Two Yukoners – both Watson Lake natives, in fact – were leaving much of the competition in the dust at the 2011 Canadian National Road Championships in the Toronto area last week.
Olympian Zach Bell and Jesse Reams cycled to top-10 finishes, with the former winning a bronze in the road race on Saturday.
“Coming off the track, I feel I’m finally coming around to some kind of road form,” said Bell, a world champion track cyclist. “It’s coming together more, for sure.”
Bell and his team, SpiderTech Powered by C10, dominated the podium in the road race, snatching all three medals.
“The team, in years past, has come up a bit short in this,” said Bell. “So there was some urgency to get this win. It was something Canada’s top team wasn’t able to do before.
“Basically, that was the job that needed to get done, and I was lucky enough to be one of the guys up there at the end and finish the job.”
Bell crossed the finish line of the 180.25-kilometre course with teammates Svein Tuft and Will Routley in four hours, 32 minutes and nine seconds. A tough course, featuring a category 4 climb stretching one kilometre, only 42 of the 178 riders finished.
“Even in the pro races and one-day races, there are a lot of people who don’t finish,” said Bell. “Once they are out of the race – once they can’t be top-five or top-10 – there’s not a whole lot of point in carrying on.
“In stage races it’s different because you have to finish to carry on. But in one-day races there’s a goal and if you’re not going to be in contention, the wise man pulls the plug.”
Bell also raced to fourth in the event’s time trial and finished fifth in the omnium. His results are much higher than in the majority of his SpiderTech races this season, often finishing out of the top-20 as he fills a supporting role on the team.
“It’s the nature of the sport. We’re running support for a certain person who’s capable of getting those results,” said Bell. “I’ve been in a support role quite a bit this year. That isn’t to say I haven’t had opportunities to get results. There have been similar situations, like at the nationals, where my job was to put pressure on the field to allow our strong guys to win the race.
“Sometimes when you put that pressure on, you end up cracking the field yourself. That’s kind of what happened with Will, Svein and me, by the end.
“You can’t take the number as an indication of how someone is riding.”
Reams, who was riding for the Cycling BC team, was one of the riders to drop out of the road race, but managed to take 10th overall – fourth for the U-23 division – in the 43-kilometre individual time trial on Thursday.
“From a Yukon perspective, it was neat to see him rockin’ it again,” said Bell.
Last summer, Reams won silver for the U-23 division at the road nationals before returning to the Yukon to win the Tour de Whitehorse.
Bell also had a good summer last year, firmly establishing himself as the country’s top track cyclist, winning four golds and a silver at the 2010 Track Cycling Canadian Championships.
However, the 28-year-old is not sure if he will compete at this summer’s track championships.
“Next year is all about building a base and there’s some really good opportunities for me with SpiderTech in Europe at the same time,” said Bell. “Right now, we’re just trying to figure out what the best direction is. I don’t know if being at the nationals this year is the best preparation leading one year up to the (Olympic) Games.
“Right now, the goal is all about the Olympics and the decisions I make now will be based, 100 per cent, on what will be best for that development over the next 12 months.”
Before winning the UCI Track Cycling World Cup series in January, Bell, who is Sport Yukon’s International Male Athlete of the Year for the last three years, won a bronze and took in two other top-10 results at the Commonwealth Games in October.
In March, Bell finished sixth at the 2011 UCI Track World Championships in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.
At the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China, Bell finished seventh in the points race.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org