Yukon Olympian Zach Bell has established himself as Canada’s premier track cyclist.
Racing at the Track Cycling World Cup in Beijing, China, over the weekend, Bell took home a silver in the men’s point race and seventh in the scratch event, a 60-lap, first-over-the-finish-line-style race.
His success not only earned him a World Cup ranking of fourth in points racing and second in scratch, he is now the first male Canadian to qualify for the World Championships being held in Poland at the end of March.
“I went into the race with a strategy that was compatible with the kind of fitness that I had,” said Bell, of the points race. “I was fairly conservative in the first half of the race and basically limited my losses and then turned on the afterburners in the second half.”
From the midpoint of the race, knowing he was in contention for a podium spot, Bell was fighting tooth and nail with Polish rider Rafal Ratajczyk, who finished third.
“We exchanged the placing virtuously on every sprint—he’d take one and then I’d take one,” said Bell. “In the end I ended up scoring the majority of points in the last two and that put me over the top by one point.
“I’ve been on the other end of a lot of close points races, so it was good to be on the upper hand this time.”
Great Britain’s Chris Newton took first.
Having won a gold medal in a scratch race at the World Cup in Cali, Columbia, just before Christmas, Bell went into the scratch event as the favourite.
“I was sitting pretty high on the World Cup ranking and a top three (finish) in this one would have given me the World Cup overall,” said Bell, who feels he made some tactical errors in the race.
“I went for a certain strategy and other riders went with different ways of doing things and I ended up not having the legs in the end to finish off the other competitors…
“My focal event is the points race—it’s the Olympic event. Anything I’ve done in the scratch race, or will do in the scratch race, is just icing on the cake.”
In August, Bell raced at the Olympic Games in Beijing, finishing seventh out of 25 riders in the points race and 12th in the Madison event.
“I really didn’t anticipate going back so soon,” said Bell. “But then my coaches and I discussed which events would fit best into the training calendar and it just so happened that that’s when China was.
“We also did an event (in China) this time last year, so it was pretty similar to that event in terms of the weather and the scale of the event.
“It was good to be back there, for sure, because I’ve enjoyed racing there every time I’ve been there.”
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