Colorado’s Wells wins LT100 |

Colorado’s Wells wins LT100

John LaConte
special to the daily
Todd Wells of Durango, CO. controls the down hill by powerline trail and leads Leadville Trial 100 mountain bike race on Saturday. Over 2,000 cyclist joined the race. Hyoung Chang / The Denver Post

Two years ago it would have been a course record, but that didn’t matter to Todd Wells.

When the Durango resident crossed the finish line at the Leadville Trail 100 (LT100) mountain bike race in Leadville Saturday, he was just happy for the win.

After a close competition with Alban Lakata of Austria, Wells finished the 100-mile course in 6 hours, 23 minutes and 38 seconds, about 4 minutes faster than Lakata. While the event was missing some of the bigger names of past competitors like Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, Wells said the field on Saturday was extremely competitive nonetheless, spurring the impressive times.

“I wanted to win regardless of who was going to come, and I did everything I could to prepare for that,” Wells said after the race. “It doesn’t always work out, but I’m glad it did today.”

While the race was only the second Leadville 100 of Wells’ career, he said he had trained specifically for the competition by riding the high-mountain passes in the Silverton area, and the training paid off. While Lakata – the defending UCI Marathon world champion – was training at 6,000- to 7,000-foot elevations, Wells – the reigning cross country champion in the U.S. – was riding at 13,000 feet. He also came into this year’s race on a bike that was 2 to 3 pounds lighter, and weighing 8 pounds less himself.

“I think [the weight difference] definitely helped on some of the bigger hills, like the Columbine section,” he said.

While Wells’ experience and training was the major factor, he also got a boost of luck early on. Lakata hit a rock and got a flat tire about 10 miles in, forcing him to use considerable energy to make up the difference.

“It was a more difficult puncture to fix, and so it took me five minutes rather than the two or so minutes it will usually take,” Lakata said after the race. “I was just glad somebody had a pump.”

Wells said after distancing himself from Lakata during the flat, he was surprised to her Lakata had made up the difference over the course of the next 40 miles.

“I thought I was flying up Columbine, and then all of a sudden I hear ‘go guys’ in plural, and I look back and he was right there,” Wells said. “I thought I’m done for sure, this guy just bridged this huge gap. But I think he paid for that effort.”

Lakata agreed.

“I had to fight back, because otherwise I had no chance to win this race, and my goal was to win,” Lakata said. “I was pushing really hard to get to him between 10 and 50 miles.”

Lakata said he was out of energy by the Powerline climb, where they were only 20 or 30 seconds apart.

“I thought if I can get my energy back, I will catch him,” he said. “But I really struggled … in the end I’m happy still taking second place after getting a flat.”

Third place went to Alex Grant of Salt Lake City with a time of 6:25:32. Eagle County local Jay Henry shaved 8 minutes off his previous best with a time of 6:38:31, taking fourth on the day.

“I was hurting, but I think in this race it’s always going to be agonizing at some point,” Henry said. “The field was super fast … I really love racing against these guys.”

Last year, Leipheimer set the course record with a time of 6:16:37. Armstrong’s best-ever finish in the LT100 came in 2009, when he finished in 6:28:50.

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