Todd Wells (Specialized) made good on his status as the favorite for the 2011 US mountain bike cross-country national championship, winning the title for the second year in a row ahead of Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek) and Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant). The Sun Valley, Idaho course featured a healthy amount of singletrack on the way down but a brutal fire road on the way up that Wells says demanded the lightest possible equipment.
"For yesterday, this course was a lot of climbing – more sustained climbing than we have at any races nowadays so I just picked the lightest setup, which was the Stumpjumper 29er hardtail and some low rolling-resistance tires," he told Cyclingnews the following morning. "Really, I just picked everything based on that climb."
Wells' S-Works Stumpjumper 29er is the same 21in model Specialized offers to consumers – it even uses the exact same paint scheme – and based on our own ride evaluations, it's indeed a rocket for climbing with its super-light weight and outstanding pedaling efficiency. Wells' tire of choice was the fast-rolling but reasonably grippy and relatively high-volume Specialized S-Works Renegade 1.95, set up tubeless with just 24.5psi up front and 26psi out back to keep from flatting on the course's two manmade rock gardens.
Todd Wells used fast-rolling S-Works Renegade 1.95in tires on carbon Roval Control SL wheels to win his latest US national cross-country title
The rest of Wells' setup was well in keeping with that lightweight theme as well, including the custom Specialized/RockShox Reba S29 fork with its crown/steerer and inertia valve auto-lockout feature, SRAM XX transmission with Specialized's own FACT OS integrated carbon fiber crankset, Avid XX brakes with 160/140mm front/rear rotors, Specialized Roval Control SL 29 wheels with carbon fiber rims, a Specialized carbon fiber seatpost and carbon-railed Phenom Pro saddle, and a feathery Syntace carbon fiber low-rise bar and forged aluminum stem – in the smaller 25.4mm bar clamp diameter to save a few extra grams.
Even the ESI Racer's Edge silicone foam rubber grips are among the lightest available and Crank Brothers Egg Beater 11 pedals are the obvious choice for shedding mass with their minimal design and mostly titanium construction. The only non-standard bits were wheel skewers and a seatpost collar from Carbon Ti – both custom etched and anodized for the team.
Total weight as pictured is an outstanding 8.64kg (19.05lb) as pictured.
Needless to say, getting your name printed underneath the clearcoat isn't a standard factory option
Gearheads will undoubtedly point out, though, that Wells could have quickly and easily saved even more weight.
"For a course like this where it's just smooth and fast, I thought about running our really skinny 1.8in Renegades because they're super light but I rode through the rock garden just one time and cut the side of the tire. I had run through it a couple of times, too, and it was only a second or two slower but I wanted to try and stay on the bike so I went a bigger volume tire."
Wells of course also could have dropped lots of weight with 26in wheels but after making the switch about two years ago, Wells says he almost certainly isn't going back.
"I don't know – they're different styles of riding," he told us. "Riding a two-six is still a lot of fun. I have a dirt jump bike that's a two-six and I have a bigger bike that's also a two-six. They're easier to whip around and they feel snappier and more responsive than a two-niner but for racing, it's hard to go back and forth between the two bikes so I doubt [I'll ever switch]."
Specialized don't use a through-axle on the front of their S-Works Stumpjumper 29er but the hugely oversized hub end caps seem to do a good job of keeping flex at bay
Wells says his overall setup doesn't change much from course to save for tire models, tire pressures, and suspension settings, preferring to keep things consistent for familiarity and predictability.
"Today I'm also going to run a bigger volume tire – either the Renegade or Fast Trak," Wells said the morning of the short track event. "It's fast and there's a lot of high speed but there's also a lot of loose corners. But lower tire pressure today for sure because we don't go through the rock garden and that was the one section I was worried about flatting on yesterday. I ran 26[psi] in the back and 24.5 in the front – I'll probably 22 or 23 in the front and 24 in the back.
"Sometimes we change the shock pressures a little bit," he continued. "If it's a rough course we'll run a little lower pressure so the shock works more and I'll open the Brain more. On a slow, rough course – like Mont Sainte-Anne where there's a lot of uphill or flat technical sections and you're not going very fast – I'll have the Brain left open more so the shock is less likely to close."
Specialized keep the top tube and down tube very wide to provide extra front triangle stiffness
We did catch team mechanic Sandy Gilchrist clipping half of the center knobs off of a Specialized S-Works Fast Trak tire the night before the short track, though. According to Gilchrist, Wells wanted to keep those as an alternative tire for the course's gravelly corners and the slightly more open pattern provided a touch more grip.
Wells unfortunately wasn't able to score the double repeat, finishing just behind Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski who put in a late surge on the last lap to earn his fourth national short track title.
Even so, you'd think that a rider with Wells' pedigree who just earned yet another stars-and-stripes championship would get a matching custom bike afterward to celebrate, right? Not so fast. Wells says he wasn't expecting anything and in his trademark understated style, he didn't seem a bit upset about it.
"[Specialized] have so many great athletes on their team that if it's not a world championship, it's like [shrugs his shoulders and laughs]," he said humbly. "It's good and bad – to be surrounded by such great athletes, it's pretty cool."
Even star riders couldn’t do their job successfully without a reliable machine – Todd Wells (Specialized) put his money on personal mechanic Myron Billy for this build
This article originally appeared on BikeRadar