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Interview with National Champion Todd Wells

Posted by: Matt Williams |March 5, 2012 5:14 AM
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As we look forward to the 2012 season, Specialized rider Todd Wells sits poised and ready to make a big impact on the international dirt scene. For several years, Wells has been the top American on the World Cup circuit and seems prepared to grab front-runner status in the race for to the London Olympics this August.

Wells should have plenty of confidence going into this Olympic season. After all heís the reigning two-time national champion and has experienced success on the World Cup circuit.

Is Todd Wells the man to end Americaís long-standing mediocrity on the international stage? Will he replace his mentor and Specialized teammate Ned Overend as the last American male to win a World Cup cross country event or perhaps take home an Olympic medal? See what the Specialized frontman has to say for himself. Read Toddís complete interview below.


MTB Race News - We havenít talked to you since before the La Ruta De Los Conquistadors Stage Race last fall. What was it like to experience that race?

Todd Wells- Everyone I talked to about La Ruta before I went said it was brutal and I would never want to go back, they couldnít believe I was going in the first place. All I heard about was mud, hiking, heat and people hanging onto cars on the climbs.

What I found was just the opposite of that, I was never off my bike hiking for more then a few minutes at a time, probably less then 30 minutes for the entire race. There was hardly any mud even though it rained most afternoons and the heat wasnít bad until the last day. I didnít hear of a single person hanging onto a car. The only thing that was nearly as bad as I had heard were those railroad bridges on the last day. They were just as long and scary as people said.

The Costa Rican people were all awesome, the country is beautiful and I had an awesome time.

MTB Race News - Did you expect to win? What was it like to arrive at the Atlantic Ocean with the leaderís jersey on your back?

Todd Wells- I thought I could maybe win a stage and go good on the first day. I had never done a MTB stage race before so I didnít know how I would recover day to day. On the road I usually get better each day in a stage race but at La Ruta I got worse everyday. Lucky for me I had a really good first day and just hung on each day after that.

I had an amazing support crew with our Global Team Manager/Mechanic Benno Williet, his girlfriend and former racer Manuela, Specialized Costa Rica distributor Carlos Campos, his brother and my wife. We had two SUVs, which are required to get to most feed zones. They made it to every feedzone, my bike got rebuilt everyday and I didnít have a thing to worry about. I couldnít have won with out them.

MTB Race News - You changed things up this year and didnít race as much cross. What has your off-season been like?

Todd Wells- I actually did more cross races then I normally do this year I just stopped a few weeks earlier then usual. My cross season was pretty lack luster this year, I usually take a few weeks off between the MTB and CX season in hopes of peaking for Nationals.

This year I stopped right after Thanksgiving so I didnít take much of a break after the MTB season and just kind of rolled it straight into CX, I didnít have a real focus for the CX season this year and it showed with mediocre results. 

My off-season was pretty much the same as always, one month on the beach in Mexico with my wife, dog Winston and our families for a bit of that time. It was great, no bike and minimal exercise, just a lot of reading and looking at the ocean.

MTB Race News - What was it like to come back to the Leadville 100 and take home the win in 2011 after a disappointing race there in 2010?

Todd Wells- That was incredible. 2010 was my first crack at Leadville and I didnít have time to prepare properly. I had come from racing the World Cup in Europe a few weeks earlier to Leadville which is four times as long as a World Cup and 10,000 feet higher. I got crashed out early on in the race when Levi slammed on his brakes on the flats. It was just a bad race for me.

I felt that if I prepared properly with long training rides at high altitude I could go well and 2011 the schedule worked out that I had a month at home in Colorado to do it right. I put together a plan and everything worked out perfectly. Leadville is such a long race that instead of going 100% the whole time like an XC event you tone it down to 90% which allows you to realize just how much pain youíre in all day. I really wanted to win it and Iím glad 2011 was the year, I just wish Alban Lakata hadnít flatted in the beginning so we could have tried to go for the record.

MTB Race News -  Itís not a secret that making the US Olympic team is something youíre gunning for this summer. Are you feeling on track? Whatís it going to take to make the team and put in a good race in London?

