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Todd Wells credits teammates, won’t defend national title on eve of Cross Vegas

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (VN) – Todd Wells is on the ground in Las Vegas, fresh off his seventh-place ride at cross-country worlds and credited his powerful Specialized squad for his best-ever worlds result. Wells told Singletrack that he would not defend his national cyclocross championship in January, but instead focus on La Ruta, the Cape Epic and the 2012 Olympics.

Todd Wells won't be back to defend this year.

Wells led a solid U.S. effort in the elite cross-country events, besting his 2009 eighth-place by one spot to close what he called his most successful international mountain bike ever. While Wells focused more heavily on the World Cup season, he was no slouch domestically either, repeating his XC national title in Sun Valley, Idaho, in July and last month winning the Leadville Trail 100.

“This mountain bike season has been awesome, even better than last year. Internationally I’ve been way more solid and that’s where I try to be good all the time; it doesn’t always work out that way,” Wells told Singletrack. “In the past I’ve been good domestically, but it just hasn’t clicked internationally. I’ve had couple results, but a couple years ago I had a really strong international season and made a breakthrough for myself.”

Wells credited his Specialized teammates, including XC world champ Jaroslav Kulhavy and Cristoph Sauser with setting a bar high enough to raise his level heading into an Olympic year.

“Finishing 10th is worst guy on the team,” said Wells. “It just elevates what results you think are good.”

The 36-year-old Durango, Colorado, resident will make his cyclocross season debut tonight at Cross Vegas, the world’s first second-tier event of the season. With an early start to the 2012 World Cup mountain bike season and an Olympic year looming, Wells said he would trim his ‘cross calendar even further than in 2010.

Wells will complete a three-week run of racing beginning in Las Vegas, with StarCrossed in Seattle, the Gateway Cup in St. Louis and the first day of the U.S. Gran Prix Sun Prairie Cup in Wisconsin (Wells will return home for the wedding of friend Willow Koerber on the second day of the USGP). After that he’ll take a break, focus on a run at La Ruta de los Conquistadores in Costa Rica, and return to the ‘cross circuit for Iowa’s Jingle Cross Rock and perhaps another event.

Treigning national champion will not defend his title in Madison, Wisconsin, on January 8.

“It’s pretty impossible to race a full mountain bike schedule with only February off. I could be mediocre at both (‘cross and mountain) with a more complete schedule, but the Olympics is my main focus, definitely,” he said. “I looked at ways to try and make it work and can’t figure it out… Not defending at nationals is definitely a bitter pill to swallow. I always try to shoot for ‘cross nats because I can take a good break after the mountain bike season ends and build again.”

Wells ran away with nationals in Bend, Oregon, last December after Jeremy Powers (Rapha-Focus) crashed out of their lead pairing late in the race. When told of Wells decision, Powers told Singletrack he was saddened.

The Olympics call, though, and after a run at the London Games and the Cape Epic with Kulhavy, Wells said he would turn his full attention toward the world cyclocross championships in Louisville, Kentucky, in January 2013.

“Next year after Olympics my big goal will be to make ‘cross worlds team. In 2013 I’ll be back for nationals,” said Wells. “It’s hard to say right now, but I’ll definitely be trying to hit that ’cross season full on, hopefully do some European races, and put the focus on that that I normally do on the mountain bike.”

First he has to get through Cross Vegas in what appears to be uncharacteristically wet and muddy conditions Wednesday night under the lights.

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