Zach Bell opens season with silver Down Under

Cyclist Zach Bell has started the 2011 season, which happens to be an Olympic qualifying season, looking like one of Canada's top prospects for the London Games in 2012.

Cyclist Zach Bell has started the 2011 season, which happens to be an Olympic qualifying season, looking like one of Canada’s top prospects for the London Games in 2012.

The Watson Lake native opened the Track Cycling World Cup season with a silver in Melbourne, Australia, on Friday.

“This is a good way to start the qualification for the Olympics,” wrote Bell in an e-mail to the News. “It was a strong field, so it is good to see I am still near the top despite not having raced the event for two years.”

Bell’s medal came in the omnium, an event that combines six races into two days and was reintroduced to World Cup cycling only a few years ago. However, Bell has already had success in the omnium, winning a silver at the 2009 World Championships in Poland.

“There is a lot more to consider than when training for a single event,” wrote Bell, who just over a week ago was given Sport Yukon International Male Athlete of the Year award.

“We are still working on training systems, but, basically, you spend a lot of time doing high-quality efforts in each event. It is exciting because the training is constantly changing, but it is overwhelming with so much to work on.”

To win the silver overall, Bell took third in the flying lap race and the points race, before taking fourth in the pursuit, fifth in the kilometre race and first in his specialty, the scratch race.

Bell also finished 15th in the newly added elimination race, in which the last rider is eliminated every two laps.

“No one has raced it before this year so there is a steep learning curve at the moment,” wrote Bell. “It is also very different from other races. For sure it is the most anticipated event of the omnium at the moment.”

The 27-year-old is just coming off one of the best seasons of his competitive career. Bell won four golds and a silver at the Canadian Track Cycling Championships in August. He then won bronze – in the scratch race – and accomplished two other top-10 results at the Commonwealth Games this past October in Delhi, India.

Bell began the year winning two gold medals at a World Cup event in Beijing, China. In mid-July, he won the Tour de Delta road race in Delta, BC.

In the coming days, Bell will be on his way to next his next World Cup event, taking place this weekend in Cali, Columbia.

“Thanks to all the supporters I have that follow and send words of encouragement from the Yukon,” wrote Bell. “With the two days of racing I actually have time to hear the cheering from afar and appreciate the people standing behind me in the Yukon.”

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