Wells Willet

Wells Willett Hoping For Another Year of Wins at Collegiate Road National Championships

By: Julie Goldsticker  April 12, 2023

Wells Willett is heading in to his second USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships in a much different place than he entered his first event a year ago.

Dartmouth cyclist, Wells Willett, left his first collegiate national championship event in 2022 with a nice haul, winning both the Road Race and the Club Individual Omnium title given to the top overall finisher.

Even as a returning champion, Willett is still relatively new to the sport. He started cycling the summer after his junior year in high school. The son of two triathletes, he picked up a triathlon bike as cross-training for Nordic skiing. Willett has always loved endurance sports and both of his endurance athlete parents have and continue to provide valuable inspiration for him.

He even recalls going for long bike rides as a kid. “Twenty-mile rides felt like a pretty big challenge for us as kids, so we’ve been tackling endurance challenges together our whole lives,” he said.

Challenge seeking is a major theme for Willett. “I’m a thrill seeker in the endurance athlete sense. I like to push myself. I like to challenge myself and I enjoy the feeling of completing hard things and things I can look back on and be proud of,” Willett said.

Willett’s challenges don’t solely come on a bike. The high school valedictorian is studying engineering at Dartmouth University in Hanover, N.H. He acknowledges that balancing his studies, his job at a bike shop, and training is extremely difficult. “I’d say the biggest challenge to my success on the bike is also wanting to be successful at all the other things that I do in life and the biggest thing among those is school,” he said. “I’m usually bouncing back and forth and really having to dial in how much time I can spend on the bike while also not cutting my schoolwork short. It’s definitely been one of the biggest learning experiences I’ve had over the past year as I got serious about riding.”

Since arriving in Hanover, Willett has been committed to rebuilding the Dartmouth cycling team, adding both new and experienced riders.

“In the last five years, especially over Covid, the team got very small. When I came here, I knew I was interested in riding, so I found a few other people who were interested in helping rebuild the team,” Willett said. “We went from just a handful of riders to 30-40 people who race every year. I’m super proud of that. Winning a race is great but getting 20 people to a race for the first time is even better.”

With the winter weather in New Hampshire, almost all of his current training is indoors and having a team to workout with inside has been critical for Willett. “I’ve been doing all of my training inside for the last two months, which is mentally and physically challenging. Thankfully we have a strong community in the Dartmouth cycling team so we all train inside together several days a week, which makes it a bit easier. It’s definitely a balancing act of how many hours indoors I can mentally take,” Willett shared.

The spring months are quickly approaching which will give both Willett and his teammates a chance to head outdoors for their training and they will soon begin final preparations for the 2023 National Championships in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Willett will join the Dartmouth cycling team for a training trip in North Carolina before likely heading to New Mexico for final preparation at altitude.

While Willett will enter the 2023 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships with a much larger target on his back than last year, he is a much more seasoned rider than when he competed in 2022. “I hadn’t raced against almost every single person at nationals (last year). No one knew who I was so there were really no stakes for me. I was going to see how I stacked up,” Willett said. “I have a lot more race experience since last year’s national championships. I’m fitter. I’m more confident as a cyclist. There’s definitely more pressure but I’m better prepared for sure.”

Willett recently began working with a coach for the first time and it has taken a big load off of him. “I didn’t have a coach until this winter. Last year I was completely uncoached, which was an experience,” he said.

In the past, he researched training techniques to create a training plan for himself but having a coach to assist him has been extremely valuable. “I’m balancing a lot more right now with training and school and all the other things going on in my life and it takes off a pretty big mental load to have someone else help you figure out that plan. It’s having confidence that what you’re doing is right without having to figure out what the next step is on a daily basis,” Willett said.

In addition to his collegiate racing schedule, Willett signed with a domestic elite team, Alpine Carbon Racing, in December. He’s still identifying all of his goals in the sport, but he has a full calendar of races planned. “I’m still trying to figure it out. Part of it is just challenging myself. I want to figure out where my limits are, and I want to push those. I have pushed myself, but I still haven’t found where my ceiling is. I want to work towards being the best racer and cyclist I can be.”

Willett will look to defend his titles at the 2023 USA Cycling Collegiate Road National Championships, May 3-7, in Albuquerque, N.M.