Todd Wells has been a mainstay in American mountain biking since the latter half of the 1990s. For 2016, the multiple-time Marathon, Cross Country, Short Track and Cyclocross National Champion joins the SRAM/Troy Lee Designs Race Team . We sat down with Todd to get his take on this exciting new chapter in his remarkable career.
SRAM: You’ve been in the sport for a long time, and spent most of your career with Specialized. You no doubt enjoyed your time there, but this new opportunity must feel pretty cool. What part of joining the SRAM/Troy Lee Designs team do you find most exciting?
Todd Wells: I actually started on Specialized back in ’96, and I rode for them until 98, went back to school, got a degree and job, quickly realized racing was more fun than going to work everyday. The only time I touched a bike during that time was to ride the five minutes to and from class, so it gave me some perspective of life without the bike.
I started racing again in 2001, and rode for Mongoose and then GT for the next six years before coming back to Specialized with my late teammate Burry Stander after the Beijing Olympics. Once I make a commitment to my sponsors, and them to me, I tend to stick with them for a long time.
I am really excited to join the SRAM/TLD program because I have been using pieces of the product line throughout my whole career. I think there’s maybe one or two years out of my entire career when the team I was with didn’t use SRAM. That is a pretty consistent run in the ever-changing bike industry.
They have been such innovators in the cycling world, too. You look at the history of RockShox, then you have Grip Shift, now RS-1 and XX1 — I mean, they are constantly pushing the envelope and advancing not just the sport but the recreational side as well.
Then you throw in the TLD side — and for a guy that grew up racing BMX from the time I was five — it was like a dream come true. I can’t tell you how many sticker packs and TLD visors I bought growing up. I have been so fortunate to make a career representing sponsors and a lifestyle I truly believe in. This was a logical next step.
SRAM: Are you going to miss the familiarity of the Specialized program?
W: In one sense yes, you get comfortable over time, being in the same place and knowing everyone you work with. I got to work with a lot of great people there and I have made many friends over the years.
That said, I have also been working with SRAM on a lesser level than I had with Specialized, over a longer period of time. I have seen the way the company and team works, and I am looking forward to being a part of that. We hear it all the time — change is often hard but beneficial for all in the end. If I did the same ride at the same intensity every day, I wouldn’t get any better. It’s only when you get outside your comfort zone that you break through perceived barriers and find a new level. I have known John Dawson and many of the SRAM people for nearly twenty years, and it seems like they really love their jobs and the company. I want to be a part of that.
SRAM: Are you excited about your new bikes?
The SRAM/TLD program is very unique in that the athletes get to choose the bike they want to ride. When I talked to SRAM about joining the program, there was only one bike I wanted to ride: Scott. I spent a long time riding for another S company so I had a high level of expectation coming in, and I only wanted to improve on the equipment I had ridden in the past, and there was only one brand that I felt would deliver that. I mean, I got my road bike stock out of the box the other day and it was 13.5 pounds. The mountain bikes have been developed and refined over the years by Frishy and now Nino — what more do you need to say.
SRAM: You’ve never been on a full SRAM setup before, have you?
TW: I have never been on a full SRAM setup and I am really looking forward to it. I have used nearly all types of SRAM products at one time or another, but have never had them integrated into one setup, so I’m psyched to put all the pieces together as they were designed. I’m really looking forward to getting on the wheels, as that’s one piece of equipment I’ve never used but have heard great things about.
The team strives to create a family atmosphere and that was very appealing to me about the program. When you can create that type of feeling among teammates, something very powerful happens, and I believe it lifts everyone up a notch. Not only does it make racing and travel more fun, but it shows in the results as well. When you are competing against the best athletes all over the world, being comfortable and having the feeling of family can be the difference between a mediocre result and great result. You can have the same fitness, same equipment and same build-up, but get a completely different result simply by feeling supported and comfortable in your environment. I have been around a long time, and I have always had my best performances when I was happy.
SRAM: What are your major focuses for the 2016 season?
My program will look very similar to the years past. I will do a mixture of U.S. Cup/PROXCT, Marathon, XC, STXC Nationals, Epic Rides events, Leadville, Breck Epic and some Cyclocross events. US Nationals, Leadville and the Epic Rides will be my focus. Those events range from twenty minutes for a STXC to over six hours for Leadville and six days for the Breck Epic. Having such a wide range of events keeps things fun for me, and I feel that the training for each benefits the other.
SRAM: Do you feel that joining SRAM/TLD frees you up to focus your efforts differently? Do you feel like this could add more, or perhaps add a different type of motivation?
TW: Like I said earlier, I think change is good. When I looked at the SRAM/TLD program and talked to John Dawson, I really liked the attitude of the program. Russel Finsterwald spent the winter training in Tucson last year, and we lived together, so I got to know him and see how the team worked from a first hand perspective. I like how there isn’t a lot of pressure from the team to perform. Of course, they want you to get good results, but I didn’t see a lot of outside pressure. We, as athletes, already put a lot of pressure on ourselves, so anything added isn’t helpful. The SRAM/TLD team had some great results, and when you’re having fun, have stability and a good feeling with the team, everything else takes care of itself.
So, to answer your question, yes I am very motivated. SRAM/TLD offered me the opportunity to be part of such an amazing program, and I’m going to do everything I can to win races for them and represent the brands and products in a way befitting such cool companies and team sponsors.