It’s a new season and he’s on a new team, but Zach Bell is still fast fast fast.
The Watson Lake native has already climbed podium steps with just one event under his belt.
Bell took second place in Stage 7 of the 35th annual Vuelta Independencia Nacional in the Dominican Republic last week.
“I think the whole team performed pretty well,” said Bell. “For me it was stretching the legs out and getting things moving again. We got a bunch of podiums, so that was good. Everyone came to race and came away with something.”
Bell’s silver came in the event’s longest stage, a 162-kilometre race from San Cristobal to San Juan.
The three top finishers, including Bell, crossed the finish line within a bike’s length of each other.
“Zach got jumped from behind and had he had another 10 metres he would have had him,” said Bell’s team director, Michael Creed, in a news release. “But that’s why we have a finish line. Zach was coming so quick, at the 150-metre mark he was three bike lengths behind the first two guys, we weren’t sure if he was going to catch them but he has a good sprint on him.”
Bell is now cycling for the SmartStop professional cycling team based out of North Carolina.
SmartStop collected a total of four podium finishes in the Domincan, including Bell’s silver. He raced for Hong Kong’s Champion System Pro Cycling Team last season.
“It’s like a lot of the teams I’ve been on, there are some Canadian ownership in there,” said Bell. “It’s on paper as in North Carolina, but really it’s all across the country.
“The team I was with last year closed up shop and they did it pretty late in the year, so I had to scramble a little to find a place.
“The director, Mike Creed, is up to very recently a pro – he raced last year – and it’s his first directing gig. I raced with him a bit and I have a lot of respect for him and I when I heard he was taking over the program, I knew it was going in a direction I’d want to be a part of.
“It’s been more of a criterium team, so we wouldn’t have done a race like the Dominican, but we’ll be doing races like that all year.”
With his second-place finish Bell placed 39th overall out of 81 riders at the Vuelta event. He was the second Canadian behind SmartStop teammate Rob Britton, who placed second overall.
Bell’s strongest results came in the longest and shortest stages in the Domincan. The day before his silver, the 32-year-old took seventh in the 10-kilometre Stage 6 time trial in Mirador del Sur.
“My team has asked me to focus a bit on the time trial efforts a bit this year and that was kind of a tester,” said Bell. “We didn’t have all our equipment down there so I think there were a couple of us who were right up there in the top 10 and the difference was guys who had all their equipment and guys who didn’t. It was a preparation race, so the intention wasn’t to have everything anyway.
“That was a good result. And then to back it up with a good race the next day was good too.”
Bell, who resides in North Vancouver, had arguably his best season to date last year.
The two-time Olympian became a national champion on the road with a first-place finish in the 2013 Canadian Road Championships in St-Georges, Que.
Bell also took fourth place in the time trial and eighth in the criterium at the national championship.
Just two months after winning the national title in road racing, Bell returned to the velodrome to win gold in the omnium at the 2013 Canadian Track Championships in Dieppe, N.B.
He is currently unsure whether his schedule will allow him to defend those titles this summer.
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