Some racers step back from the international World Cup circuit and slowly dial back their careers, but not Todd Wells. The 38-year-old Specialized rider proved he is still going strong at this weekend's US Mountain Bike Nationals where he won the elite men's cross country title. His win came just two weeks after he had won the US marathon national title.
After years of chasing the World Cup circuit, Wells decided to do fewer of those races and focus more on domestic races. The move may have been in part motivated by his new role as a father after his son Cooper was born earlier in 2014.
"Becoming a dad hasn't slowed me down yet, but he isn't moving around much yet," joked Wells. "Just wait until I have to start chasing him..."
On Saturday, Wells claimed the third cross country national title of his career. Though he's been racing for a long time, it took awhile for him to figure out how to win cross country titles.
"Those are hard for me to achieve even though they are the ones I try the hardest to get," he said. "My last one was in 2011." He has won at least one national title in either short track, marathon and/or cross country every year since 2010.
"For the longest time, I had the worst luck at nationals. If there was something that could wrong for me, it would. Finally I feel like I've gotten that stuff out of the way and it's more about how I am on the day. It's not a luck thing, but more of a fitness and skill thing."
Wells was especially psyched to win at the Bear Creek Resort in Pennsylvania although he lives in Colorado where the trails are very different in character.
"These are the kind of trails I grew up on and my family lived less than three hours from here. It's awesome to win here!"
"It's always my goal to do well at national champs because it's such an honor to wear the jersey. So I got it at marathon nats a couple of weeks ago and that took a bit of weight off the shoulders, but then race day comes around, and you have the pressure and still want to do well. Every nationals win is special."
Wells lost the battle with Stephen Ettinger (BMC) in the short track on Sunday, but he still earned a second place.
"Two out of three ain't bad," he said counting his marathon and cross country wins. "Yes, I wanted to win today, but I know how it is when you miss it the first day. You have extra motivation and everybody wants to win, but when you come close the previous day, it gives you just a little bit more."
It's exactly what happened to Wells at nationals in 2013, when Ettinger won the cross country on Saturday and Wells took the short track on Sunday.
Wells will skip the final US Pro XCT at the Catamount Classic because he's already got the overall title won. Instead, he'll stay home, train at altitude and focus on a win at the Leadville 100 in August. Then he will head over to Europe for the final World Cup and the world championships.
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Sue George is an editor at Cyclingnews. She coordinates all of the site's mountain bike race coverage and assists with the road, 'cross and track coverage.