Todd Wells (Specialized) won his second national championship this month with a victory in the elite men's cross country on Saturday afternoon at Bear Creek Resort in Pennsylvania. Earlier this month, he earned the US marathon national title.
"This is my third cross country national title. Those are hard for me to achieve even though they are the ones I try the hardest to get," said Wells, who has also previously won short track and marathon titles. His last cross country win was in 2011 in Sun Valley, Idaho.
Wells rode the perfect race, controlling the pace and eventually riding off the front as several of his rivals dealt with flat tires on the notoriously rocky course. It was a day when many of the contenders had trouble keeping air in their tires.
"It's always my goal to do well at national champs because it's such an honor to wear the jersey. I got it at marathon nats a couple of weeks ago and that took a bit of weight off the shoulders, but then race day comes around, and I have the pressure and still want to do well. Every nationals win is special."
Defending champion Stephen Ettinger (BMC) was among those who flatted - he actually flatted twice, losing several minutes and his spot up at the front with Wells.
The race started with five men quickly forming a lead group on the first of six laps: Wells, Ettinger, Mitch Hoke (Pro's Closet), Kerry Werner (BMC) and Russell Finsterwald (SRAM Factory).
Lap 2 was when Ettinger's bad luck began. "I flatted my front tire up top on a twisty section. I had to try to ride that in and probably lost three or four minutes." As a result, he dropped back from second to 12th place, not helped but a second front flat on the third lap.
With Ettinger out of the picture at the front, Wells applied some presure to get away from his remaining rivals.
"I tried to go out hard. Last year, I got off in the beginning and then Ettinger came back to me," said Wells. "So I was worried that would happen again, but that's how I race. The harder the race, the better for me. When it's slow and punchy, the younger guys have more snap than me. I prefer that it's just hard the whole time. After we lost Ettinger, Kerry and Finsty came up a bit, but I just tried to keep it rolling."
Last year's U23 champion Werner and Finsterwald rode together in second place until Finsterwald flatted. near the end of lap four.
"I broke a spoke and it punctured through the rim - that's how I got the flat," said Finsterwald. " I rode to the tech zone and got a new wheel, but it was hard to get in the rhythm after that. I just tried to maintain and make up some ground. Kerry and I were battling for second and third. Who knows what would have been, but there's always next year? And tomorrow there's short track."
Finsty's flat left Werner alone to chase Wells. "I tried to stay away and stay consistent and not have any mechanicals," said Werner, who would go on to finish second - the best result of his career.
At the front, Wells was thinking the same. "A course like this, anything can happen and you can flat so easily, so you want as big of a gap as possible. But you don't want to flat, so it's a balancing act," said Wells. "I ran heavier tires with higher pressures than I run at any other race. The traction isn't very good, but with my full suspension bike, I can run the higher pressure and still maintain a bit of traction out there."
Hoke rode in latter place for the second half of the race until he, too, flatted. "I was in third for a long time. Lap four was rough for me and I lost some time. That was the first time I was racing in the top three at a national championships. I've never been in a position to sit comfortably for a podium. I'm kinda bummed, but that's racing."
Both Jeremiah Bishop and Alex Grant of Sho-Air/Cannondale came around Hoke on the final lap.
Bishop took the third spot and said, "My cross country season has been a bit rough. I had nearly given up today after a terrible first two laps, but luckily I linked up with Alex and we work together well. It's a tough, physical course. I did some design on it and I wanted it to be a difficult, technical course to prepare riders for European racing. Turns out it beat me up pretty well, but it feels good to make it onto the box and salvage my cross country season."
Grant had his best-ever cross country nationals result. "I felt good at the start and steadily moved up all race. It was key to get a good rhythm and to flow and be smooth. As much as I would have loved to be in the medals, it's still my best finish and my teammate got the final medal."
Cameron Dodge put in the performance of the day to finish in fifth spot.
