Zach Bell

by: Guri Randhawa @The_PRW
March 16th, 2018

A little while ago I sent friend of PRW Zach Bell some questions. This all came about when Zach started up the Parcours Institute, which is a program for young, elite riders to learn about the ins and outs of racing professionally. Many athletes arrive into a Pro Team without knowing the finer details of having a carrier racing bikes. They assume you show up and pedal your bike, eat sleep repeat. Sure that is the basis but what about interviews? What about representing your sponsors correctly? Also how to professionally interact with fans and other racers. I always cringe when I read a interview with a athlete who is slamming their equipment not realizing that the sponsor is helping them earn a living (big or small) racing bikes. The few years I raced with Zach in Alberta the stand out trait he had besides his athletic ability is how genuine and grounded of a person he was and still is. Ask anyone who knows him and you will hear how he is one of the nicest people you will meet. He always makes time for people and is sincere in wanting to know how things are with you. Here is a little background on Zach Bell, for those of you who don’t know who he is (even though you should).

Zach hails from Watson Lake, Yukon, and was a late starter as a cyclist. Zach originally was a wrestler, but eventually found his way to the bike. Zach did plenty of races here in Alberta, but in 2005 he made the jump to the professional ranks with Jet Fuel Coffee-Sympatico. Zach stayed pro on the road with teams like Symmetrics, and SpiderTech before finishing his road career up with Team SmartStop. Zach spent ten years riding the road as a professional, and as if that wasn’t enough Zach represented Canada at two Olympic Games on the track, and grabbed top ten results both times. Zach also represented Canada on the track World Cup circuit winning the Overall title in 2011 and placing as high as 2nd in the 2012 World Cup in the Omnium. He was also 2nd at the World championships in 2012. After finishing with pro racing, Zach started the Parcours Institute with the goal of preparing up and coming riders for the pro ranks, as well as taking on the role of Director Sportif for the women’s Rally Cycling Team, one of the top teams in North America. It’s safe to say, that if you have any questions about pro racing, Zach can answer them, he hasn’t just been around the block, he’s done a few laps.

How did you enjoy your first couple of seasons as a DS with Rally Pro Womens Team?

It has been good, a lot of ups and downs but I do feel like it is a place where what I can bring to the table is having a real immediate impact on outcomes for many of the athletes. It is also such a good, down to earth group that we have a good time too. I think there is a huge amount of potential on the Women’s Side of the sport and I really like working there to advocate for the athletes and make things positive.

What do you miss most about racing?

I miss being truly good at something. World Class good. I feel like most of what I do is fairly average now. At the key moments in the sport I am just as much a spectator as everyone else now. In that moment I can’t impact the outcome anymore. It has been challenging to hold on to significance for myself in that context.

What was your hardest day of racing?

Too many to count. At the Milk Ras in Ireland in 2005 I crashed 3 or 4 times in one day and rode about 80 km off the back in a full on hail storm. It may not have been the hardest day of racing, but it was probably the one day in my career where I was least prepared and capable to handle what I was getting into, which made it difficult.

What was your proudest moment as a racer?

Again there are a few. But I think the silver medal ride at worlds in 2012 was a highlight. Being class of the field in the world championships in an Olympic year is something real.

What food was the hardest to not eat when you were racing?

I didn’t really play that game.

Who would win in a fight: Eric Marcotte or Svein Tuft?

Tuft hands down. I like Marcotte but he is strong, not tough. If the contest was instagraming your way into the hearts of millions of single ladies in a choreographed fight with a jaguar and looking looking like a cologne add while doing it, then Marcotte would win. But if you had to kill the jaguar and eat it to survive the winter, Svein would have a skin coat and Marcotte passed out in a sleeper hold before the first snowflake hit the ground. Sorry Eric.

What is a Zach Bell fact that someone would be surprised to know about you?

I hate when people sing information. But I also do it constantly.

If you could do anything differently as a young racer, what would you change?

Ha, I would have been a younger racer. I didn’t start till I was into my 20’s, I think if I would have had 1 or 2 more years to learn the craft I would have been better when I was strongest.

What was you favourite bike to ride? (Road or Track)

They both had value to me. I liked the purity of the power transfer on the track bike. I always felt like it was the best representation of what I was physically capable of. But the road bike lets you experience the world in a way you can’t any other way. And the few times I had truly amazing rides on the road bike it was always more poetic, more epic.

Did you have a pre-race ritual?

I always kissed my wedding ring.

In your opinion, which young riders should we keep our eyes on?

Sara Poidevin is going places, obviously. I think there are a few Jr’s that might show something special soon too. But honestly, I think on the women’s side anyone can spring up at any time. Oh and Rob Britton he will have a good year soon ;)

You still rocking the beard for 2018?

I am cutting it back. It was one of those things, I wanted to see if I could do it.

For 2018 Zach is still running the Parcours Institute, is DS for the Rally Women’s Professional Team and is heavily involved in the RBC Olympian program which is national initiative that offers top athletes the opportunity to focus on training and competing while receiving much-needed financial support. The athletes serve as community ambassadors, attending hundreds of community and charitable appearances and bringing the Olympic message of teamwork, excellence and leadership to communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Zach has just relocated to Kelowna and has some other cool projects on the back burner, this along with his two children he is a busy guy.

Thanks to my bud stirlandraephoto.com for the sweet head shot photo and to the always kind Rob Jones at Canadian Cylclist for the use of the images. Special thanks to Zach for answering my silly questions and for being the amazing guy he is.

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Zach Bell

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