Crash stymies Zach Bell at Tour of Alberta

Zach Bell’s chances at a strong finish in the Tour of Alberta stage race were quashed early on last week. The Watson Lake cyclist was involved in a crash during the first stage of the inaugural event.

Zach Bell’s chances at a strong finish in the Tour of Alberta stage race were quashed early on last week.

The Watson Lake cyclist was involved in a crash during the first stage of the inaugural event that started in Edmonton on Sept. 3, and ended in Calgary on Sunday.

Despite “rib issues” resulting from the crash, the 30-year-old pushed through the pain with top-30 results in the next four stages.

“It was kind of a rough week,” said Bell. “I saw a few doctors and they weren’t too worried about it being worsened by racing.”

Nearing the end of Stage 1 on Sept. 4, Bell was pushed off the course by fellow racers when the group of riders he was with misjudged the width of the road following a corner. Bell went over the barrier and landed on a curb with his ribs.

“Everyone thought it would be big and wide because the roads all day were big and wide,” said Bell. “Some guys misjudged it and I got pushed straight over the median. I saw it in time and corrected. I was real tight on the medium and was rubbing it and I was going to make it through, but some other guys hit me and launched me over, gymnastics style.”

Bell placed 116th out of 117 riders on the stage, six minutes and nine seconds behind the winner.

Despite placing in the top-30 in the following four stages into Calgary, Bell finished 105th out of 112 racers overall in the Tour.

“With a crash late in a stage like that, they’re going full gas at that point, if you fall off, you’re pretty much done,” said Bell. “I fell off pretty hard, so it took a minute or two to get a new bike, make sure I was OK and everything.”

Bell went on to place 22nd, 24th, 28th and 21st in the next four stages. In all four stages he placed higher than Canadian cycling star Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 Tour of Italy champ, who finished 60th overall in the Tour.

Bell also placed higher than the eventual Tour winner, Rohan Dennis of Australia, in Stage 2 and in front of 2011 Tour de France champion Cadel Evans in Stages 2, 3 and 5.

Bell’s teammate on the Hong Kong-based Champion System Pro Cycling Team, Ryan Roth, placed 23rd to end the Tour.

“I think the team missed some opportunities, we made some mistakes,” said Bell. “Those results didn’t reflect what I was capable of. I missed some opportunities on days there were breakaways. The days there were bunch-sprints, I didn’t connect well with my teammates, so we didn’t end up getting anything out of it.

“I didn’t quite have the luck this week. Without the luck and cohesive work as a team, it was tough in an event at this level to get a really good result. I’m a bit disappointed in that, but sometimes that’s just how it is.”

Bell’s crash on the road came just days after his triumphant return to track cycling.

The two-time Olympic track cyclist captured gold in the omnium at the 2013 Canadian Track Championships in Dieppe, N.B., just over a week ago.

He won gold in the points race, the elimination race and the scratch race. He also raced to silver in the individual pursuit and bronze in the one-kilometre time trial.

The track title was Bell’s second national title win of the season. He won his first national road title at the 2013 Canadian Road Championships in St-Georges, Que., in June. He also pinned fourth in the time trial and eighth in the criterium at the nationals.

With his Champion System Pro Cycling Team, Bell won a stage in the Tour de Korea in June and a stage in the Tour de Taiwan in March.

Bell is currently in Quebec for Grand Prix events in Quebec City and Montreal.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com