Ettinger never gave up and impressively managed to work his way back up to seventh after his two flats of the day. Last year's national champ was racing latex tubes instead of what was the more standard tubeless set up. When asked about his choice after the race, Ettinger said, "The past two years, I had a whole lot of success with it. I can run lower pressures. I had looked at it and if it was good enough for [teammates] Julien Absalon, Ralf Naef and Lukas Flueckiger, I could do it, too. It's just that this course is an aggressive course, as was marathon nationals [where he also flatted a few weeks ago while in the lead], and there are a lot of sharp rocks. I might have to think a little harder about equipment choices on courses like this."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Todd Wells (Specialized Factory)||1:45:27|
|2||Kerry Werner (BMC Project Dirt)||0:01:32|
|3||Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale)||0:02:12|
|4||Alexander Grant (Sho-Air/Cannondale)||0:02:40|
|6||Spencer Paxson (Kona Factory Team)||0:04:19|
|7||Stephen Ettinger (BMC Mountainbike Racing)||0:05:04|
|8||Russell Finsterwald (Sram Factory)||0:06:38|
|9||Brian Matter (Ks Energy Services)||0:07:55|
|10||Cole Oberman (Rare Disease Cycling)||0:08:30|
|11||Tristan Uhl (787 Racing)||0:08:51|
|12||Mitchell Hoke (Pro's Closet)||0:08:57|
|15||Joseph Maloney (Ks Energy Services)||0:10:46|
|16||Nicholas Waite (Pro Tested Gear)||0:11:20|
|17||William Melone (Riverside Racing)||0:11:28|
|18||Menso De Jong (Team Clif Bar Cycling)||0:11:52|
|19||Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar Cycling)||0:14:13|
|20||Aaron Snyder (Transsylvania Epic)||0:14:17|
|21||Keck Baker (Cannondale - Champion)||0:14:45|
|23||Noah Tautfest (Bicycle Express Racing)||0:16:24|
|24||Christopher Hamlin (Bicycle Express Racing)||0:16:42|
|25||Travis (Tj) Woodruff (Momentum Endurance)||0:17:09|
|26||Ernie Watenpaugh (Jack Daniels Fightin)||0:17:37|
|27||Joseph Clemenzi (Sports Garage Cyclin)||0:18:12|
|28||Aaron Oakes (Bicycle Express Racing)||0:18:33|
|29||Joshua Dillon (Bikereg.Com Cycling Club)||0:19:26|
|30||Braden Kappius (Team Clif Bar Cycling)||0:20:01|
|31||Alex Ryan (Mock Orange Racing)||0:20:03|
|32||Mike Montalbano (Toasted Head Racing)||0:21:55|
|34||Jordan Kahlenberg (Giant Northeast Pro)||0:23:18|
|-1 lap||Andy Brooks (Giant Northeast Grassroots)|
|-1 lap||Ben Ortt|
|-2 laps||Christopher Ziegler (Green Mountain Bicycle Club)|
|-2 laps||Neal Burton|
|-2 laps||Shawn Hall (Highlands Velo)|
|-2 laps||Peter Macleod (Bar Fly)|
|-2 laps||John Burns|
|-2 laps||Todd Latocha (Appalachian Bicycle Racing Association)|
|-2 laps||Greg Jancaitis (Riverside Racing)|
|-2 laps||Ethan Frey (Joes Bike Shop Racing Team)|
|-2 laps||Craig Wohlschlaeger (Giant Bicycle)|
|-2 laps||Mike Festa (Philadelphia Ciclismo)|
|-2 laps||Dan Wolf (Pro Tested Gear)|
|-2 laps||Jason Hilimire|
|-2 laps||Daniel Sturm (Black Bear Cycling)|
|-3 laps||Robert Rimmer (Piney Flats Bicycles And Fitness)|
|-3 laps||Robert Marion (Carpediem Racing)|
|-3 laps||Bradford Perley (Champion System/Cann)|
|-4 laps||Joshua West|
|-4 laps||Jesse Kelly (Rare Disease Cycling)|
|DNF||Eric Thompson (Plan C P/B Challenge)|
|DNF||Michael Broderick (Team Kenda/Stan's NoTubes)|