Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Jerry McBride/Durango Herald
Olympic memories, even for the most elite athletes, are rare.
Memories from three different Olympic Games?
Those belong to a mere handful of the elite – such as mountain biker Todd Wells of Durango.
“I felt like in London, especially with the mountain biking, they did a great job,” Wells said this week after returning home from London where he finished 10th in the Olympic cross country race – the highest Olympic finish ever for a U.S. men’s mountain biker since the event received its Olympic debut in 1996.
“London ... took a lot of pride in hosting the Olympics. You could tell they had people very knowledgeable in their sports,” said Wells, who represented the United States at the Athens Games in 2004 and the Beijing Games in 2008.
“For mountain biking ... this was the best Olympics,” he said.
“The sheer volume of the spectators was amazing,” he said of the crowd of 20,000 people who lined the serpentine mountain bike course that was custom built for the 2012 Olympics.
“I’ve never seen so much work put into a mountain bike course. All of those rocks they moved in – all those trails. It was really built for spectators ... and it was a great course to race on.”
The course was a 5-kilometer loop layout at Hadleigh Farms in Essex, a bit more than an hour from London.
Wells said when the racers made their way from the staging area onto the race course, they had to pass through a narrow chute that was packed with fans on both sides – 10 deep.
And they were cheering and cheering and cheering.
“That was ... a little overwhelming. That’s when the gravity of the race hits you,” said Wells, who recorded a career-best fourth-place finish in a World Cup race earlier this season.
His Olympic race, he said, was solid.
“I had a good race,” Wells said. “After a poor start, I was able to work back up to eighth place ... that was midway.”
He pushed to close ground on the leaders.
“Then, I kind of ran out of gas. Still, it was my best Olympics so I’m happy,” Wells said.
The course, with short climbs and quick, technical descents, made tempo-riding difficult, he said. But the course and its switchback climbs and tricky downhills were more than vivid on television, Wells said.
“They did a great job on the TV coverage of showing how hard the course is. Usually, it doesn’t do it justice,” he said.
“I’ve never seen so many cameras on one course,” said Wells, who competed on the final day of the 2012 Summer Games.
“We went straight from the race to the closing ceremonies. I was able to be a part of that ... incredible,” said Wells, who trained with his teammates and therefore wasn’t able to watch other Olympic events.
“We were focused on training. We stayed out by the course, which made it easier,” he said.
Those circumstances made the closing ceremonies even more dramatic.
“The Olympics have a different feeling,” the 36-year-old cycling veteran said.
“And it was very inspiring watching my Olympic teammate, Georgia Gould, take bronze,” Wells said of the Fort Collins-based Gould.
Wells’ support team for the London Games was led by his wife, Meghan, a former college and professional athlete.
“She is my biggest supporter ... she was a huge part of everything,” Wells said of Meghan, a professional ice skater.
“She ran cross country at Fort Lewis College ... she and my whole team ... my team in Durango, they all were a part of this,” said Wells, who rubbed tall elbows with members of the U.S. men’s basketball team and the track team at a post-Olympic party in London.
Then, back to Durango. But not for long.
After meeting with The Durango Herald, Wells left for Wisconsin where he will race in the Pro XCT Finals this weekend. Then, Wells will head to Austria for the World Mountain Bike Championships – no rest for the mountain biking Olympian.
But he’ll be taking a lot of Olympic memories with him.
Sergey Ponomarev/Associated Press file photo