On a hot, dry and dusty day on the slopes around Sol Vista Resort in Granby, Colorado, Todd Wells (Specialized) rode powerfully to a solo win in the elite men's cross country race, taking his first-ever cross country national title. Wells defeated last year's champion Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Trek) for the win, and Ryan Trebon (Kona) put in a strong ride for third.
"I did it!" said an ecstatic Wells after crossing the line and hugging his wife Meg. "I've been doing this a long time and it feels good to finally get one. There were a lot of good racers, and JHK is always good at altitude. I knew I was riding well, but he's worked me over quite a few times, so I was glad to get him today."
Wells said his preparation had been good - he'd gotten in good training, a taper, stayed healthy and spent some time training at home in Durango.
Wells' win was no foregone conclusion. Although he started with his trademark fast World Cup start, which shattered the field, JHK and Sam Schultz (Subaru/Trek) initially hung with him. Then Wells stopped briefly in the pit after the start lap. JHK got an advantage, but Wells closed it quickly as Schultz dropped off the back of the two favorites.
Last year, Wells and JHK battled until the final lap, when a mechanical cost Wells his chances and JHK went on to a win. This year, it would be different, but not until after a second pit stop for Wells.
"I was on a brand new bike, and one of the bolts came loose," said Wells. "I didn't bring any tools beacuse I wanted to be as light as possible, but I'd already passed the tech zone when I saw my mechanic so then I had to ride another half lap. Luckily it stayed together."
Wells strategically attacked JHK before his second tech zone stop, in order to limit his losses when JHK passed him and took the lead again.
"I wanted to get as much time as I could going into the tech zone. I knew it'd be a quick change, but you never want to let the leader go," said Wells, who again caught JHK and passed him, this time to take the race lead for good.
"Todd attacked so hard at the start and for awhile, I was the only guy with him," said JHK. "Then I paid for it the whole race. Just trying to stay with him for 1.5 laps put me in damage control mode for the rest of the day. He was definitely the strongest guy."
"9,000 feet hurts everyone even though I'm used to it," said JHK. "It was really hard out there, and I felt good and had a good race. It was good enough for second today."
After a blazing start, Schultz drifted rearward. His third place spot in the race was filled by Ryan Trebon (Kona), who rode consistently throughout the race.
"It was a weird race. It was so bumpy and hard," said Trebon. "The back section was so frustrating for me as both the guys in front were riding full suspension 29ers, and I was bouncing around (on a 29er hardtail). It was hard to get smooth pedal strokes, but I felt good."
"Those guys have been racing fast and were head and shoulders above us last week, so I figured they'd be off the front. I was hoping to have a good ride and hang in there. I tried to stay with them as much as I could, but I paid for it on the third lap. Then I just rode steady," said Trebon, pleased with his race overall.
Adam Craig (Rabobank/Giant) rode in fourth place for nearly all the race. He said he was worked from Downieville last weekend. "Right now, I don't have the base, so it takes me a week to recover after I go hard. I just barely came around this morning and started feeling decent. We'll see if that trend continues." Craig resumed racing in late May after surgery on his knee and said he's trying to balance "catching up on rest and training while racing every weekend" since his comeback. He goes into Sunday's short track race as defending national champion.
"I hate to not dig deep, but with two to go, well, I know Ryan well enough to know that if he hasn't cracked by then, he's not going to," said Craig, who was hinting that he hadn't forgotten about the short track.
The most exciting battle of the race took place for the fifth podium spot. Until the fifth and final lap, Schultz and Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) were neck and neck, each leading at different points during the race. However, full-time pro roadie and part-time mountain biker Peter Stetina of the Garmin-Transitions team, stealthily pursued the two and overtook them both on the final lap to snag fifth.
"I had fun and got back to my roots. I started in mountain biking when I was 14," said the 22-year-old Stetina. "As a road racer in July, you either have the top form of your life and you're at the Tour (de France) or you have a summer break." The Garmin rider has chosen to spend his summer break racing his mountain bike.
