Todd Wells (Specialized) dominated the men's short track from start to finish on Saturday at the Sea Otter Classic. Wells went to the front from the start, immediately pushing the pace and stringing out the international-caliber field.
"If I wait, I get complacent and don't want to suffer any more. I have to go from the start," said Wells. "I think that's part of why I often do better at World Cup races."
For a time, Wells was joined by his Specialized teammate Burry Stander, who ultimately finished second. Behind the two leaders, Geoff Kabush (Maxxis / Rocky Mountain), in third, spent most of the race chasing on his own in no man's land. Christoph Sauser gave Specialized its third spot in the top five with a fourth place.
Although Wells and Stander, who was riding a 29er for his first race, were together for a time, Wells soon distanced Stander and held the gap until the finish.
"Burry came across to me quickly," said Wells, "But there was a big mud bog, and the gaps today were pretty much created by who could ride through that mud bog the best. Burry caught me and then crashed in the mud bog, which was lucky for me because he was riding strong."
It was Wells' third victory in three weeks. Last weekend, he won the Pan American cross country title, and two weeks ago, he finished first in the US Pro XCT cross country round in Fontana. With three riders in the top five, Specialized clearly had the strongest team, but Wells said they had no particular plan from the start.
"There are so many good riders on my team that everyone wants to win and no one wants to sacrifice himself," said Wells. "We all know if we go out there and go hard, we should be up there."
"The mud pit really deteriorated during our race," said Kabush. "It changed every lap. I crossed it up there on the second lap. It would have been tight, but that really separated everyone. It was best to have a clear line and just gun it through." Wells rode strongly to hold onto third place.
Sauser and then Sid Taberlay (Sho-Air / Specialized) rounded out the top five. Subaru / Gary Fisher teammates Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski and Sam Schultz spent most of the race riding near each other and finished sixth and seventh respectively.
"I was trying to follow JHK's line through the mud," said Schultz. "He'd ride it every time. I was just using him, I wasn't really helping him at all."
"It was like you would either die or make up a ton of ground in the mud pit," said JHK. "It was sketchy because the faster you hit it, the easier it was, but if you hit it fast and messed up, you went down hard. I was just surviving the hill every lap."
|#||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Todd Wells (USA)|
|2||Burry Stander (RSA)|
|3||Geoff Kabush (Can)|
|4||Christopher Sauser (Swi)|
|5||Sid Taberlay (Aus)|
|6||Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski (USA)|
|7||Sam Schultz (USA)|
|8||Manuel Fumic (Ger)|
|9||Carl Decker (USA)|
|10||Marco Aurelio Fontana (Ita)|
|11||Ryan Trebon (USA)|
|12||Max Plaxton (Can)|
|13||Ken Onodera (Jpn)|
|14||Roel Paulissen (Bel)|
|15||Jeremiah Bishop (USA)|