In just a few hours many of North America’s top riders will be lining up in Leadville, Colorado, for the Leadville 100.
Saturday’s Leadville 100 course features just over 100 miles of mostly double track riding on an out-and-back style course. The Leadville course is more rugged than most in the Life Time Grand Prix which means all the top athletes will be on mountain bikes.
We got a sneak peak at what our favorite racers will be competing on as the Grand Prix turns to knobbies including top riders like: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Rose Grant, Keegan Swenson, Russell Finsterwald, Alexey Vermuelen, Melisa Rollins, Dylan Johnson, and more.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane: Specialized Epic Hardtail – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 1st
Sofia Gomez-Villafane’s Specialized Epic Hardtail. Photo by: Andy Cochrane
SGV is running Specialized Renegade 2.2 tires. Photo by: Andy Cochrane
SGV is running a full Shimano XTR bike with road pedals for better energy transfer. Photo by: Andy Cochrane
Photo by: Andy Cochrane
Keegan Swenson: Santa Cruz Highball – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 1st
Keegan Swenson’s Santa Cruz Highball
Swenson is running Reserve 28 wheels with Maxxis Aspen ST 2.4 tires
Keegan’s race set up includes a 38-tooth ring with 10-52 cassette
Keegan’s cockpit includes the SQ Lab Innerbarends
Evelyn Dong: Juliana HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 5th
Evelyn Dong’s Santa Cruz Highball frame custom-painted to represent Juliana. She’s running Reserve 28 wheels with Maxxis Aspen 2.25 tires.
Russell Finsterwald: Specialized S-Works Epic EVO – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 2nd
Finsterwald is running Shimano road pedals for better energy transfer and Specialized Renegade 2.2 tires
Rose Grant: Juliana HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 6th
Grant is full SRAM AXS with 32-tooth ring and Quarq power meter. She has custom 26oz bottles from The Feed with Gu Roctain fuel.
Grant has a Rockshox SID Ultimate 100 fork with Reserve 28 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.25 EXO tires and Orange Seal sealant
Her race bike will feature ESI grips and Hammerhead Karoo 2 computer
Alexey Vermuelen: Factor Lando HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 3rd
Alexey Vermeulen will be running the Factor Lando HT at the upcoming Leadville 100
Vermeulen will be running Enve 525 wheels and Kenda Booster tires
Vermeulen runs a full Shimano XTR rig with ESI grips
Melisa Rollins: Trek Supercaliber – Life Time Grand Prix rank: 6th
Melisa Rollins Trek Supercaliber with Bontrager Kovee XXX wheels
Rollins is running Kenda Booster Pro 2.4 tires
Hannah Otto: Pivot Les SL – Life Time Grand Prix rank 10th
Hannah Otto’s Pivot Les SL with DT Swiss XRC 1200 wheels and Kenda Rush 2.2 tires. She also runs full Shimano XTR with Stages dual power meter. She’s using a 32-tooth chainring for Leadville.
Dylan Johnson: Factor Lando HT – Life Time Grand Prix rank 15th
Dylan Johnson’s Factor Lando HT
Johnson’s bike features Black Inc wheels with Continental Race King 2.2 tires.
Black Inc’s sleek one-piece stem/bar combo
Hannah Shell: Santa Cruz Blur – Life Time Grand Prix rank 17th
Hannah Shell will be riding the Santa Cruz Blur with the as yet unreleased HUNT Proven Race XC wheels and Pirelli Scorpion hard terrain tires.
Pirelli Scorpion tires and HUNT Proven Race XC wheels
Shell’s Blur is stacked with full Shimano XTR
Hannah is using the Garmin 1040 solar for navigating the 100 mile course.
Alexis Skarda: Santa Cruz Highball – Life Time Grand Prix rank 17th
Alexis Skarda will be aboard the Santa Cruz Highball with full SRAM XX components, 34 tooth chainring and Quarq power meter. Photo by: Devon Balet
Skarda will be running Reserve 28 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.4 tires. Photo by: Devon Balet
Stephen Davoust: Giant Anthem – Life Time Grand Prix rank 23rd
US marathon national champion Stephen Davoust on the Giant Anthem he will race at the Leadville 100
Davoust’s Giant Anthem sports the Fox Live valve system and a Fox 34. He’ll be running Giant XCR0 wheels and Maxxis Aspen 2.25 tires.
Stephen Davoust runs full Shimano XTR cockpit with Shimano Pro stem and bar
The Pikes Peak Apex, Presented by RockShox returns for its 3rd year. The 4-day mountain bike stage race takes place September 22-25th in Colorado Springs, Colorado and serves to showcase the best trails and fall foliage in and around the area. The race attracts top pro racers with its $25,000 prize purse that is split equally between the men’s and women’s elite fields.
