Oakley's Todd Wells And Willow Koerber Each Grab Gold At Pan Am Championships
Oakley’s Todd Wells won gold at the prestigious Pan American/Continental Championships in Guatemala last weekend. Oakley’s Willow Koerber grabbed gold in the women’s race and Oakley’s Heather Irmiger placed third.
“I have been to numerous Pan American/Continental Championships and come close to victory, but never sealed the deal," Wells said in an e-mail. “That is until (last) weekend."
Wells finally sealed the deal and finally won his first Pan Am/Continental title.
The two-time mountain biking Olympian (Athens in 2004 and Beijing in 2008) was coming off a big win at the U.S. Cup opener in Fontana, Calif., on March 27.
“Continental Champs are usually a bit of a mystery because there are always one or two fast Central or South American guys you don’t see anywhere but at this race," Wells said.
Plus, he said, it’s usually very hot for the Pan Am/Continental Championships.
“This year, the race was held outside of Guatemala City on a great course with some tight singletrack, steep climbs and fast double-track sections," said Wells, a two-time collegiate national mountain bike champion for Fort Lewis College.
On the course that was run at an altitude of 3,500 to 4,500 feet, Wells started fast.
“I had a great start, got the hole-shot and 10 minutes into the race was off with a guy from Brazil that I traded blows with all day at worlds in Val di Sol, Italy," Wells said.
“I attacked … quite a bit on the first of six laps but crashed on an off-camber section on the second lap and spent a good portion of the third lap chasing back," Wells said.
He caught the Brazilian on the fourth lap, pulled ahead and held on for a 40-second margin of victory.
“It felt awesome to finally win one these events, since I really enjoy racing south of the border.
“The people are always quite appreciative of the riders," Wells said.
In the women’s event, Willow opened up a small lead on the opening two laps of the race to distance herself from both teammates and the other racers to solo to victory.
In a post race interview Willow stated, “I just wanted to push it. I got a gap on the first lap, and was trying to make myself hurt, because that is what the World Cups will be like. I had my first race of the year just a couple of weeks ago at Fontana, and I won the short track there, so I knew that I had the speed. I had all the support and good vibes I needed to ride my best. I am so excited to be starting the season out this way, and I am hoping for continued success in the races to come.".