Leadville 100 Exclusive Interview: Race Favorite Todd Wells

Race Coverage

Todd Wells, Leadville 100 contender, enduro bike owner, and decent golfer.

This Saturday morning, at the start of the 2013 Leadville Trail 100 mountain bike race, Todd Wells will be ready. The Specialized Factory Team rider has been aiming at this race for months, spending extended time training at altitude, while at the same time winning the overall of the Pro XCT series. In between it all, the three-time Olympian and 2011 Leadville champ was nice enough to invite Mtbr.com into his home for an extended interview and photo session. Here’s what we heard and saw. (And make sure to check out page 2. We have photos of his brand new bike.)

Mtbr.com: Take us through how you get ready for the high altitude at the Leadville 100.
Todd Wells: Obviously it’s a completely different race than usual, starts above 10,000 feet, climbs 14,000 feet total, and it’s really fast. I think the fast guys will do it in 6-6.5 hours. That’s like 18mph, which is really fast for a mountain bike race.

So for me to get fit for that, I need to go high. I live at about 6,500 feet here in Durango, but the higher in elevation you go the bigger the impact. So to acclimate for that I go to Silverton, which is at around 9,400 feet. From there, I can ride up to 13,000-14,000 feet. I do a lot of long training rides, dirt road rides, with hour long climbs. They are steeper, harder and higher than the climbs at Leadville.

Plus I can come back to Durango in about 50 minutes in the car. So some days I will come back and train here at lower elevation, then the next day go back up to Silverton. That way I can mix it up and not lose all the power I have, but still get the acclimation benefit from the high altitude.

When Wells needs a little extra time at altitude, he can sleep in this tent in his spare bedroom.

Mtbr.com: How about your weight? We’ve heard this is the time to get lean and mean.
Todd Wells: Yeah, I try to lose at much weight as possible for Leadville. The higher in elevation you go, the less power you have. So weight effects even more at high elevation.

Mtbr.com: So how much does your weight change?
Todd Wells: Well, in winter during the offseason, I’ll get to 185-190. When I’m racing cross-country the whole time, that drops to 170-175. And for Leadville I try to be at 165.

It sucks, but there is only so much training you can do, and I know getting light works. I get my fastest and fittest. You feel like crap, you are tired all the time, you are hungry, irritable. But that is maybe good part of being holed up in Silverton. I don’t have to deal with anyone and no one has to deal with me.

Mtbr.com: How does you diet change?
Todd Wells: It’s just less. I eat regular meals and that’s it. No snacking. For me that is the hardest par. But you can only train so much. Even on the bike you feel like crap. But then a few days before race start you can start eating just a little bit more and start feeling better, and still be skinny for the race.

Left: The trophy for winning the 2011 Leadville 100. Right: A letter from THE President.

Mtbr.com: Do you really like racing Leadville or do you like the attention that comes with it?
Todd Wells: Leadville is totally different than a normal mountain bike race. There is no singletrack, there are no fun trails. All dirt road and a ton of climbing. But what is does have is group racing, which we don’t get much in cross-country racing. And it’s basically like a marathon (running race) or an Ironman, with pros and amateurs all on the same course, which is kind of cool. I like Leadville.

I was also surprised how hard we actually went the whole time. I thought it would be like a road race where you go hard on climb and then eat a sandwich on the flats. But at Leadville you never go so hard that you are dying and gnawing on your bars to stay in the group. But you never ease up much either. It’s hard to eat a Clif Bar on that ride.

Mtbr.com: How you feeling coming into the race? Good chance to win?
Todd Wells: I’m feeling great this year. I had one less week to prepare then in 2011, but I think I got a lot of quality high altitude training in. I think I have as good of shot as anyone at winning this year. I’ve done the training, I’m acclimated and I lost a bit of weight so I feel like I’ve done everything I can to have a good race.

Continue reading for more of the interview and full photo gallery.

About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Olympics, Tour de France, MTB world champs, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying life with his wife Lisa and kids Cora and Tommy in and around their home in the MTB Mecca of Crested Butte.

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  • John Mallow says:

    Great article! I was fortunate to be at the 2011 Leadville 100! I was staging for my son that day. I grew up in Leadville and lived there for 28 years until moving to Grand Junction. I want to wish Todd Good Luck tomorrow! I wish I could be there! Maybe I”ll get in next year.

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