In 2021, US marathon national champion, Alexis Skarda (Santa Cruz #htSQD) took the overall title in the women’s category, while her teammate, 3-time US XC national champion, Keegan Swenson, won the men’s category.
Pro racers Sophia Gomez Villafane and Evelyn Dong high-five. Photo credit: James Stokoe Photography
Pikes Peak Apex isn’t just for the pros, the trails raced each day are specifically chosen to be enjoyed by pros and amateurs alike with a well-balanced combination of big climbs and smile-producing singletrack. Micah Rice, Pikes Peak Apex Executive Director, has this to say about the race:
“As the highest-profile mountain bike event on the Front Range, The Pikes Peak APEX should be a bucket list event for all amateur cyclists. The Pro riders will split up the $25,000 prize list, but the top age-group riders both men and women will win RockShox forks and other prizes. The format of the event is meant to be demanding, but very doable by the intermediate rider. We have world-class courses, fully stocked aid stations, and lots of support for all levels of mountain bikers. Enjoy the amazing Rocky Mountain singletrack and the vistas on the slopes of Pikes Peak while testing yourself against some of the best riders in the world.”
While the final route of each stage has not yet been released, you can expect the following:
Stage 1: Prologue: As in previous year’s editions, Day 1 will be a time-trial in Palmer Park. Racers can expect amazing views of downtown and the front range in this popular local destination.
Spectators cheer a racer navigating the rocks in Palmer Park. Photo credit: James Stokoe Photography
Stage 2: Canon City: Stage 2 will be utilizing never-before raced trails in Canon City, Colorado. Racers will commute roughly 50 miles from Colorado Springs to the stage start and can expect ~35 miles of purpose-built trail and 4000+ feet of climbing. A highlight of the stage is crossing the Royal Gorge suspension bridge that hangs 1000 feet above the Arkansas River.
Stage 3: TBD: While details of Stage 3 have not yet been released, it has been reported that this stage will be ~28 miles with 3000ft of climbing; perhaps allowing a bit of recovery after Stage 2s queen stage
Evelyn Dong (Juliana Bicycles) leads another racer up a climb. Photo credit: James Stokoe Photography
Stage 4: Cheyenne Canyon. Stage 4 serves up 30 miles and 3900 ft. of climbing featuring new singletrack in Daniel’s Pass. After finishing the day, racers will head to America the Beautiful Park for the APEX afterparty and outdoor festival where beer, lunch, and live music will be dished out all afternoon.
A racer enjoying the Pikes Peak APEX singletrack. Photo credit: James Stokoe Photography
Whether you are a top pro looking to see where you stack up against the best of the best or a first-time stage racer, the Pikes Peak APEX is for you! Registration starts at $395 and includes:
Riders braved harrowing conditions in Emporia, Kansas, on Saturday testing their skill and determination to complete the Unbound Gravel 200.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane (Specialized) used smart riding in the early miles to stay clear of the chaos and toward the lead groups of male riders. In the second half, she transitioned to stomping out an unrelenting pace in a solo effort to distance her closest challengers and take the win in record time.
Lauren de Crescenzo (Cinch) took second followed by Emily Newsom (EF/Tibco).
For the men, a large early group finally broke apart leaving a lead group of five who marked one another for the final 30 miles eventually unleashing a 5-up finishing sprint won by gravel specialist Ivar Slik (Wilier) just in front of Life Time series leader Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) and former world tour rider Ian Boswell.
Riders encountered epic mud in the second half of the Flint Hills course as rainstorms left long sections of barely rideable peanut butter coated dirt roads.
After the first two rounds of the Life Time Grand Prix, which has included one mountain bike and one gravel event, the mountain bike duo of Sofia Gomez-Villafane and Keegan Swenson have taken control of the six race series.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane (SGV) takes the lead in the women’s category with a second place at Sea Otter Classic and the win at Unbound.
Keegan Swenson has started the series with a win at Sea Otter and second at Unbound, he takes home first place points for the Grand Prix being the first Grand Prix rider to cross the line.
After two rounds, SGV has the lead with 59 points in the Grand Prix standings. She is followed by world cup mountain biker Haley Smith (Maxxis Factory) and Evelyn Dong (Juliana Bikes) with 52 and 51 points respectively.
Tied for fourth is Emily Newsom and Melisa Rollins (Team Twenty 24).
