Zach Bell cycles to world cup bronze in U.K.

Watson Lake native Zach Bell was on the podium for the second time this season at the UCI Track World Cup in London, England on Saturday.

Watson Lake native Zach Bell was on the podium for the second time this season at the UCI Track World Cup in London, England on Saturday.

Competing in the grueling two-day, six-race omnium for the Canadian Track Cycling Team, the 29-year-old Yukoner won two races en route to a bronze medal.

Having won a silver in the omnium in Cali, Columbia in December, Bell is in fourth to finish the 2012 UCI Track Cycling World Cup season.

Feeling he didn’t reach his potential, Bell has mixed emotions about his results.

“I know I have the ability to win these events and for one reason or another I am not getting that job done,” wrote Bell in an e-mail to the News after the competition.

“But I set personal bests in many of the timed events. These are the key to dominating the event as a whole, so to be fast in the timed events is great. I am obviously happy to be making the podium again. Consistency is the key to confidence in this event.”

Bell finished the first day of competition in fifth place with some rather inconsistent results. He opened the omnium, taking first in the 250-metre flying lap race before finishing 11th in the points race and 14th in the elimination race. The elimination race, in which trailing riders are pulled from the race every two laps, has been a thorn in Bell’s side for the last two seasons.

“For me, if I can do well in that event, I can be the guy to beat,” wrote Bell. “At the moment that race does so much damage to my standings that I spend the second day chasing the leaders. If I can just get that race right, I feel I can go into the second day in a position to win and not just fight my way onto the podium.”

Bell was considerably more consistent on Saturday, taking second in the individual pursuit, fourth in the scratch race and then winning the one-kilometre time trial.

He was so fast on Day 2 he broke his own Canadian record in the individual pursuit, completing the 4,000-metre race in three minutes, 25.057 second and shaving more than two-and-a-half seconds off the record he set in Columbia.

Last season Bell finished the world cup series in first place – as the UCI Track Cycling World Cup champion for the first time in his career. But having competed in just two of the four world cups this season, it’s more important to Bell to perform well at the races than to achieve a high ranking.

“I am not disappointed at all,” wrote Bell. “(Finishing the world cup series in first) overall has never been a goal. It was always just icing on the cake. I am much happier to make the podium in the most difficult and well-attended race of the year so far. It is great to win the world cup but it is not something we set out to do this year.”

The weekend’s world cup took place on the track that will be used at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. It is not yet decided if Canada will secure a berth to the track competition at the Games, but if a spot is procured, Bell would be a shoe-in.

“At this point I am sure Canada will have a start at the Olympics in my event,” wrote Bell. “As long as I can stay healthy then there is no one else in the pool for the spot at the moment.” 

Whether Bell gets a second shot at Olympic gold will be determined at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships in Melbourne, Australia at the start of April. He finished in sixth overall at last year’s world championship.

“I feel good about (the world championships),” wrote Bell. “It is a little lower priority than this event was for me. I am actually shifting gears towards the buildup for the Games now. This means the worlds may fall in a training block that may not leave me as sharp as I am now. It is close enough to now though and if I stay healthy and race well, I think I can still be a strong contender.”

In his first Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Games, Bell finished seventh in the points race and 12th in the men’s Madison event.

On the topic of major Games, Bell encourages Yukoners to get involved in the upcoming Arctic Winter Games in Whitehorse March 4 to 10, even if it’s just cheering on local athletes.

“My achievements here are built on the foundation created by my northern sporting community,” wrote Bell. “I competed at three Arctic Winter Games and they all gave opportunities to learn how to compete, fall in love with a sporting life and be a fitting ambassador for my home. 

“The whole community needs to realize that this event will inspire and shape the young people of the North in a way that has the potential to change the entire northern community. That’s worth getting involved in, however you can. Good luck to all of the Yukon athletes.”

Bell forewent the Track Cycling Canadian Championships this past summer to race with SpiderTech Powered by C10, Canada’s only pro-continental team. SpiderTech made its debut on the UCI World Tour in Quebec in September, with the long-term goal of entering a team in the Tour de France.

Bell won bronze with SpiderTech at the Canadian National Road Championships in June.

Contact Tom Patrick at tomp@yukon-news.com