Spencer Paxson (Team S&M Young Guns) had a breakout performance, finishing seventh. The Seattle-based rider, age 25, was psyched with his race. "This is the best performance of my career, definitely," said Paxson. "I raced Colorado Springs last weekend and had a good rhythm and tried to repeat everything today, but a little more aggressively. I was super motivated because it was nationals and I felt great."
Wells won his national title in front of his wife, her parents and his parents. "It was amazing. I can barely talk," said an emotional Meg after the finish. "It was so well deserved. They all deserve it, of course, but it seems like Todd was often doing well and then had bad luck. Finally, he put it all together. It's nice to be here when he wins."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Todd Wells (Specialized)||1:50:35|
|2||Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (Subaru/Trek)||0:01:29|
|3||Ryan Trebon (Kona)||0:02:25|
|4||Adam Craig (Giant/Rabobank)||0:04:14|
|5||Peter Stetina (Team Garmin-Transitions)||0:05:15|
|6||Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale Factory Racing)||0:05:19|
|7||Spencer Paxson (Team S&M Young Guns)||0:06:14|
|8||Sam Schultz (Subaru/Trek)||0:07:07|
|9||Barry Wicks (Kona)||0:07:28|
|11||Michael Broderick (Kenda/Seven/NoTubes)||0:09:19|
|12||Michael McCalla (Scott/Magura)||0:09:58|
|14||Braden Kappius (Team Clif Bar)||0:12:30|
|15||Travis (TJ) Woodruff (Trek Bicycle Store Race Team)||0:12:46|
|16||Erik Tonkin (Kona)||0:12:47|
|17||Colin Cares (Kenda/Felt)||0:15:50|
|20||Scott Frederick (Inland Construction)||0:17:09|
|21||Andy Schultz (Kenda/Felt)||0:17:10|
|22||Macky Franklin (MTB PRO Team: Yeti-Sunflower Markets)||0:17:23|
|23||Troy Wells (Team Clif Bar)||0:17:38|
|25||Drew Edsall (Yeti / Sun Flower Market)||0:19:30|
|26||Bryan Mickiewicz (RMR/Hammer Nutrition)||0:19:52|
|27||John Curry (Gallatin Valley Bicycle Club/Gallatin Alpine Sports/Intrinsik Archite)||0:20:06|
|28||Brad Bingham (Moots Cycles)||0:20:32|
|29||Adam Snyder (Jamis Bikes)||0:20:57|
|30||Spencer Powlison (Mafia Racing)||0:21:17|
|-1lap||Nate Bird (Honey Stinger/Trek)|
|-1lap||Benjamin Portilla (Honey Stinger/ Trek)|
|-1lap||Blake Harlan (Jamis Factory Team)|
|-1lap||Brett Nichols (Trek Mountain Co-op)|
|-1lap||Aaron Elwell (High Gear / Trek)|
|-1lap||Robert Marion (Carpe Diem Racing)|
|-1lap||John Nobil (Bear Valley Bikes)|
|-1lap||Clinton Claassen (Team Mad Cat)|
|-1lap||Patrick Means (Team S&M Young Guns)|
|-1lap||Aaron Snyder (Scott RC Mountain Bike Team)|
|-1lap||Mike Friedberg (Giant)|
|-1lap||Bradford Sims (Foxtrot-Echelon Racing)|
|-1lap||Ethan Passant (Alpine Orthopaedics)|
|-2laps||Craig Wohlschlaeger (Hub Bicycle Company/The Hub Cycling Team)|
|-2laps||David Olson (Quarq / Rushmore Mountain Sports)|
|-2laps||Matthew Connors (Bicycle Ranch)|
|-2laps||Scott Kuppersmith (Herring Gas Cycling/Herring Gas Cycling Team)|
|-2laps||Jason Siegle (Bike Religion)|
|DNS||Aaron Bradford (Specialized/OnSite Ultrasound)|
|DNF||Tim Allen (Niner-Ergon)|
|DNF||Carl Hesselein (Whole Athlete Cycling)|
|DNF||Sam Jurekovic (Mafia Racing)|