The men’s Grand Prix is now led by mountain bike athletes Swenson and Russell Finsterwald (Specialized) who sits with 55 points to Swenson perfect score of 60.
The fat tire riders are being chased by a group of three road and gravel athletes including: Alexey Vermuelen (Juke Box), Rob Britton, and Lance Haidet.
Many of the world’s best riders are lining up in Emporia, Kansas, for the Unbound Gravel event – round two of the Life Time Grand Prix.
Saturday’s Unbound course features 200 miles of rolling gravel and dirt roads through the Flint Hills in eastern Kansas. Riders have chosen a wide variety of race set ups to get the most from their bikes in the first gravel race on the Life Time Grand Prix calendar.
We got a sneak peak at what our favorite mountain bike racers will competing on as the Grand Prix turns to gravel including top riders like: Sofia Gomez Villafane, Alexis Skarda, Rose Grant, Keegan Swenson, Russell Finsterwald, Melisa Rollins, Dylan Johnson, and more.
Sofia Gomez Villafane: Specialized Crux – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 2nd
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-ace/XTR/GRX with double chainring
Cockpit: Aero package
Tires: Specialized Pathfinder with inserts
Keegan Swenson: Santa Cruz Stigmata – Life Time Grand PrixRank: 1st
Drivetrain: SRAM Red 48-tooth single ring & 10-50 SRAM Eagle cassette
Wheels: Reserve 40/44 with Fillmore valves
Tires: Maxxis Refuse 40c with inserts – 28 psi front 30 psi rear
Cockpit: Zipp 40cm Service Course SL bar and stem
Computer: Garmin Edge 530
Bike Bags: Zipp Speed Box top tube bag & Almsthre saddle bag
Extras: 3 tubes, Stan’s NoTubes Dart, 3 Genuine Innovations Plugs – Loaded, 4 CO2s and hand pump
Alexis Skarda: Santa Cruz Stigmata – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 3rd
Drivetrain: SRAM Red 44-32t double chainring
Wheels: Reserve 34/37
Tires: Maxxis Refuse 40c with Tannus inserts
Stephan Davoust: Giant Revolt – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: DNF at Round 1
Drivetrain: Shimano GRX Di2
Tires: Maxxis Rambler 45c silk shield with Cushcore
Cockpit: Giant D-Fuse handlebar and seatpost
Bike Bags: Giant frame bag
Evelyn Dong: Juliana Quincy – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 5th
Drivetrain: SRAM XPLR 46-tooth single ring with 10-44 cassette and k-edge chainguide
Wheels: Reserve Gravel 32
Tires: Maxxis Refuse with Mynsweeper inserts
Russell Finsterwald: Specialized Crux – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 2nd
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace/GRX 48-tooth single ring with 11-46 cassette
Tires: Specialized Pathfinder Pro 42c
Cockpit: Specialized bar with Farr Bars aero package
Extras: Wireless speaker on stem for tunes to get him through the dark times
Kaysee Armstrong: Liv Devote – Life Time Grand Prix Rank:9th
Drivetrain: Shimano GRX/Ultegra double chainring
Wheels: Giant 35 carbon
Tires: Maxxis Rambler 40c no inserts
Dylan Johnson: Factor LS – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 13th
Drivetrain: Shimano Dura-Ace/GRX double chainring with Quarq power meter
Wheels: Black Inc
Tires: Specialized Pathfinder Pro with tubolight inserts
Cockpit: Black Inc carbon bar/stem combo
Computer: Wahoo Roam
Rose Grant: Juliana Quincy – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 8th
Drivetrain: SRAM Red with 44-tooth single ring 10-46 rear cassette
Wheels: Reserve 25
Tires: Maxxis Ramblers 40c with Orange Seal sealant
Melisa Rollins: Felt Breed – Life Time Grand Prix Rank: 11th
Drivetrain: SRAM XPLR etap AXS with Quarq power meter
Moriah Wilson & Keegan Swenson Life Time Grand Prix Round 1
Moriah Wilson (Specialized) turned in perhaps the most impressive ride of the day in Monterrey, California, being known as more of a gravel rider, she was able to drop a mountain bike olympian and a reigning mountain bike national champion on her way to the finish.
Wilson rode strong in the front group all day coming into the final climb with US marathon national champion Alexis Skarda (Santa Cruz HT Squad) and Argentine olympic rider Sofia Gomez Villafane (Specialized) before turning the screws opening a gap that she held to the line.
Gomez Villafane held on for second just in front of Alexis Skarda.
