Before hopping a plane to Europe, Zach Bell hadn’t raced track since last summer’s Canadian championships.
The Watson Lake cyclist, who has focused on road racing the last two years, is still among the fastest in the velodrome at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, taking place in Glasgow, Scotland.
“It has been good,” said Bell in an email to the News. “There is a young, inexperienced Canadian team so I have had a big role to play. I have also really liked getting back into the bunch racing.”
Bell logged three top-10 finishes in three races last week in Glasgow. He helped the Canadian men’s team take fourth in the 4,000-metre team pursuit on Thursday.
He then rode to fifth in the 40-kilometre points race, to finish as the top Canadian, on Saturday.
Bell then placed 10th in the 20-kilometre scratch race on Sunday, a race in which teammate Remi Pelletier-Roy of Longueuil, Que., won a bronze.
“That was part of a team effort that led to my fellow Canadian getting a medal,” said Bell. “So it may not look good on paper but Commonwealth Games is one of the only events where you have teammates on the track. We raced a team strategy in that event, that meant towards the end he was better placed to medal and so I worked for him to ensure we got that medal.”
Bell is now preparing to get back on pavement with a pair of road races to end the Games. He will race the time trial Thursday and road race Sunday.
“The road race and time trial will both be challenging events for me,” said Bell. “I have spent most of the last two years working on my road racing but most of the last two months focused on the track. So I am really not sure how I will fare in these events. We will have a good group for the road race though so I will look to contribute a great deal towards an overall Canadian result.”
Glasgow marks Bell’s third Commonwealth Games. The two-time Olympian won a bronze medal in the scratch race at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India. He won gold in the men’s omnium at the 2013 Canadian Track Championships last September in what was his first time back on the track since the 2012 London Olympics.
“Games are each unique in their own way. For me they are quite different but that is mostly my attitude and place in the sport that had changed. For the most part they have been typical. Normal big Games environment. Good crowds and venues. No overly serious issues.”
Though far from home, Bell is seeing a lot of familiar faces in Glasgow.
Fellow Watson Laker Brittanee Laverdure is set to compete in the 55-kilogram weight class in women’s wrestling on Thursday. It will be the first Commonwealth Games appearance for Laverdure, who won silver at the Pan-American Wrestling Championships in Mexico City a week ago.
Whitehorse mother and daughter Moira and Jeane Lassen are also in Glasgow. Moira is an official for weightlifting and Jeane, an Olympic weightlifter who retired last year, is doing commentary for the host broadcaster.
“I’ll be in game mode after tomorrow,” said Laverdure in an email to the News. “But everything is good, the village is good, etc. I saw Jeane Lassen, Moira Lassen, and Zach is two apartments over. I saw some weightlifting and caught a ride home with Jeane.”
Bell is also getting support from one of the smallest cycling fans in the stands. Wife Rebecca and daughter Lucy, who was born June 18, are there to cheer Zach on.
“It was great to have another fan as my daughter and wife made the trip,” said Zach. “I have wanted to race with my children in the crowd for a long time and even though she is too young to realize it, I still felt a unique sense of pride out there.
“It is also great to see the other Yukon athletes here,” he added. “Brittanee is in the building just beside me and we both compete on the 31st. And Jeane is here some place doing commentary. Such a great thing to still see Yukon athletes in the mix at a summer Games.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org