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Todd Wells' Specialized S-Works Tricross

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SRAM Red DoubleTap levers are set high on the anatomic bars.

SRAM Red DoubleTap levers are set high on the anatomic bars.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells' frame is specially built just for him with unique touches such as omitted water bottle and rack/fender mounts.

Wells' frame is specially built just for him with unique touches such as omitted water bottle and rack/fender mounts.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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An oversized BB30-compatible bottom bracket shell is joined to wishbone-style chain stays.

An oversized BB30-compatible bottom bracket shell is joined to wishbone-style chain stays.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Like many racers, Wells opts for TRP's ultralight EuroX Magnesium cantilevers.

Like many racers, Wells opts for TRP's ultralight EuroX Magnesium cantilevers.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Color coordination isn't the motivation behind Wells' choice of brake pads. He says the Specialized Roval carbon-specific compound (made by SwissStop) provides better initial bite than most carbon pads.

Color coordination isn't the motivation behind Wells' choice of brake pads. He says the Specialized Roval carbon-specific compound (made by SwissStop) provides better initial bite than most carbon pads.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Derailleur cables are run along the down tube.

Derailleur cables are run along the down tube.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The S-Works Tricross chain stays start out extremely tall at the bottom bracket but quickly taper down for more rider comfort.

The S-Works Tricross chain stays start out extremely tall at the bottom bracket but quickly taper down for more rider comfort.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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A big 'white carbon' patch on the chain stay guards against chainsuck.

A big 'white carbon' patch on the chain stay guards against chainsuck.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells is among the minority of riders using a carbon bar.

Wells is among the minority of riders using a carbon bar.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells' ultralight S-Works carbon crank is fitted with 39/46T SRAM chainrings.

Wells' ultralight S-Works carbon crank is fitted with 39/46T SRAM chainrings.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The massive Specialized S-Works Tricross carbon fork isn't the prettiest thing on the block but Wells says it tracks extremely well and is rock-solid under braking and yet is still very comfortable.

The massive Specialized S-Works Tricross carbon fork isn't the prettiest thing on the block but Wells says it tracks extremely well and is rock-solid under braking and yet is still very comfortable.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The wide fork crown offers up plenty of mud clearance. Scallops on the inner surfaces also allow the brakes to open wider, too.

The wide fork crown offers up plenty of mud clearance. Scallops on the inner surfaces also allow the brakes to open wider, too.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Mounting the brake housing stop on the fork crown is a virtual guarantee against fork chatter but Wells says that even when his bike was fitted with a standard hanger up top, the burly crown and fork legs were still vibration-free.

Mounting the brake housing stop on the fork crown is a virtual guarantee against fork chatter but Wells says that even when his bike was fitted with a standard hanger up top, the burly crown and fork legs were still vibration-free.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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A steel cage on the SRAM 'Red' front derailleur offers up more stiffness than the usual titanium bit.

A steel cage on the SRAM 'Red' front derailleur offers up more stiffness than the usual titanium bit.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Todd Wells (Specialized) switches from an aluminum frame to a carbon one for the '09-'10 'cross season.

Todd Wells (Specialized) switches from an aluminum frame to a carbon one for the '09-'10 'cross season.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The front end of the bike features a straight 1 1/8" head tube.

The front end of the bike features a straight 1 1/8" head tube.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells' white brake hoods are gleamingly clean in the late day Oregon sun but ugly weather conditions ahead will likely guarantee that they won't stay that way for long.

Wells' white brake hoods are gleamingly clean in the late day Oregon sun but ugly weather conditions ahead will likely guarantee that they won't stay that way for long.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Crankbrothers' Eggbeater 4Ti pedals are a common sight in 'cross on account of their light weight and nearly infallable performance in mud.

Crankbrothers' Eggbeater 4Ti pedals are a common sight in 'cross on account of their light weight and nearly infallable performance in mud.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells' SRAM Red rear derailleur will be put to the test if Sunday turns muddy.

Wells' SRAM Red rear derailleur will be put to the test if Sunday turns muddy.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells has also made the switch to a Specialized saddle for this season.

Wells has also made the switch to a Specialized saddle for this season.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The sculpted seat stays are notably curvier than the norm.

The sculpted seat stays are notably curvier than the norm.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Zertz inserts are added just below the reinforced brake mounts.

Zertz inserts are added just below the reinforced brake mounts.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The rear brake housing stop is integrated into the seatpost collar.

The rear brake housing stop is integrated into the seatpost collar.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells runs his Specialized S-Works Pro-Set stem at the -13

Wells runs his Specialized S-Works Pro-Set stem at the -13
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Wells is running a shaved-down Specialized Captain tread mated to an FMB tubular casing for now but says a proper Specialized house-brand tubular may be in the works.

Wells is running a shaved-down Specialized Captain tread mated to an FMB tubular casing for now but says a proper Specialized house-brand tubular may be in the works.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The 34mm casing offers more cush for Wells' size and is already coated with latex from the factory so Aquaseal isn't necessary.

