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Todd Wells gunning for off-road triathlon nationals

Todd Wells is branching out and trying his hand at an Xterra triathlon, aiming for stars-and-stripes at national championships in Utah.

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American Todd Wells, multi-time U.S. national cross-country and cyclocross champion, will take the start at the Xterra USA National Championship this weekend in Ogden, Utah.

Wells, who has been sponsored by Specialized for nearly a decade, has never competed in an Xterra race, yet he a safe bet to post the fastest bike split of the day, which includes a 1,500-meter swim, 28km cross-country bike and 10km trail run. Though he has virtually zero triathlon experience, Wells, 39, did win his first attempt in March, beating pro triathlete Branden Rakita at the TriZona Triathlon in Tucson.

“That was just a fun triathlon, nothing serious,” Wells said of the TriZona race. “To give you an idea how serious it was, there was a staggered start, and you start by going down a water slide into a lazy river, where you swim two laps against there current. It was a six- or seven-minute swim, and you’re not going to drown, because you can just stand up.”

In that race, Wells, opened up time over Rakita on the bike leg, but lost time during both transitions. “I didn’t have my shoes clipped into pedals, nothing like that,” Wells said. “I caught up to Brandon on the bike, and passed him and opened a gap, but he nullified that in the transition area, where I was pinning on my number before the run. We came out of the transition area just a few seconds apart, and I buried myself to stay with him. Because it had a staggered start, I just had to keep him close enough, I didn’t have to beat him, just stay within the gap of our time slots. It was just a fun race, but it was cool for me to be able to compete with someone who focuses on triathlon.”

A three-time Olympian, Wells has won off-road races as varied as La Ruta de los Conquistadores, the notoriously difficult stage race in Costa Rica, and Leadville Trail 100 MTB, the high-altitude ultra-endurance event. He took national cross-country titles in 2010, 2011 and 2014, and national cyclocross titles in 2001, 2005, and 2010; he’s also the current national marathon cross-country champion, a title he’s won on four occasions.

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