February 27, 2014 (Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic) – Zach Bell was pipped at the line to come in second in stage seven for Team SmartStop’s fourth podium at the Vuelta Independencia Nacional.
With a change in the race profile going into stage seven, Team SmartStop were unsure exactly what to expect heading into the penultimate stage, except for the fact that it would be flat but rolling and the biggest goal for the stage was to protect Rob Britton’s position on the general classification (GC).
“Stage seven was modified, then modified again as the original route was determined to be unfit. And the secondary plan was excessive in length,” explained Zach, “The race organization finally settled on a circuit of two laps that would then race into Santo Domingo and finish up at 130km.”
The wind picked up quickly during the stage and it was another aggressive day of racing with attacks being made on the peloton, Zach Bell made his way into a nine-man breakaway. Team SmartStop knowing the best way to protect Rob’s GC position and to go for stage wins was to be active throughout the stage.
“Several dangerous moves formed over the first 40km of the race all with representation,” said Zach, “in the end a group of 10 formed that was well balanced and included myself.”
The Canadian National Road Champion was racing well and as the stage went on and reached the streets of Santo Domingo riders started attacking the break, all week Team SmartStop riders have proved themselves in the breakaways and this time round Zach said he was definitely “public enemy number one” in this lead group.
“The attacks started to fly as the more local riders tried to get rid of the threatening riders,” said Zach, “in the closing kilometers I worked hard to cover the moves and kept it together for the sprint.”
“When the sprint started up a rider from Kazakhstan and the champion of the Dominican Republic got a quick gap, so I opened up my sprint and got back the gap but just ran out of time to pull back both riders and had to settle for second.”
The first three riders all finished within a bike length of each other.
“Zach got jumped from behind and had he had another 10 meters he would have had him,” said Director Michael Creed, “But that’s why we have a finish line. Zach was coming so quick, at the 150m mark he was three bike lengths behind the first two guys, we weren’t sure if he was going to catch them but he has a good sprint on him.”
Zach said this stage is just another sign that the team is coming into form with everyone on the team showing the off-season work has paid dividends.
There is one final stage to go, a short circuit race in Santo Domingo.
Click here to watch highlights from stage 7.
Stage 7 – San Cristobal-Santo Domingo – 120km
1. Nurbolat Kulimbetov (Kaz) Kazakhstan 2:52:13
2. Zach Bell (Can) Team SmartStop
3. Diego Milan (Dom) Defferdange Inteja
4. Sergio Hernandez (USA) Incycle Predator
5. Ismael Sanchez (Dom) La Vega Cne
6. Alvaro Torres (Ven) Tachira Concafe
7. Yordalis Hernandez (Dom) Asocipe Moca
8. Geovanny Garcia (Dom) Finauto
9. Augusto Sanchez (Dom) Defferdange Inteja 0:11
17. Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop
GC after Stage 7
1. Edwin Sanchez (Col) Formesan 20:19:34
2. Rob Britton (Can) Team SmartStop 1:54
3. Pedro Torres (Col) La Vega Cne 2:17
4. Carlos Galviz (Ven) Tachira Concafe 5:10
5. Wilson Marentes (Col) Formesan 6:13
6. Andres Diaz (Col) Incycle Predator 6:28
7. Felix Cardenas (Col) Formesan 7:09
8. Pedro Herrera (Col) Formesan 8:17
9. Addelyn Cruz (Dom) Finauto 9:01
10. Zhandos Bizhigitov (Kaz) Kazakhstan 13:13
39. Zach Bell (Can) Team SmartStop 28:06