Road to Athens rides through Avon
AVON – Olympic mountain biker Todd Wells stopped at Bob’s place in Avon Monday on his way to Athens, Greece. Wells is competing in cross country cycling in the 2004 games and his send off was held at the restaurant and bar owned by Todd’s father-in-law, Bob Doyle. Doyle and his wife, Sarah, are going to Athens with their daughter Meghan, who of course is Todd’s wife. For family and friends, however, Monday night was their last chance to wish Todd good luck in the Olympics Games, which start Friday. Meghan said she was just as excited – if not more so – than her husband. “It’s been my dream since I was a little girl,” says Meghan, who was born and raised in Eagle County but now lives with Todd in Durango. “I keep on waking up in the middle of the night and just thinking, ‘I’m going to the Olympics, I’m going to the Olympics.'”
The Doyles have lived the county for over 20 years – Bob running a series of successful restaurants and Sarah teaching children to snowboard in winter and selling fruit and vegetables by summer. And while Todd and Meghan may live out of the county now, their ties to the area remain strong. Todd trained in Vail a couple of years ago and Meghan said she “will always think of the valley as home.”Todd leaves for France on Sunday and an intense three day training camp in the western Alps. Temperatures in Athens may reach 100 degrees, but that doesn’t worry the Durango resident.”I may not race as fast in the heat, but I always feel really good,” Todd says. “It may be because I lived for a few years in Tucson” While competing in the ancient games that go back almost three millennia is a dream come true, Meghan and Todd are going to have to spend a lot of time apart. While Todd is preparing in the American Olympic village, Meghan will be staying on cruise ship, or perhaps even a yacht, moored in Athens harbor. Afterwards Todd’s sponsors GT Hyundai have booked him for a bike show in Paris.
“Interest in Todd has just exploded” says Meghan. Todd did not even have a sponsorship deal at the time of the last Olympics, but has received coast to coast attention in the last month. From local media in the cyclist’s home state of New York, through USA Today and ESPN radio to Colorado coverage, the profile of Todd and his sport have never been higher. Judging by the dozens of posters he signed Monday, the rider from the small town Kingston, N.Y. has had to get used to a little of the celebrity lifestyle.Todd was also giving tips to those who haven’t watched cross county cycling. “It’s not like the Tour de France, where people cycle in packs and then it all blows up at the end,” Todd says. “It all blows up at the start. It can’t be won in the first five minutes but it can be lost, and so anything can happen.
“Everybody has a shot to compete.” Viewers are going to have to stay up late if they want to see the one-time IBM employee, and his teammate, Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski, compete. If the networks decide to show live coverage, the cross country race will air between midnight and 2 a.m. Horgan-Kodelski is from Boulder and, Todd says, the two have a really strong relationship when they’re on tour together, competing in World Cups and other races.”Everyone is really close on the cross-country tour, it’s not the type of sport where athletes are really aggressive, but have a lot of respect for one another,” Todd says. One thing’s for sure. Everyone at Bob’s place on Monday night admired Todd for achieving what, for many of us, is beyond our wildest dreams.vail colorado