Dillon Clapp 2014-01-09 01:58:24
Looking to escape the unruly Canadian weather, National Champ Zach Bell and ascending talent Nic Hamilton joined up with their national team in Venice, California.While taking advantage of the location’s balmy mid-winter climate for training, they were also there to help their nation’s track team reach their full potential. After a short spin along Venice’s famous boardwalk, we settled down for a chat in a hip downtown coffee shop serving $6 cups of joe to discuss their offseason and what They have planned for 2014. Bell recently signed with the revamped Team SmartStop for 2014, and Hamilton looks to take his racing to the next level as he continues with the Jelly Belly professional cycling team. What’s going on in SoCal? Zach: We’re down here training with the Canadian National team – the track development team. I’ve come in to put a little prep on, and figure out how I’m going to reintegrate myself into the track program. Nic: I’m trying to discover track as a potential venue to find my ultimate sporting goals. It’s been a great opportunity with the Canadian program. We’re building our men’s team endurance, we just finished two weeks at the track, the Velo Sports Center, and now we’re doing two weeks in the canyons [Santa Monica Mountains] here. Nic, is this your first time racing on the track? Nic: It is. My first race was at the L.A. Grand Prix. It was a trial by re, but I really enjoyed it. So the camp is run by the Canadian cycling organization? Zach: Yeah, we have a mechanic and coach here that lay out the training. Just basically turn up in the morning and get’r done. What’s the focus for the National team in 2014? Zach: Here it’s mostly about talent identification and figuring out if they can put together a team pursuit squad for the next couple of Olympics that can be competitive. I think the talent is there, you just need the program to back it. We have some more experienced riders, like Nic and I, to help these young guys figure out what it means to train hard in the winter time. Nic, how are you fitting in with the National team here? Nic: We’re a really mixed group, we have some older guys that have some horse power from the road, and some young guys that have track technical skills, but they haven’t had the years in their legs. So what we’re trying to do is, we’re accelerating the program as quick as we can to get the pathway set. We’ll take our young cyclists and get them into a men’s endurance program. To get that up as fast as we can we need to pick up a little slack by including the experienced guys. So my role here is to get in and perform well enough to get the program to a certain level, so by the time I’m too old for this game we’ll have a lot of young blood ready. How would you describe the current cycling scene in Canada? Nic: It’s growing quickly despite some hiccups we’ve seen with a few teams folding, and maybe – from an outside perspective – a lack of development. But there’s a lot going on; there are a lot of people working really hard. I’m a West Coast guy, so there are guys like Richard Wooles in B. C. who’s making a huge emphasis on getting youth into pathways, from young high-school age and giving them a step program to reach the professional ranks. I think you’ll see success from that with a lot more Canadian professional athletes. [Editor’s note: you can check out Richard Wooles’ program at cyclngbc.net] What was it like having a premier stage race in Canada (Tour of Alberta)? Zach: It was great; it was really well received, especially in the communities that they did it in. I think it’s really good for the sport in Canada because it gave people an appreciation for what the sport actually is. I had a lot of friends and family that came out and they really realized what stage racing was all about. I think it was a great event, and it’s going to do great things for the future of the sport because it’s going to inspire a lot of kids. Tell us about the team you’ll be riding for next year. Zach: I’m going to be riding with the SmartStop team in 2014, and it’s been a pretty big changing of the guard there. Mike Creed is taking over as the director, and a few other Canadians are coming in. Kris Dahl rode the Tour of Alberta with them as a stagiaire. Rob Britton is coming in, And we have a few other really talented guys like Michael Torckler – KOM jersey from Utah. A lot more stage racing focused, so it’s going to be an interesting crew because a lot of the guys haven’t raced together. We’re looking to get started early so that we can gel and look to put that team on the map in a way that it hasn’t been yet. What are some of your personal goals for 2014? Zach: I still want to go after those UCI stage wins; I was doing an alright job at that last year. I’d like to start doing that a bit more in North America and getting back into some of the NRC stag racing. I’m going to be hitting a few that I’ve never done before. And we have a few guys that I can add a lot of horse power in order to support some G. C. ambition, so hopefully some of these guys will go uphill and I can get them there in a safe position! Nic: Personally, every rider wants to wear the Maple Leaf – like the guy sitting beside me here – I’m going to be coming for that. that’s major, that’s a career check-list that everyone wants to hit, so that’s big for me. From the team side of things, I’d like to win an NRC stage race. I’ve consistently gone up, so I think it’s reasonable to expect that I can hopefully pull o an overall, it’s the way I see my riding taking shape. How’s the Jelly Belly team shaping up for 2014? Nic: there has been a significant roster change; we really only kept about ve or six of our guys. It’s going to bode really well; we’re not going have any weak links on the Team next year. It’s going to be a very deep. We’re stage-race focused; those big UCI Tours in America are a hundred percent our focus. What have you guys done differently this o season in preparation for 2014? Nic: is offseason for me has been night-and-day different than normal. With Jelly Belly we usually end up going until October or early November with some of the Asian tours. I took a back seat from those this year and took an early offseason. I’ve been hitting this track program pretty hard; that’s going to give me a lot of speed. I just finished 50 hours of road training in the mountains – in December! – and usually my normal training would be putzing around on the skate-skis. It’s pretty exciting. I’m being smart about my training, but I’m pretty exited to start earlier. Zach: I’m not making a lot of changes from last year. Things worked out pretty well for me there. I want to keep that momentum. I’ve spent a lot time this o season working on a few initiatives, both in the Yukon, revolving around youth sport, and a fundraiser I’m working with the B.C. Women’s Hospital. I put a lot of energy in that. It’s been good to have another offseason because for me it’s not been a common thing in my career to actually have one. [Editor’s note: for more information on Zach’s work with Paxton’s Lights for Hope, which benefits BC Women’s Hospital NICU, visit zerailleur.com. Zach has also helped create the Zach Bell Rural Youth Sport Initiative, which will provide a platform to help fund access to sport for young rural athletes in the Yukon.]
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