Jake Wells of Avon wins a pair of races at Cyclocross National Championships | VailDaily.com

Jake Wells of Avon wins a pair of races at Cyclocross National Championships

AVON — Local Jake Wells stepped away from the elite competition this year to notch wins in both the single-speed and a masters division race at the 2018 Cyclocross National Championships Jan. 9-11 in Reno, Nevada.

Forced to choose between elite and masters level racing, Wells chose masters this year. The 39-year-old's June birthday puts him into the the 40-44 age division for the 2017-18 season.

"I was not taking anything for granted because that category is really strong, there were almost 60 racers in it," Wells said.

At 39, Wells has had the most successful year of his career on his bike. In June, he finished second in the 200-mile Dirty Kanza race against more than 800 other racers and in December he won the Merry Treadmas cyclocross race in Fruita.

Wells raced in the masters 35-39 category for a few years until a change in the rules forbid racers from participating in both a masters and elite race at nationals. A win at the masters level had always eluded Wells — he had finished second but never first — so to start his first year in the 40-44 age division with a win came as a welcome surprise.

"There's a lot of guys in the masters races that are traveling all over the country racing," Wells said. "It's definitely one of the more competitive fields."

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'WAS THERE FOR THEM'

The real surprise, however, came two days later when Wells took down the single speed category, as well, besting a field of 135 racers, some of which would go on to race in the elite division.

"It was the first time in 10 years that I haven't done the elite race," Wells said. "This season I haven't been chasing points and traveling around the country, I don't know if it took some pressure off, or maybe I was a little more rested from not being on the road as much. I don't know how I would have stacked up in the elite race, but I'm super happy to have pulled off the win in the single-speed race."

For the elite race, Wells found himself more focused this year on helping out the junior-level racers at the Denver-based Alpha Bicycle Company team than trying to see where he would place.

"You can't help but ask yourself how you would have done, but to be able to work with the Alpha Bikes program and work with some of their young riders as a mentor is really cool to be a part of," Wells said. "I wasn't there for me as much as I was there for them, but I did get to ride the bike and have fun and I think that helped me ride well."

WORLDS IN NETHERLANDS

Wells said the juniors on the Alpha Bicycle Company team are so fast that riding with them before the race likely helped his own performance, as well.

"They're showing me the fast lines, and I'm just trying to hang on," he said. "I think pre-riding with them before the race, and the days leading up, I was able to get a good look at the course and ride it really smoothly, and I think may be what helped me both days."

Alpha Bicycle Company team members Gage Hecht, of Parker, took fourth in the under-23 division, and Katie Clouse, of Park City, won the 16-17 age division. Hecht and Clouse qualified to participate in the Cyclocross World Championships in the Netherlands as a result of their performances at nationals. Sam Brown of Eagle took 10th in the 16-17 age division.

"Sam was expected to take something like 22nd, so we were really psyched to see him do so well," Wells said.