Wells returns to La Ruta to defend title

Todd Wells (Specialized Racing) is returning to La Ruta de los Conquistadores to defend his overall victory from 2011. Back to Costa Rica for his second year of competing in the mountain bike stage race, he is looking forward to the start at 6:00 am on Thursday morning.

"Last year, I didn't expect to do so well, but I had better training coming in, had better fitness and was a little bit lighter," said Wells to Cyclingnews. "This year, I don't know... we'll see. I have more knowledge of the course this year, so I'm hoping that will offset my extra weight and a little bit less fitness."

It's the end of a long, difficult though successful 2012 Olympic season for the American, but despite the toll its taken, he didn't want to miss out on returning to La Ruta.

"With the World Cups starting early this year, and then I had an injury, that took a lot of mental energy. Then there were the Olympics, which are so crazy and took a lot of mental energy. I feel like this season has been extra long and extra hard," he said.

"Coming back to La Ruta, I'm not in as good shape as last year, but coming down here, the people are awesome, the course is cool, and it's such a great experience. Even if I felt a little off, I'd want to come down and defend the jersey and take part in a great event."

The 20th edition of La Ruta returns to a three-day format and when asked how that might affect the race, Wells said, "I saw that the race will be shorter and maybe it will be faster, but what we saw last year was that it was the first day and then the places only changed a little after that. The first day is the longest, hardest day. The second day can also have some impact, but that third day, we don't have any of the climbs we had last year. I think the race will still be hard, but I don't think it will change that much."

The first stage is also slightly shorter as a section through the chaotic streets of San Jose is cut out and racers will finish at a university among the coffee plantations on the outskirts of town.

"Last year was my first time and the race was long and I don't remember all the different sections. It's nice it's a little shorter, there will be a little less suffering out there."

When asked whether he will participate in the optional rafting "stage" on the final day 3, Wells said, "No rafting. However, last year after the race, [my wife] Meg and I did the river trip. It's cool. If there were huge gaps, I might consider it. It's not so much the rafting, it's the early starts. Waking up early for a couple days in a row means that by not rafting, I can sleep a little later on that final day."

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