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Hard as nails: Wells races Leadville, then wins at Breck Epic

The Specialized rider triumphs in the first two stages at the six-day Breck Epic race

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TELLURIDE, Colo. (VN) — They don’t come much tougher than Todd Wells.

Wells (Specialized) raced to third place in the Leadville Trail 100 MTB on Saturday and immediately left for the Breck Epic, to make the pre-race meeting, and kitted up the very next day. And won. And then won again the next day, making it two wins and a third place in three days, and some 12 hours of hard racing.

“It’s been a busy couple of days,” he said on Monday afternoon after taking stage 2 of the Breck Epic, a six-day mountain bike race in Colorado’s Summit County. “[Saturday] was a pretty hectic day. Because as you know, Leadville takes a while … We pretty much finished up over there, packed the car and came straight to Breckenridge.”

Wells, the 2011 Leadville winner and multiple time national cyclocross champion, battled Alban Lakata (Topeak-Ergon) with teammate Christoph Sauser, but fell off the pace of the two men on the Powerline climb, where the lights went off for the Durango, Colo.-based rider. He still finished in 6:18:47.43 — only a few minutes off the old course record, which Lakata soon smashed on a very fast day in Leadville.

“I hung on those guys ‘till about Powerline coming back, and completely blew up. I limped it in,” Wells told VeloNews. “The next day I actually didn’t feel too bad. I felt worse, actually, starting Leadville with the early wakeup, and not getting much sleep the night before. I was pretty tired at the start of Leadville, and actually felt better at the Epic.”

Training wise, Wells prepared as if he were just riding Leadville, spending lots of time pedaling at very high altitude, some 10,000 feet. In 2011, when he won, he had four weeks to prep. This year, he had just over two. He trained between Durango and Telluride and Silverton, high in the San Juan Mountains, climbing Black Bear Pass, a monstrous chunk of an ascent between Telluride and Silverton that nearly hits 13,000 feet.

“I tried to cram in the training I did two years ago in four weeks to two and half weeks,” he said. “But the training I do for Leadville is a lot of long, high altitude riding. So it’s similar to the training I would do for Breck. Leadville is over six hours, whereas these Breckenridge races, so far they’ve been under three hours each day.”

After two days in Breck, he’s won two stages and has the overall lead. But it’s preparation for the next big thing as well: the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa from August 26-September 1.

“One of the reasons I chose to race Leadville and then stack it with the Breck Epic is that after that we have the world champs in South Africa,” Wells said. “And this will be about a four-week block where I spend most of my time above 10,000 feet, and get seven days of hard racing and another week and half of good training. So I’m hoping this block gives me a boost.”

Thus far, it’s working.

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