American Todd Wells announced his retirement from pro racing at the age of 41 today. Wells is a three-time US champion in cyclo-cross and has amassed a dozen national titles in mountain biking as well as three Pan American championships, three Leadville 100 wins and numerous other top results.
Wells made the announcement on his personal web page with a lengthy recollection of a career that dates back to childhood BMX racing. He took up mountain bike racing in high school, and his career took off while in college in Durango, Colorado. He turned professional in 1997.
He reflected on moving into the sport during the height of the EPO era, and his decision to not take part in doping. "I had thought about doping but couldn't do it," Wells wrote. "I would love to think it was a moral decision but guys were dying in their sleep, there were rumors national teams were traveling with centrifuges to spin the guys blood every day and people were getting up in the middle of the night to run up the stairs to keep their blood from clogging up. It all seemed crazy. I had fallen in love with the sport but wasn't willing to risk my life for it."
Wells quit the sport for a time, but came back and rose up the professional ranks. He made the US Olympic team for Athens, Beijing and London, but was devastated in 2013 by the death of his close friend and fellow MTB racer Burry Stander, who was struck by a driver and killed in 2013.
"After he was killed in 2013 I lost my motivation to race at the highest level," Wells wrote. "I still loved racing and competing but no longer had the drive to compete at that top level so I focused more on domestic racing. I still trained hard and made all the sacrifices but when I went from competing at the highest level to just domestic racing my level decreased. It's hard to describe but once I had pushed to that level and was no longer striving to be the best I lost a bit. I still got some great results but wasn't nearly at my 2008 peak."
Becoming a father also placed his focus closer to home.
"I was still able to achieve some good results but I know my level as bike racer dropped quite a bit when I became a father and I wouldn't want it any other way," Wells wrote. "Even though he became my focus I still missed somethings because of the travel or the training or just being too tired to participate. It has finally come time that I'm not willing to do that anymore."
Wells plans to continue racing for fun, coaching and holding training camps, and will at last put his degree to work in a mortgage finance job.
"I have accomplished more than I ever set out to and experienced things I never imagined all because of my bicycle. I have traveled the world and made friends in far reaches of the globe, places I never really knew existed growing up because of what racing offered me. I am extremely grateful to everyone that helped me along the way and gave the chance to chase my dream," he wrote.
"Having neglected my family and community for the last 22 years I'm looking forward to being more present and taking the time to enjoy the ride. And eating more cookies."