Wells tops off La Ruta prep with ’cross weekend

Defending champion not certain a wild ride at the Langkawi stage race and a cyclocross weekend will be enough to defend title

Get access to everything we publish when you join VeloNews or Outside+.

BOULDER, Colorado (VN) — Over the course of two weeks, Specialized rider Todd Wells has gone from pushing his bike through deep jungle mud in Malaysia to running stairs at the Boulder Cup. On Thursday, he’ll set off through the Costa Rican jungle to defend his title at the notorious La Ruta de los Conquistadores.

Wells flew home from the Langkawi International Mountain Bike Challenge last week for the pair of UCI cyclocross races in Boulder over the weekend. He left again on Monday for San Jose, Costa Rica, for the three-stage event that opens November 1.

The dramatic change in race formats and the distance Wells traveled over the course of the two weeks is only part of the challenges facing the 2011 La Ruta champ. Saturday’s race-time temperature in Boulder was barely above freezing, but Wells can expect 90-percent humidity and 100-degree temperatures in Latin America.

The Boulder-to-Costa Rica strategy paid off last year. The three-time Olympian went from snow-covered cyclocross courses to a win in the jungle, but he hadn’t just come off the Langkawi stage race.

“Last year I had more long miles in my legs,” Wells told VeloNews. “Langkawi only had one long day.”

He isn’t sure how prepared he will be for the 259km and 20,000 feet of elevation gain at this year’s three days of La Ruta, but Wells feels that the weekend’s ‘cross races were the right choice to prepare him for what the jungle will serve up.

“It’s good to get some speed work in,” he said.

Adventures abound at the Costa Rican stage race and first-timers are often amazed by the intensity of the course conditions, the gaps between boards in the bridges they cross over rivers and the traffic they navigate. Langkawi had its own set of surprises for Wells, though, who had certainly not expected such a crazy ride. Malaysia offered even deeper mud than La Ruta is known for, and Wells said he went through equipment more quickly in Langkawi than in Costa Rica. With hanging rubber buckets pouring on riders and elephants in the feed zone, one jungle epic may help Wells win another.

Whether that experience — and the travel he’s undertaken since — pays off, we won’t know until Sunday.