With the London Olympics just 51 days away, Watson Lake cyclist Zach Bell isn’t gearing his training towards long road races. He will, after all, be representing Canada in track cycling.
But the 29-year-old is, nonetheless, a force to be reckoned with on the road.
Bell finished 16th out of nearly 200 cyclists at the 28th annual Philadelphia International Cycling Championship on Sunday.
“It went well; the team rode pretty well,” said Bell. “We had a bunch of guys who have been away from racing for a little bit for various reasons.
“We got through to the finale at the end. The team worked hard to set me up, and I felt good throughout the day, but I just didn’t have the speed at the end because I’ve been doing a lot of base, endurance training. So I’m missing a lot of speed that I usually have and in the final sprint I wasn’t able to challenge for the win.”
Bell was one of five riders from Team SpiderTech powered by C10, Canada’s only pro-continental team, in the 200-kilometre event. He was the top Canadian and top SpiderTech finisher in the race, which is considered the US’s top-ranked international cycling classic – the most important one-day race on the US cycling calendar.
Bell was up in the lead pack in the final sprint.
“It was good to be there in the mix, but given better preparation for that specific race, I feel I could have done something a little bit better,” said Bell. “In this race the main goal was to get some race miles in the legs.
“I think this is my best one. I don’t think I’ve cracked the top-20 before.”
Bell’s position on Canada’s Olympic team will remain unofficial until the end of next week, but it’s all but certain he will be on board.
A silver-medal performance by Bell at the 2012 UCI Track World Championships in April provided Canada with a berth into the six-race omnium track event at the Games. Only two cyclists have been nominated for the spot: Bell, and last year’s Canadian champion, Cameron MacKinnon, who has since retired from racing.
“He got nominated through his results at the track nationals last year – he was the national champion in the event,” said Bell. “Since then he switched over the a sprint discipline and has now stopped racing.”
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 was crowned the UCI World Cup Tour Champion last year but finished the season with a disappointing sixth-place finish at the world championships.
In his first Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Games, Bell finished seventh in the points race and 12th in the men’s Madison event.
“Things are going the way we want them to and I am in the hard-work part of it now,” said Bell. “I just have my head down, am getting the work done, doing the things we need to do at this time.
“I’m looking forward to the last push where you sharpen the tools a little bit. For me, that’s the fun part where you start going really fast.”
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. Whitehorse’s Jeane Lassen will be an alternate for Canada’s weightlifting team.
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