Of Team Canada’s approximately 350 athletes and coaches at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, India, only three are from the Yukon. However, while making up less than one per cent of the team, all three produced top-10 results and one even reached the podium late last week.
Watson Lake cyclist Zach Bell was unable to catch two Aussies in Friday’s 20-kilometre scratch race, but managed to take bronze, making him the first Yukoner to win a medal at the Games since weightlifter Emily Quarton won silver at the 2006 Games in Melbourne, Australia.
“Cam Meyer of Australia and his teammate were the strongest group in the race – I knew at some point one of them would take a lap,” wrote Bell in an e-mail to the News. “I went with Cam when he went but just could not hold the pace and was forced back to the group. After that I just worked hard on being at the front of the race.
“I figured they would try and get as many on the podium as they could and once three of us got away I knew I had a medal.
“The efforts early zapped my sprinting legs and I just could not come around two Aussies going full speed.
“I was happy with the medal given the team obstacles I had to overcome.”
In his third race of the Games, Bell went on to take 11th in Sunday’s 167-kilometre road race, placing second out of Canadians.
“The road race was always going to be tough,” wrote Bell. “I was happy to initiate and ride the winning move to the end.
“At the end of the race I was just beat down by the heat and feeding. It was a good ride for me. With good road legs I could have been there to challenge for another medal but with the fitness I have in that area, it was a great ride on my part.”
Bell began the Games with his poorest result, taking 15th in the strategic 160 lap, men’s 40-kilometre points race last Wednesday.
“I am not happy with the result but it was an all-or-nothing situation,” wrote Bell last week. “I was riding well, but as the race went on, mitigating the team tactics became more and more difficult.
As I am not peaked for the track this made it more difficult. I gave all I could to get a medal and that meant putting in a hard move towards the end that would either put me back close to the podium or take me out of the race. Unfortunately it did the later.”
The 27-year-old will be wrapping up his stay in Delhi with a 40-kilometre time-trial race on Wednesday.
“This is really the event I have been preparing for,” wrote Bell. “I am excited for it and will put all my energy towards recovery over the next few days.”
Although he had no emphatic declarations about India’s preparedness in hosting the Games, Bell seems to be satisfied with Team Canada’s residencies and the organization of the events.
“Accommodations are adequate and I think the volunteers and security are doing a good job keeping things running smoothly,” wrote Bell last week.
The elite rider won four gold and one silver at the 2010 Track Cycling Canadian Championships in Bromont, Quebec, at the end of August. Bell picked up his golds – his national titles – in the individual pursuit, points race, scratch race and the omnium. He only came up short in the one-kilometre time trial, taking silver.
Bell, who cycles for Kelly Benefits Strategies Pro Cycling Team out of Minneapolis, is competing in his second Commonwealth Games, having competed in Melbourne, finishing fifth in the scratch race. Bell also set a Canadian record in Melbourne – four minutes and 31 seconds over four kilometres – in the individual pursuit, a record that stands today.
In mid-July, Bell won the Tour de Delta road race in Delta, BC, breaking away from the lead pack of 10 riders in the final eight kilometres for the win. He has also had top-five finishes in a couple American stage races over the summer and began the year winning two gold medals at a World Cup event in Beijing.
Bell also competed at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, finishing seventh in the points race.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org