Team SmartStop is keeping its captain for another season.
Watson Lake cyclist and team captain Zach Bell has signed on for the 2015 season with the professional cycling team based out of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, SmartStop announced last week.
“We had such a good year, we had such good guys on the team, the chemistry is really good,” said Bell. “I looked around a little bit … there was one other team that had the same kind of dynamic, but I’ve had such a good relationship with the director there, Mike Creed, that I think it made sense once I knew a lot of the guys were coming back.
“I want to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s a bit of an unfinished project. Like I’ve said in a few other interviews already, we’re still building and I want to be a part of that.”
Under the leadership of Creed, a former pro cyclist turned team director last season, Team SmartStop headed in a new direction, focusing more on multi-stage events than on short one-day races.
The transition went extremely well. Team SmartStop made the podium in every event they raced and finished first in the Union Cycliste Internationale’s Americas Tour rankings, which includes North and South America.
The team also came third in the team standings in the U.S.’s National Racing Calendar.
“It’s going to be a similar group of guys doing a similar program and we’re hoping to improve on the success we had this year,” said Bell.
Also returning for another season with SmartStop is Travis McCabe, who finished first in the men’s individual standings of the National Racing Calendar; U23 Canadian Time Trial National Champion Kris Dahl; and Rob
Britton, who made the podium in the general classification of three major events this past season.
Slovenia’s Jure Kocjan, who placed first in the UCI American Tour individual rankings, has also agreed to another year with the 13-rider team.
Bell, who missed a large chunk of the season with a broken collarbone sustained in a crash in New Mexico at the start of May, finished ranked 28th in the UCI individual rankings with three podium finishes in UCI races.
The 31-year-old two-time Olympian ended the season with a win in the road race of the Thompson Bucks County Classic, one of two wins for the SmartStop team at the UCI event in September.
“Zach is an unbelievable professional, he surprised me throughout the year, we knew he was going to be a really nice, strong guy but we saw him drop some really good climbers at Bucks County,” said director Michael Creed
in a news release. “I have no more expectations or goals for him but we will be looking to put him in a position to win a UCI race. He knows where he is at and where I need him to be.”
Aside from his work with SmartStop, Bell produced three top-10 finishes in track cycling at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland, this summer. In one race, he helped Canadian teammate Remi Pelletier-Roy win a bronze medal. Bell also placed 14th in the men’s time trial in road racing at the Games.
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