In the men’s event Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz HT Squad) controlled the race from start to finish. Swenson’s early pace created the first selection trimming the field to a select group of seven with Russell Finsterwald (Specialized), Tobin Ortenblad (Santa Cruz HT Squad), Andrew L’Esperance, Cole Paton (Orange Seal), Lance Haidet, and Alex Wild.
The relentless pace trimmed the lead group even more until Swenson, Wild, and Finsterwald coalesced at the front. On the final climb another acceleration from Keegan Swenson decided the race with Wild dropping off first followed by Finsterwald.
Gnarly storm unleashes high on Wheeler, testing racers at 12,000 feet
Swenson, Skarda stay perfect and inch closer to GC victories as bike racing’s essence shows through
By Devon O’Neil
BRECKENRIDGE — On a Wheeler stage that will live in Breck Epic lore, it paid to be fast Thursday. Rain, sleet, biting wind and all the earthbound challenges that such weather brings to alpine terrain pushed racers to the brink, breaking some, steeling others, yet seemingly having little effect on the sharp end of the field.
Keegan Swenson stayed perfect this week with another convincing victory. He broke from the pack about six miles into the 24-mile stage and rode alone to the finish, crossing in 2 hours 46 minutes 23 seconds—2:18 ahead of Luis Mejia, who finished second for the fifth straight day. Lachlan Morton was another 13 seconds back in third, after sprinting to the line ahead of Diyer Rincon.
Swenson’s GC lead stands at almost 12 minutes going into the final stage, the flattest and fastest of the race, with finish times typically under two hours.
The women’s GC is in a similar state of non-flux after Alexis Skarda won again to extend her overall lead to 22 minutes. Skarda dropped Evelyn Dong on the Peaks Trail climb from Frisco to Breckenridge after Dong caught her on the 3,200-foot descent from the Tenmile Range crest. Skarda’s time of 3:31 was three minutes faster than Dong and 19 quicker than third-place finisher Rose Grant. Afterward the three women hung around the finish replaying their adventure.
Grant: “Wow, that was so hard.”
Skarda: “I definitely ate a lot of mud and water.”
Dong: “I loved it.”
Skarda: “I tried to eat a piece of bacon [from the swine handup at mile 7], and I just chewed it and chewed it, and 10 minutes later I still had the whole thing in my mouth and was like, OK, this is not happening, so I spit it out.”
Dong: “There’s probably a marmot that was super psyched about that.”
RANDOM ACTS OF RADNESS
When Mother Nature decided to twist her knife, timing dictated that certain segments of the field endured a greater wrath than others. That’s when humanity stepped in. Not everyone who started the stage finished—more than 140 racers abandoned or were cut off due to time or safety—but those who did told stories of bike racing’s essence. One of them came from Mike Thompson, an Epic rookie from Louisville, Kentucky.
Thompson’s partner in the Duo 80-plus category dropped from the field early on, unbeknownst to Thompson. So Thompson continued riding, eventually coming upon a distraught competitor on the Tenmile crest at 12,400 feet. “He was sitting off the trail, crying and shivering,” Thompson said. “I was like, ‘Dude, you gotta get up and get off this mountain.’ The wind kicked up, sleet was coming in sideways. He just started shaking his head. I was like, ‘No, dude, you gotta get the fuck up.’” Thompson helped the man continue to a lower, safer place. He also gave some of his food to additional stragglers later. “Doing what people do,” he said.
Meanwhile, farther downhill on Miners Creek Road, another racer stopped to eat a gel when he noticed a lady sitting beside the road, “shaking, in rough shape,” he recalled. “She was like, ‘Don’t leave me!’ and asked if we could ride together because she hadn’t seen anyone else. So we rode for a while before mountain rescue showed up. We got in their ATV and they drove us down the mountain. I hugged her for 20 minutes to keep her warm. I also saw a guy with a flat on top of the range and gave him my pump. So I have no idea where my pump is.” The good Samaritan only wanted to be identified by his first name, Ben. “Anybody would’ve done it,” he said.
HOW’D IT GO TODAY? / HOW DO YOU FEEL?
After climbing 5,500 feet and cresting elevations of 12,300 feet three times—much of it while pushing their bikes—racers had plenty to reflect on.
“I feel absolutely terrible. That was the worst thing I’ve ever done.”
“Like shit. Complete shit. You’ve got hail hitting your face, so you can’t feel your friggin’ face. It was a mess. But that’s why we do this, right?”
“When it was sleeting, I almost curled up in the fetal position and sucked on my thumb.”
“Today was the coldest I’ve ever been.”
“The only thing you could do was keep going. I’m so proud of myself for getting through that.”
