”
At last year’s road championship Bell won bronze in the road race and Reams took 10th overall – fourth for the U-23 division – in the 43-kilometre individual time trial.
“I feel I learned a lot about how to get myself ready to race in the heat,” said Reams. “Bettering yourself as an athlete and a person isn’t always about the successes, it’s learning from the failures, and I feel like I have done that and am a better cyclist because of it. I didn’t come away from nationals with any results this year but I don’t feel I came away empty handed. As the saying goes, you learn more from the races you lose than the races you win sometimes, so I’m trying to take as much as I can from this past weekend.”
The road championship was the last competition Bell faces before the Olympics. The 29-year-old will now head to Flagstaff, Arizona, then Los Angeles, then Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, before heading to the Olympic Village in London.
“I’ll get back on the track on the seventh or eighth of July, and then it’ll be more and more from there,” said Bell.
The London Games will be Bell’s second Olympics. In his first Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Games, Bell finished seventh in the points race and 12th in the men’s Madison event.
“I’m excited, obviously,” said Bell. “To be kind of a leader, the one with the experience, has been exciting as a new thing for me. I’m happy to be working with some of the younger riders and helping them get a better shot than I did in my first one.
“To see that there’s another person from the territories going, for the road race, is pretty exciting too,” he added, referring to Yellowknife’s Denise Ramsden, a cyclist on the women’s road team.
A silver-medal performance by Bell at the 2012 UCI Track World Championships in April earned Canada its spot in the six-race omnium track event at the Games.
Bell made the podium at both UCI Track World Cup Tour events he competed at this season with a silver in Cali, Colombia, and a bronze at a world cup in London. Those results put Bell in fourth at the end of the world cup tour.
Bell is not the only Yukoner – nor the only Watson Laker – going to the London Games on Team Canada. Two others are going as alternates. Watson Lake’s Brittanee Laverdure is first-alternate for Canada’s wrestling team for the second Olympics in a row. And Whitehorse’s Jeane Lassen will be an alternate for Canada’s weightlifting team.
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