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10 questions with national CX & XC champ Todd Wells

Todd Wells at the Valmont Park 'cross course on Friday.
Todd Wells at the Valmont Park 'cross course on Friday. Photo: Brad Kaminski © VeloNews

Specialized rider Todd Wells has had a stellar past 12 months. He didn’t win a lot of cyclocross races during the 2010 season, but he won the one that matters most, the national championship. His mountain bike season included a defense of his national cross-country title, a win at the Leadville Trail MTB 100, and a personal-best seventh place at the world cross-country championship.

Next week Wells flies south for his first attempt at La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a four-day stage race in Costa Rica. Before that, the Durango resident will race the  Colorado Cyclocross Classic and Boulder Cup UCI races this weekend.

Wells stopped by the VeloNews offices Friday for a quick chat after pre-riding both courses.

Q. You weren’t planning on racing in Boulder, and then you changed plans. Why?

A. I wasn’t going to, but I always come up for this race weekend, and it was tough to not do a UCI race weekend that’s within driving distance of Durango. I don’t get too many of those races in the year.

Q. Won’t that throw a little chaos into your plans for La Ruta? You’re leaving on Monday?

A. A little bit. I was thinking of going down to La Ruta earlier to prep for the humidity, maybe pre-ride a few of the stages, but after talking to (2010 winner) Ben Sonntag, he hasn’t ridden many of the stages, and he thought the weather in Colorado in the fall is generally good. He advised me to stay here and just go down last minute. And since he won last year, I figured he’d have good advice.

Q. What other advice did he have for you?

A. Well I’m bringing two bikes, a hardtail and full suspension, an Epic 29er. He said three of the days were better for the hardtail, and one is better for the Epic. You can’t swap bikes in the race but you can bikes from day to day.

Q. When did you decide to race La Ruta?

A. About two months ago, after Leadville. Specialized didn’t have much exposure in a Leadville or La Ruta type of race, and it was a good excuse to go to Costa Rica, I’ve never been.

Q. You’ve been national cyclocross champion three times, and always focused on that race. This year it’s moved to January — will you be there to defend your title?

A. No, I won’t be doing ’cross nationals this year. They moved it back to January, and the mountain bike World Cup starts one month earlier, so that’s a two-month swing. The one time I did race cyclocross worlds into the mountain-bike season I had a horrible mountain-bike season. I need to take a break.

If ’cross nationals were the same time they had always been (in early December), it would have made it a tough decision because the World Cup starts a month earlier, and in order to do what I always do, I wouldn’t be good for that first World Cup, which is important for the rest of the World Cups, to have a good start position, it’s important for the Olympics, and it’s just nice to start the year off with good fitness. But with ’cross nats so late, it was an easy decision.

Q. You went in 2004 and 2008 — will the Olympics be your biggest priority in 2012?

A. It is an objective, buy my overall goal is to do well in the World Cup. and if I do well in the World Cup, I’ll make the Olympic team. I’ve been twice, and had mediocre-at-best results. I don’t want to go again and suck. I don’t want to barely make the team and not have good form, and just have making the team be my goal. If I were to go I’d like to be competitive, and have good results leading up to it, and that’s why I would have made the team.

Q. What’s your objective at La Ruta?

A. It’s a hard race, and sure, I would like to win, but I’ve never done a four-day mountain-bike stage race, so I don’t know how my body will react. I’ve done stage races on the road but a mountain bike race is a steadier, more fatiguing, overall body effort. I don’t know how I will react to that.

I’ll be racing in the snow in Boulder this weekend, and then flying to Costa Rica, where the “real feel” at the start line was 110F today. I’ve never done the race before, and I think one of the keys for me doing well at Leadville was that I did it last year, and I knew what to expect, and how to train for it. This race I’m kind of going in blind. I think I have an idea for La Ruta, but I’ve never done it before.

It will be a big learning experience. The promoter was saying that only four international riders have won the race, and (Thomas Frischknect) raced it two or three times before he won, and that was when he was at the height of his career.

Q. After La Ruta, what more will you do for cyclocross this year?

A. I’m back two days before the Louisville USGP, which I’ll race. I’m not going to race the USGP finale in Bend, but I will do Jingle ’Cross on Thanksgiving weekend. I love it out there, they have great fans, and there’s a big hill you go up and back down, with a downhill, off-camber section. Last year we raced it at night, on frozen ice. It’s something different.

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