Todd Wells (Specialized) won La Ruta de los Conquistadores on Saturday afternoon. It was the US cross country national champion's first-ever mountain bike stage race despite years of elite-level World Cup racing and two Olympic appearances.
"Mountain bike stage racing is hard," said Wells. "For me, I seem to get more and more tired every day. Sometimes on the road, you can recover and get better whereas here I felt like I got slower and slower. I'm glad it ended after four days."
Wells was delighted with his victory. "It feels so good. A race like this is never over until it's over.and it's been a stressful couple of days since I got the jersey on the first day. It seemed like someone new stepped up each day. I was just lucky to get enough time on that first stage and be able to sit back and conserve."
After picking a race billed by organizers as the toughest in the world, Wells wasn't yet ready to commit to returning.
"I don't know (about doing more). These events are great because they are big and they get so much attention. When you finish a race like this, you feel such a sense of accomplishment - whether you're the guy winning or not. It's special.
On the final stage, Wells got to experience La Ruta's infamous railroad trestle bridges. To cross them, riders have to step from railroad tie to railroad tie. There is nothing in between so the views to the fast moving torrents of water below can un-nerve anyone with a fear of heights.
"I've never done anything like that before. They were a little scary. Some (of the sections) are long. It gets hot and you're tired. You don't want to make a mistake. You're not likely to fall off, but it'd be easy to slip between the ties and hurt your leg or foot or something."
Wells will race two more weekends of cyclo-cross before starting his off-season.
"We'll see how I recover between now and then. It might take me until next season to recover from this race," he said.