“It’s pretty surreal. There have been a lot of people telling me that I was capable of winning. This year, I knew coming off Korea that I had good form. I knew the course was really similar to some of what we were doing over there,” commented the Watson Lake, Yukon native, riding with the Pro-continental Champion System Pro Cycling Team.
With rain clouds threatening and some great talent on the start line it was Louis Garneau, 54, who attacked first after the neutral start which hampered the start with a few flats and crashes. Garneau’s flirtatious move ended quickly as the race soon got down to business with a breakaway of 9 riders at around the 10km mark led by Christian Meier (NB) Orica-GreenEDGE.
Three others joined them and they began the eight circuits in St-Odillion. The break of 12 included many heavy hitters who managed to gain about 3 minutes on the pack, as Dominique Rollin (FDJ) and Francois Parisien (Team Argos-Shimano) were leading the chase behind. Defending champ Ryan Roth (Champion Systems) also missed the selection and a flat would see him abandon later in a race which was marred by numerous mechanicals.
“Today, it played out exactly how I wanted it to play out. I wanted to make a selection early, and ride it away. I did a lot of work in that group to try to keep things moving, as did everybody else. There was a lot of interest to keep it going,” continued Bell. “We knew there would be two groups immediately. I knew a lot of the guys in my group from previous teams so we worked really well together. We knew there was a lot of power in the back too.”
As the leaders exited the circuit they dropped U23 rider Alexander Cataford (Garneau-Quebecor) who joined the chase group. Meier and Cooper attacked but were shut down. Then Meier attacked again taking charge as he attempted to escape and win his second road title – he won back in 2008 with Symmetrics.
But the chase group of Will Routley (Accent Jobs-Wanty), Rob Britton (Team Raleigh), Marsh Cooper (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), Bell, Antoine Duchesne (Bontrager) and Ryan Anderson (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies), who flatted but made it back to the chasers, were not done yet and caught Meier with about 6km to go before the gravel section.
More attacks by Routley, Britton, and Cooper were not sustained as Bell took the lead on the final corner with Anderson on his wheel and Duchesne just behind. Bell took the victory with Anderson in second and Duchesne landing third on the podium defending the U23 men’s title as well.
“Once the selection was made early, I knew it was my race to lose. I wanted to take the initiative, and I was here to race. When Christian broke away, I did some megapulls to bring him back. I was the one with the most interest. I wasn’t gonna try to bluff my way into it. You don’t win these things by making everybody else work for it, you gotta do it yourself,” added Bell.
Bell represented Canada at the Olympic Games in track cycling, and is highly decorated with two World Championships in the Omnium. Since coming back from London where he finished a disappointing eighth place, he has transitioned from track to road, and found a new team in Champion System after the dissolution of Team SpiderTech p/b C10.
“The transition from track to road has been really good. I don’t think I realized how taxing it was to do both until this year. A lot of it has been from Champion System and the way that dealt with me. They have been very careful not to burn me out, especially at the beginning of the year when I was a bit fragile.”
In the off season, after the Olympics, Bell suffered from another blow, losing his first child at birth. Bell took some time off cycling, and retreated with his wife Rebecca to cope with the tragic loss.
“It’s not behind me. I’d be lying if I’d say on some of these trips I am not in a box sometimes. The Canadian cycling communities have been really big whether it’s having a skype chat with Will, or talking to some of the coaches. We are such a tight knit community. There was a lot of people who wanted to see me back, and it’s propped me up when I needed it. Having some success this year definitely made it easier as well. It’s still a long way from perfect. I still don’t know what the future holds for me in cycling. The present is however very good.”
For the first time Bell stepped on top of the podium at a Canadian Road Championships. In 2011, he came third as the now dissolved Team SpiderTech placed three riders on the podium, in Burlington, Ont.
Duchesne took the U23 title for a second consecutive year, followed by Pierrick Naud of the Garneau-Quebecor Cycling Team and Stuart Wight of Team New Brunswick.
Tomorrow sees the fast-paced criterium in the streets of downtown St-Georges as well as the Canadian Sprint Challenge. Both winners of the Elite Men categories will earn a ticket to the Pro Sprint Challenge, part of the Grand Prix cycliste de Quebec festivities.
Full results HERE.