A silver-medal performance by Zach Bell at the 2012 UCI Track World Championships last week in Melbourne, Australia, has given the Watson Lake native a berth at the Summer Olympic Games in London, England.
The Team Canada cyclist placed second in the six-race omnium event.
“It was a pretty positive weekend overall,” said the 29-year-old. “We put more preparation into the London world cup (in February) than this one specifically – not that I wasn’t getting ready for it … I was doing some work with the road team and didn’t spend a great deal of time on the track before.
“So to come into the world championships and still be able to make the podium and be right there with a chance to win it was really positive.”
Bell, who also won silver at the worlds in 2009, produced some unusual results compared to his regular placements. He placed higher than he usually does in his weaker races and lower than he usually does in his stronger races.
He took fifth in the flying lap race, third in the points race and eighth in the elimination race to finish second in the standings after Day 1.
Bell then placed second in the individual pursuit race and second in the 60-lap scratch race. Tied for first place with Australia’s Glenn O’Shea, Bell finished the omnium with eighth in the one-kilometre time trial, behind gold-winning O’Shea.
“I started with some of the events I usually have a bit of a handle on, like the flying lap and the kilo (one-kilometre time trial) that I’m usually strongest at,” said Bell. “I’m not usually the strongest in the bunch races, but this time I was one of the guys who controlled the pace of the flow.
“It was a bit of a reversal, but it was good to see I could get the form for those (races).”
Bell’s performance officially secured Canada a spot in the men’s omnium at the 2012 Olympic Summer Games this July and August in London. It will be the first time the omnium event is included in the Olympics.
Though the official Team Canada roster has not been determined, Bell is far and away a shoe-in for event.
“There’s no one else in consideration at the moment,” said Bell. “If I can stay healthy, avoid injury, it’s my spot for sure.
“I’ve known for a while that I will more than likely be the one who makes the team,” he added. “Last time (for the Beijing Games) I was fighting right up to this point to see if we’d even get a spot. So it was a lot more stressful through the qualification process last time.
“As we lead towards the Olympics, it’s a different mindset and a different ball game now that I’m one of the ones who will be pushing for the medals.
“It’s exciting to be here in a position to achieve the goals this time. Last time the goal was to get there and it was exciting to get there. This time it’s exciting to be one of the ones who can bring home some hardware.”
Bell made the podium at both UCI Track World Cup Tour events he competed at this season. He won a silver in the omnium in Cali, Colombia, in December and then captured bronze at a world cup in London in February. Those results put Bell in fourth at the end of the world cup tour.
Bell was crowned the UCI World Cup Tour Champion last year but finished the season with a disappointing sixth-place finish at the world championships.
In his first Olympics, the 2008 Beijing Games, Bell finished seventh in the points race and 12th in the men’s Madison event.
“I’m really working on letting everyone know up there that if I can bring home a medal, it’s going to be a Yukon medal,” said Bell of the London Games. “(I want people to know) this is a normal kid from the Yukon who can go do something like this, in a summer sport. That should be inspiring to everybody up there. It’s an advantage to be from up there and I think some people see it as the other way around.”
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org