The 34mm casing offers more cush for Wells' size and is already coated with latex from the factory so Aquaseal isn't necessary.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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The top tube is wide and flat across the bottom for easier shouldering.

The top tube is wide and flat across the bottom for easier shouldering.
(Image credit: James Huang)
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Specialized Zertz elastomeric inserts are said to damp low-amplitude, high-frequency vibrations.

Specialized Zertz elastomeric inserts are said to damp low-amplitude, high-frequency vibrations.
(Image credit: James Huang)

The US cyclo-cross national championships in Bend, Oregon is coming at a good time for Todd Wells, who is showing excellent form late in the season with recent wins at the USGP in nearby Portland and the double at Jingle Cross Rock in Iowa City, Iowa. Wells will be seeking his third stars-and-stripes 'cross jersey this Sunday but after a team switch from GT to Specialized earlier this year, he'll now be doing it on a new carbon bike instead of his usual custom aluminum machine.

Specialized has supplied Wells with its top-end S-Works Tricross, whose highly sculpted form stands in stark contrast to his previous mostly-round aluminum frame. The top tube is wide and extremely flat for easier shouldering but also bowed to lend some vertical flex to the front end, and the wildly curvaceous seat stays closely mimic those of the company's road-going Roubaix model.

Up front, the matching carbon fork boasts an extra-wide stance and both the fork blades and seat stays are graced with gobs of mud clearance plus Specialized's unique Zertz elastomeric inserts to damp low-amplitude, high-frequency vibrations. Down below is Specialized's usual oversized integrated bottom bracket.

According to Wells, all of the various shaping isn't just for show, either, as he's quick to point out the notably smooth ride.

"The one thing I've noticed with the carbon is that it soaks up the bumps way more," he said. "I don't know if it's the way that fork is designed or the carbon frame but usually I get blisters at the beginning of the year like crazy on my hands and this year I've had no problem with my hands."

Wells' 58cm frame is bone stock but for a couple of subtle racer-only changes. In keeping with Specialized's versatile 'Freeroad' billing, consumer versions normally include water bottle mounts on both the seat tube and down tube plus fender mounts on the seat stays but both have been eliminated on his team-spec version.

Wells has had to make some adjustments for the non-custom geometry, though. Admitting that he could have fit either the 58cm or 60cm sizes, Wells says he ultimately went with the smaller of the two in order to get a lower bar height (the 60cm's head tube is 25mm longer) and indeed, there are just 10mm of spacers beneath his adjustable-angle stem, which is set to an aggressive -13 degrees. The smaller frame size also netted a top tube roughly 10mm shorter than before, too, but that was easily remedied with a longer 110mm stem and also brought with it the side benefit of faster handling on account of the correspondingly shorter wheelbase.

"I like the bike smaller for cyclo-cross," he said. "I feel like I can maneuver it better and jump on it easier so I went with a smaller frame and a longer stem."

The SRAM logo can be found on the shifter/brake levers and transmission and TRP supplies its popular EuroX Magnesium cantilevers but the Specialized moniker is again plastered on the ultralight S-Works carbon crankset, bar and stem, saddle and seatpost, and even the prototype tubular tires (Specialized currently only offers 'cross tires in clincher varieties).

The prototype tubulars are handmade by renowned tire maker FMB and feature an aggressive Specialized Captain tread hand-glued to a fat 34mm casing and further customized with shaved center knobs that he tediously cut himself. According to Wells, the combination gives him the best of both worlds: a fast roll with good drive and braking traction but also copious amounts of cornering grip. Not that the tires solely deserve the credit, but it's interesting to note nonetheless that he won both times that he's raced on them – at Jingle Cross Rock in Iowa and in Portland on Sunday.

"I like the file treads but I like the old [Dugast] Pipistrello ones that have the side knobs," he said. "Some guys don't mind the squishy feeling when you run really low pressure and then it doesn't matter so much what tread pattern you have because it's always flat on the ground but they're squirming around. I like to run a harder tire pressure [27psi front, 29psi rear] but when I do, in order to get the traction I need, I need the side knobs. I run these tires with the knobs clipped down when it's fast enough to run file treads but then it gives me some traction in the corners."

The Specialized name is even found on the carbon-specific brake pads, custom made for the company by SwissStop. Wells says they offer better initial bite than other pads he's used in the past, which better suits his size and weight, especially in wetter conditions.

"We switched the pads this pad weekend in Portland because they just weren't grabbing enough. Because I'm a pretty big guy, I feel like sometimes the carbon-specific pads don't give me the grab soon enough if it's cold out there or slippery with mud."

Sunday's race promises to be a technical rider's delight with its sinuous route along the banks of the Deschutes River and unpredictable snow-covered ground. Wells stops short of designating himself a favorite for the US title but admits that the course suits his strengths.

"I tend to like the types of courses like what we have here," he said. "It's pretty fast where you're not just slogging away but it's also very technical. You can't just stand up and sprint on it right now because it's very slippery and you have to keep your power efficient throughout the pedal stroke. Coming from a mountain bike background, technical stuff tends to suit me better than guys that don't race mountain bikes just because we deal with this stuff all the time."

Complete bike specifications: