Watson Lake’s Zach Bell was a part Canadian cycling history over the weekend.
The 28-year-old and his team, SpiderTech powered by C10, Canada’s only professional cycling team, made their debut on the UCI World Tour over the weekend in Quebec.
Racing at the very highest level of competition in the sport, SpiderTech riders competed in the Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec in Quebec City on Friday, followed by the Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal on Sunday. It was the first time a Canadian based professional team raced at road cycling’s highest level.
“There are different levels of races you can do all year and, basically, the races here in Quebec and Montreal are at the top tier,” said Bell. “They are the first races we have done at this level as a team.”
Bell took part in Friday’s Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec, a 201.6-kilometre race through the streets of the city, with more than 100,000 spectators.
Riding in a support role, Bell was one of 97 riders to not finish the race, of 173 who started it.
“With one-day road races, it’s not uncommon for the majority of the field to not finish,” said Bell. “You do a great deal of work to try to set up your best riders, and, in doing so, you kind of give your own chances away. Once they are gone, there’s no sense in riding it out for no reason.
“Once there’s no chance you’re going to contribute to the results anymore, you go to the side of the road and watch the rest of the race.”
Belgium’s Philippe Gilbert took the win, his 17th of the season, firming up his spot at the top of the UCI World Tour rankings.
SpiderTech’s top finisher was Svein Tuft in 39th, followed by teammate Ryan Roth in 40th.
“For me it didn’t go that well,” said Bell. “I survived as long as I could, towards 150 kilometres into the race, but I didn’t really have that great legs.
“It didn’t go too poorly, but I wasn’t able to contribute too much.
“I think a lot of the guys on my team were in the same boat, but we were trying to get the experience, doing a race at this level.”
Last month Bell was one of 12 named by the Canadian Cycling Association to the selection pool in the men’s elite category for the UCI Road World Championships in Copenhagen later this month. However, he isn’t holding his breath.
“I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be selected for that team,” said Bell. “I never expected to even be selected to the pool, let alone the team that is eventually going to compete.”
Now in the off-season, Bell is going to take a few weeks off before heading to California to begin training on the track as a Canadian team member.
One of the country’s best track cyclists, Bell became the 2011 World Cup Champion in the track cycling omnium event at the start of the year.
Last summer he won four golds and a silver at the 2010 Track Cycling Canadian Championships, an event he skipped this year to stay with his SpiderTech team.
Before winning the UCI Track Cycling World Cup series in January, Bell, who is Sport Yukon’s International Male Athlete of the Year for the last three years, won a bronze and took in two other top-10 results at the Commonwealth Games last October.
In March, Bell finished sixth at the 2011 UCI Track World Championships in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands.
At the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing, China, Bell finished seventh in the points race.
Bell also won a bronze at the 2011 Canadian National Road Championships last June in the Toronto area.
Contact Tom Patrick at firstname.lastname@example.org