For most of Todd Wells' career, he reaped the benefits of living in Colorado. His adopted hometown of Durango offered miles of singletrack, including close access to high-altitude riding to prepare for races such as the Leadville Trail 100, a race he won three times.
Now after retiring from full-time racing in 2017, Wells has moved onto another career but is still in an ideal location for success. The three-time Olympian who holds multiple US National Championship titles across mountain biking and cyclo-cross now works as a mortgage broker, and business is riding right along.
Not only are interest rates low, causing homeowners to refinance, but the pandemic has spurred on a high volume of home sales. The phenomenon of people leaving cities in favor of rural areas, due in part to the ability for remote work, has made Wells' Durango a hot real estate market.
Though the former pro now sits in a chair instead of a saddle, he still has the urge to be competitive in his newfound career.
"If you want to get paid you got to win the race," Wells said. "It's a very similar thing and I didn't intend it that way. I think it's like that with anything if you are involved with something for a long time and then you move to something else you always find some type of similarities."
While Wells aims for success in the real estate world, he still rides and races. Riding bikes has now morphed from being what he does all the time to a form of stress relief and balance in his life.
"Not only do I get to use cycling as an outlet for stress relief and health and everything, but it's still afforded to me enough time to get out there, and then I'm able to get that endorphin hit that I've had for almost 40 years," he said.
Wells still has a strong base of fitness, which allows him to jump into races as well as group rides like the 'Tuesday Night Worlds', which often features firepower from the likes of Christopher Blevins and Ned Overend. Recently, he placed 14th in the elite men's field at the Cactus Cup, a race that attracted some of the biggest racing names in the country.
"I can still push pretty hard for a little while, but my fitness is much lower, so push over my ability and then I pay for it so much more," he said.
Throughout his career, Wells succeeded in both longer marathon events as well as shorter events such as cross-country and cyclo-cross races. Wells says that he always loathed doing interval workouts alone, so group rides and races are a great way to keep up his top-end fitness. He still appears to have a knack for marathon races too, taking the win at the Telluride 100 race in both 2018 and 2019.
He also shares a love for cycling with his son, Cooper, who has a specific interest in cyclo-cross.
"He loves [Mathieu] van der Poel, Wout van Aert and those guys, so it's pretty funny because most seven-year-olds like to watch Red Bull Rampage, and they want to go just do these crazy jumps and all this stuff," he said. "Who knows if he'll be into it in four or five years but I'm just trying to take advantage of being able to have something to share with them for as long as he's into it."
It's in the genes!Professional cyclist Todd Wells and his son letting us all know that the next generation of @usacycling is in good hands.🎥 @yotwells pic.twitter.com/ohkIkm5YJIJuly 6, 2020
One of Wells' career highlights was racing the mountain bike event in three Olympics: Athens, Beijing, and London. His best Olympic finish was a tenth place at London after being in medal contention for much of the race.
"Mentally I was in an awesome place and felt like I did everything right and got the most out of my ability that day," Wells recently wrote on Instagram. "The fact my trade team teammate [Jaroslav Kulhavy] won the gold that day made it even better."
The London race also signaled a shift in the sport of mountain biking. The course featured short circuits and manmade features, like rock gardens. In the years since cross-country courses, from the World Cup to US national races, have moved to this 'made-for-TV' format.
The shorter courses required more explosiveness, which Wells struggled with. However, he says he still enjoyed it and loves to watch the World Cup races still.
Just this week, the World Cup season has kicked off again, and one of the Americans who is vying for a spot in the Tokyo mountain bike race is Christopher Blevins, who grew up in Durango. His Trinity Racing team also rides Specialized bikes, the same company that Wells was sponsored by for a long chunk of his career.
Wells will certainly be following the racing and perhaps reliving memories from his storied career.
"With a little bit of time to reflect and look back, I think about how cool it was that I actually got to do that and live out that passion for so long."