Todd Wells- I am feeling on track but you never know how the season is going to go until you get into it. The World Cup is so hard that being off just a fraction, getting sick or having a mechanical can really set you back.

I need to get off to a good start in the World Cup, stay healthy and not have any bad luck and hopefully Iíll make the team.

Having a good race at London is a whole different story. If I make the team Iíll try to take a good break, have a good build up to the games and try to do everything right to stay healthy and get as lean as possible for the race. Then on race day Iíll need everything to go right and not only not have any bad luck but have a little bit of good luck.

MTB Race News - Have you had to sacrifice being prepared for any important races in order to focus on making the Olympic team?

Todd Wells- I did have to cut my CX season short this year to get ready for the first MTB World Cup that is in mid March instead of mid April like normal. I would have done that regardless of if it was an Olympic year or not though since my focus is on the World Cup. I have been trying to target the World Cup for the past few years so my domestic races take a bit of a back seat, I still try to do well at them but itís tough to focus on too many things or I end up not doing any well. If I make the Olympic team I wonít be able to do Leadville because itís the same weekend and I wonít be able to focus as much on the US National Champs because Iíll need to peak later for the Olympics and they are pretty close but Iíll cross that bridge if I come to it.

MTB Race News -  If you could only win one race, would it be the Olympics or the World Championships?

Todd Wells- Thatís hard but probably the Olympics since itís recognized outside of the cycling world.

MTB Race News - In the 90s, you took several years off from racing to complete a degree in computer science. How has that affected your career and would you do it the same way again?

Todd Wells- That's a good question. I did take a few years off from racing to complete school and even had a "real" job for a short period of time. I think that break was good and bad. It was good because it made me realize how much I love cycling, racing bikes and the entire industry. It gave me a great perspective that I didn't have before quitting cycling. Cycling is a very hard sport and when things are going badly and you're training and sacrificing like crazy you can question why you're doing it. I have seen both sides of the fence and I can definitely say the side that involves riding a bike is much greener.

On the other side to the coin is I lost a few years when a lot of development takes place. I was in my low 20s when I quit riding all together and I always wonder if I would be a better cyclist now had I trained and grew my system during those developmental years. Either way, I wouldn't change the way I did things, they seemed like the right choices at the time. I am fully committed to cycling now and hoping that I end up with more longevity thanks to my mid/early career break.

MTB Race News -  If you had to live and train somewhere other than Durango, where would it be and why?

Todd Wells- I spend a lot of time training in Tucson, AZ in the winter. We have a condo there and I graduated from college there so I really like it. The weather is amazing in the winter; there are a lot of trails and tons of roads. Tucson also has an amazing cycling community and the best group rides Iíve ever been on. It just gets hot there in summer, and by hot I mean really hot!

MTB Race News - You get to ride your bike all over the world. If you could recommend one place for readers to visit and ride what would it be?

Todd Wells- There are so many places around the globe that have amazing riding. I really like the Alps in Europe, the roads are amazing over there, but the trails are more built for hiking then biking though.

If you have never been to Durango I would say that is the best place I have ever ridden. There are so many trails right in town with different types of terrain. You can ride right from town, the scenery is awesome and there is a trail for every ability level. I couldnít think of a better place to live for XC mountain bike riding.

MTB Race News -  If you had to choose one teammate from the Specialized squad to be stuck on an airport runway for hours with, who would it be and why?

Todd Wells- Thatís a tough question, everyone on the team is awesome and I wouldnít mind being stuck with anyone. Burry Stander and I have been great friends for many years and often room together so it would probably be him. He always has a bunch of movies and TV shows on his computer to so that wouldnít hurt.

On the other hand Christoph Sauser is hilarious and a great storyteller. He can tell stories for hours but he usually falls asleep as soon as we start traveling so I donít know if he would have the same entertainment quality on the plane.

MTB Race News - Whatís on your iPod these days?

Todd Wells- I havenít downloaded any new music since I got an iPhone. I just listen to Pandora all the time. Iím usually listening to Hip-Hop while I training or a little Country music if Iím taking it easy that day. 

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