Todd Wells (Specialized) successfully defended his US cross country national championship title in Sun Valley, Idaho, on Saturday afternoon. Wells rode a strategic race to fend off top challenger Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek), who rode to a career-best second place. Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant) was the only other rider to contend in the top three, and he earned the bronze medal."It feels good," said a smiling Wells after his victory. "I'm a big guy and this course isn't exactly my style." The brutal, sub-four mile course featured a super steep fireroad climb and a long, flowy singletrack downhill descent. There were few technical or flat sections.
Wells and Schultz led the race initially on the first lap.
"Sometimes I go out pretty hard in the World Cups and have bad last laps, but in a field like this with a super long climb, you can ride your own pace," said Wells of his strategy. "I wanted to make sure I had enough left in the tanks for those last few laps up the climb."
Schultz said he felt good from the gun. "I actually led the first lap. I found myself in the lead and figured I should run with it," he said. "So I went for it, but Wells came by me on the second lap. He was climbing hard, especially on the top section. I couldn't quite hang with him there."
Wells noted that he was climbing a bit better than Schultz but not descending quite as fast. For a time during the six-lap race, Wells had gotten a solid 35 seconds on Schultz, but as the race neared its end, Schultz got stronger and started to close the gap.
"I tried my best to give it the old crocodile roll on that last lap," said Schultz, who tenaciously clung to the possibility of victory. "I was reeling him until right at the top of the final climb where it got steep. I was cramping everywhere - I was inside out. I just couldn't quite do it, but it was fun race."
Wells knew that if he could get to the top of the final climb first, he'd have the race won.
"I was holding Sam between 15 and 30 seconds," said Wells. "I knew that you couldn't get around on the downhill. Then I was trying not to wash out going down and to keep it upright until the finish."
Wells did just that and claimed what is his fourth national mountain bike title. Prior to today, he already had two short track and one cross country championships to his name.
"I would have loved to have win, but Wells has been riding so strong all season that I was psyched to be so near him," said Schultz. "To be able to compete with Todd at altitude is great. I haven't historically been great at altitude and this is kind of a Colorado race. It's always been the Todd and Jeremy [Horgan Kobelski of Subaru-Trek] show, but today I was up here."
Craig rolled in for third place. "It's good to be back in the top three although it would have been better to be in the top one. I felt above average, but not amazing today. I started decent, but it was a race of attrition, of who could keep it together the most up that climb."
"I was close to Sam the whole race, but he had a good last two laps, so it was good to see him closing him down. It was good that Todd didn't beat us by nine minutes." Wells won by 49 seconds over Schultz and 2:28 over Craig.
Former national champion JHK was busy battling for the final two podium spots with Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale).
Horgan-Kobelski had the advantage for much of the race, but with about two to go, Bishop caught him. Recovering from a chest cold he'd had all week, JHK struggled as Bishop eventually got away for fourth place.
"I had a good surge out there on the last lap," said Bishop. "I had to fight out there today as I was tired. It was a last minute decision to come out here to nationals instead of extending my customary mid-season break."
Bishop caught JHK with one to go. It wasn't as simple as just passing and riding away because Bishop was dealing with a deflating tire.
"My tire was soft on the start line and I didn't have another wheel, so I pumped it up and hoped it would hold. It seemed to until the final lap," said Bishop.
"JHK and I came into the final climb together. I strategized that if I went really hard for a couple of minutes, then when I would stop to put air in the tire, I could get 20-30 seconds of rest. It worked perfectly and I was able to get back on after he passed me while I was stopped."
Bishop knew that if he could get to the downhill first, he'd keep fourth, which he did finishing at 4:05 after Wells. JHK rolled in another 20 seconds later.
"I was just happy to surive that one after having a chest cold all week," said JHK after the finish.
- Endurance pro racer Alex Grant had his best-ever nationals finish, cracking the top 10 for the first time. The Cannondale racer placed eight after Spencer Paxson (Kona), who finished seventh, just like did last year. Grant credited a more deliberately measured slow start as a key to his success today.
- Tad Elliott (Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory) finished sixth in his first year as an elite racer. He's not be racing much nationally this year, but has been training and preparing at home in Durango, Colorado. Elliott is also the current 30km cross country skate skiing national champion and he splits his time between the two sports.
-55-year-old mountain bike legend Ned Overend (Specialized) raced to 14th place. As in previous years, he got the loudest cheers from fans all around the course.
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Todd Wells (Specialized)||1:44:38|
|2||Sam Schultz (Subaru-Trek)||0:00:49|
|3||Adam Craig (Rabobank-Giant)||0:02:28|
|4||Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing)||0:04:05|
|5||Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru-Trek)||0:04:25|
|6||Tad Elliott (Durango Devo Sweet Elite Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory)||0:07:13|
|7||Spencer Paxson (Kona Bicycles)||0:07:22|
|8||Alexander Grant (Cannondale)|
|10||Barry Wicks (Kona)||0:09:26|
|11||Colin Cares (Kenda/Felt)||0:09:45|
|12||Bryan Alders (Epic Endurance)||0:10:37|
|14||Edmund (Ned) Overend (Specialized)||0:11:57|
|15||Stevie Cullinan (Racelab Cycling Team)||0:12:09|
|16||Tim Allen (Niner/Stans/Ergon)||0:12:31|
|17||Carl Decker (Giant)||0:13:10|
|18||Brent Steinberg (Livetrainrace.com)||0:13:30|
|19||Braden Kappius (Team Clif Bar)||0:13:38|
|21||Robert Marion (Carpediem Racing)||0:13:46|
|22||Justin Lindine (BikeReg.com / Joe's Garage / Scott)||0:14:10|
|23||Travis (TJ) Woodruff (Trek Bicycle Store Boulder)||0:15:29|
|24||Clinton Claassen (Team Mad Cat)|
|25||John Curry (Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club/Gallatin Alpine Sports/Intrinsik Archite)||0:15:55|
|26||Ken Benesh (Feedback Sports Racing)||0:16:20|
|27||Logan Wetzel (Noble Bikes)||0:16:27|
|29||Phil Grove (Sportsman & Ski Haus)||0:19:08|
|-1lap||Ben Parsons (Sportsman & Ski Haus)|
|-1lap||Jason Siegle (SDG/FELT)|
|-1lap||Adam Snyder (Jamis Bikes)|
|-1lap||Nicholas Weighall (California Giant Cycling/California Giant Berry Farms/Specialized)|
|-1lap||Brent Pontius (Roosters/Bikers Edge)|
|-1lap||Christopher Michaels (American Classic/Kenda/Tomac)|
|-2laps||Jordan Williford (Epic Endurance Cycling)|
|-2laps||David Harrison (Dollarhide)|
|-2laps||Anthony Sinyard (Specialized)|
|-2laps||Donavan Davis (Roosters/Bikers Edge)|
|-2laps||Chris Peariso (Adventure 212)|
|-2laps||Craig Wohlschlaeger (Hub Bicycle Company/ The Cannonball-Hub Racing Team)|
|-2laps||Nathan Bannerman (CyclocrossRacing.com)|
|-3laps||L Alexander Gardner|
|-3laps||Patrick Means (Team S&M)|
|DNS||Aaron Bradford (FamilyCycling/Specialized/SRAM)|
|DNS||Michael Broderick (Kenda/Seven/NoTubes)|
|DNF||John Nobil (Team Velosport Club)|
|DNF||Andy Schultz (Kenda/Felt)|