Watson Lake cyclist Zach Bell had a very specific goal in mind when heading to the Tour de Korea: win a stage.
“The job for me was to go there and win a stage,” said Bell. “Right from the outset I wasn’t one of the guys we’d use for the overall standings. In stages there were (teammates with) overall aspirations, it was my job to look after those guys.”
Bell took first place in the sixth stage of the eight-stage Tour de Korea on June 14.
The stage, which was Pyeongchang to Yangyang, was the longest in the Tour at 184.7-kilometre.
“There were some pretty significant climbs and I tend to do well when it’s pretty hard,” said Bell. “They were the pretty big climbs in the fifth and sixth stages and for me to get over the climbs in the front of the group was kind of unexpected.
“Those other stages should have suited me a bit better than the sixth and seventh stages.”
Bell went on to take 10th in 145-kilometre Stage 7, from Yangyyang to Hongcheon, and 15th place in the 90-kilometre Stage 8, Hongcheon to Hanam.
“I went into those two stages pretty determined to utilize my form,” said Bell of 6 and 7. “I knew I was climbing well in the group of riders they had in that race. I’ve been climbing better than some of the fast guys – sprinters – so I knew if I could drop them and still stay in the group, I had a really good shot.”
The three top-20 results moved Bell up to 36th overall at the end of the Tour. He began the Tour with less spectacular results, starting with 99th in Stage 1 and 112th in Stage 2.
The stages “were significantly different,” said Bell. “The terrain changes over the week. The first stage, tactically I made some bonehead moves and that put me out of it. That kind of whipped me into shape a little bit, got my head in the game. I had better racing the rest of the week.”
The win in Stage 6 in Korea marked the second race Bell has topped this season.
The 30-year-old also won a stage in the Tour de Taiwan in March. Like in Korea, he won the race in an exciting sprint to the finish.
The Tour de Taiwan was his first event with his new Champion System Pro Cycling Team, an international team with riders from around the world based out of Hong Kong.
Bell’s former team, SpiderTech, announced in October it was taking the 2013 season off but plans to return in 2014.
Bell says his new team showed a lot of patience with him before the start of the season as he decided his future in the sport.
“This was the team that showed interest in me and that I was interested in. With the things that happened to me and my family in the fall, I took some time to make a decision. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to be riding this year, let alone riding on an international team,” said Bell, who tragically lost his newborn son Paxton in October due to complications with the delivery.
“These guys kept the door open, worked really closely with me, gave me time to work through things with my family. It just seemed like a really good fit. It’s turning out to be a decision I’m really happy with.
“It’s given me a chance to work into racing at my own pace this year.”
The two-time Olympic track cyclist is currently in St-Georges, Quebec, for the Canadian Road Championships, hoping to get over the jetlag from his Korea-to-Quebec jag.
“The way my form has been, I’m pretty excited about it,” said Bell. “If I can get over the jetlag, I think this is the best form I’ve ever had coming into nationals.”
Contact Tom Patrick at email@example.com