The timeless and legendary professional mountain biker Todd Wells announced his retirement last month and for the first time in over 20 years, he’ll make his living doing something else in 2018. For an athlete who is still able to compete at the highest level it’s no doubt a tough decision, but as a family man Todd is ready for the next phase in his life. With that being said, you will still find Todd riding his bike, indulging in more fun stuff like working on events (Durango Dirt Fondo) all while promoting the sport he’s loved his whole life that has given him so much.
A three-time USA Cyclocross National Champion, 12-time XC, STXC and Marathon National Champion as well as a three-time Leadville Trail 100 winner, the list of his accomplishments on all types of bikes is long and prestigious. He’s traveled around the world many times and made more friends through bike racing than he could have ever imagined; racing opened countless doors for him regardless of results and for that he is extremely grateful.
Todd knows that in order to chase his dreams, his support network was just as important as his training regime. Without his people behind him every step of the way, none of his achievements on the bike would have been possible. Recognizing the importance of this, Todd has enjoyed working with the local youth cycling scene in Durango, Colorado and looks forward to spending more time doing so. Although he hasn’t been able to spend nearly as much time as he would like in past years due to heavy racing schedules, he expects that to change as he spends more time at home in the near future. We wanted to learn more about his involvement with the kids in his community riding and racing bikes, so we sat down with him recently to glean some insight into that world.
Tell us about being involved with the growth of the Fort Lewis College Cycling program?
I moved to Durango in the fall of 1996 to race with the FLC program and go to school. The team was great then, but it is amazing now. We were purely a race program in the late 90s with about 30 riders across road and MTB. Today the team has over one hundred members across multiple disciplines and have won numerous National Championships. What they also have is a social aspect to the team for people that like to ride, but might not be ultra focused on racing. It's got something for everyone that loves cycling whether you want to compete for a National Championship or just have a support network of people that enjoy riding bikes for fun.
Is there an youthful energy that being around kids with a shared passion gives you?
Definitely -- passion is infectious and to share my love of cycling with other people is inspiring, young or old. In Durango, we are lucky to have more kids pass through the DEVO program each year in a county of only 30,000 people, then in entire other regions around the country. This is a very special place to be a young cyclist.
What is one thing you wish was around when you were kid growing up with racing aspirations?
Where I grew up no one rode bikes, if you saw someone with a bike rack you would flag them down and make a plan to go ride. I wish I had something like DEVO or NICA or any type of youth development program. I did race BMX and that is still the best place I believe to start as a young cyclist. It's not too long and you develop lifelong skills at a young age when you only bend, instead of break when hitting the ground.
Do you coach other youth or junior teams?
I do have a small coaching business, WellsCoached. It's always most fun to get to ride with the DEVO kids, NICA and El Grupo. There are so many great development programs going on right now, the options seem endless especially in a place like Durango.
Where do you see the future of mountain biking and cycling going with more of these youth centric organizations?
With NICA I believe we have a very bright future. It is good for the elite level of racing, but also for the general health of our country. The more people we can expose to the joys and benefits of cycling the better it is for everyone and the sport will continue to grow exponentially.
Often times taking a step back and reflecting is the best way to realize how amazing of an opportunity we all have to achieve our goals. Todd is looking forward to slowing down a bit, starting a new job, spending time with his wife and son, coaching more athletes, helping grow youth cycling in his own community and beyond as well continuing to enjoy riding his bicycle. He might be a littler slower than in recent years, but that’s only because his priorities have changed. Now he wants to soak it up, enjoy the ride and eat all the cookies he wants along the way.