“The downhill was a creek. Water running down, mud splashing, people endoing right in front of me.”
“Just relieved, because that was brutal, man.”
“Today broke me.”
“Fantastic. That was the most epic stage ever. To have rain and sleet on Wheeler is, like, legendary.”
“Mother. Fucker. That was the hardest day of my life. The last little uphill crushed my soul.”
“Great. I’m not redlining, I’m out here to smile.”
“My grip got loose and I went to brake and it twisted, and I went over the bars. There was a nice click when my face hit the rock.”
“I’m glad it was raining because I couldn’t see my tears. You just had to close your eyes and ride by feel.”
Longtime World Tour pro Lachlan Morton finding beauty in Breck Epic debut
Swenson and Skarda remain unbeaten this week
By Devon O’Neil
BRECKENRIDGE — When Lachlan Morton rolled through the Stage 4 finish Wednesday afternoon, word already had reached those in attendance. He’d suffered another flat deep in the backcountry, his third in two days, and was left to get out on one wheel, hemorrhaging time. Placing eighth on the stage dropped him from third to fifth overall. Suddenly he had an eight-minute gap to close in the final two stages to claw back onto the overall podium.
Morton explained that his flat on West Ridge, high on the Colorado Trail after climbing from Keystone Gulch, had left little hope of repair. Yet he spent 10 minutes trying in vain on the side of the trail, before limping down to the final aid station and bumming a replacement wheel from the Santa Cruz team. “I tried to rim it as soft as I can,” he said, “because I need to ride this wheel tomorrow.” He’d also crashed during Stage 2, shredding his forearm, and generally had not been on lady luck’s good side since Sunday’s start—which, ahem, came one day after he finished second to Breck Epic leader Keegan Swenson in the Leadville 100.
Yet to understand Morton, one of cycling’s most meditative characters, is to understand he did not come here for the number next to his name at the end. “Focusing on results is in the past for me,” he said.
Morton, 29, has become a singular professional because of his refreshing approach to a sport that gobbles up talent and often spits it out. A member of the EF Education-Nippo team and a World Tour rider since 2012, Morton started mountain biking two years ago. During his career he has ridden the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España grand tours, finished the Colorado Trail in under four days, set a fastest known time on the Kokopelli Trail, and won the Tour of Utah. Earlier this summer, he made international waves by riding the entire Tour de France course, plus transfers, faster than the peloton. He averaged 190 miles a day for 18 days, sleeping outside sans support. “I just try to be genuine to things that motivate me and inspire me in a certain way,” he said.
The Breck Epic fit that mold long before he was given bib No. 2 behind Swenson’s No. 1. “It’s just a race I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. Morton’s parents first brought Lachlan, a native of New South Wales, Australia, to Breckenridge when he was 12, then every year thereafter until he was 16. The junior team that the Mortons ran, Real Aussie Kids, trained here each summer. “Breckenridge was the first place I ever visited in America. Well, that’s a lie. I went to Disney World first,” Morton chuckled. “It’s probably my favorite place in America. I would live here, but my wife [a graphic designer] would rather be in Boulder.”
Morton has no support this week. He’s racing a two-year-old Cannondale frame with gaping chips in the paint. After Stage 1, he sipped a Modelo at the finish while his competition sucked down recovery drinks. “I’m just doing the best I can with what I’ve got,” he said. Yet he’s found the race fulfilling, as he does with any adventure. “You’re basically getting shown around the best local rides for a week, and I get to mix it up with some of the fastest racers too.”
Morton’s approach is as rare as it is intentional. “When I started mountain biking, I said I would never do it competitively because I didn’t want to ruin it,” he said after finishing in 3 hours 32 minutes. “So when I’m on course, I’m having a good time and giving it a go, but if I were really serious about results, I’d go home today really disappointed. Instead, I’m going home to have a shower and then have a nice afternoon.”
Keegan Swenson won his 10th Breck Epic stage in 10 tries Wednesday, crossing the line after riding 41 miles in 3 hours 10 minutes, a minute faster than his 2019 time. As he has for the entire week, Swenson waited until late in the stage to put time into his Colombian rival, Luis Mejia, who finished in 3:12. The victory was a nice salvage for Swenson, who clipped a stump in Keystone Gulch and bent his derailleur hanger, leaving him without the use of his easiest gears. “The stump caught me on a hard right turn and lifted me up,” Swenson said. Morton witnessed what happened and was shocked Swenson didn’t go down. “That was a nice save,” he told his friend at the finish. Swenson now leads Mejia by 9 ½ minutes overall. Costa Rica’s Carlos Herrera moved into third overall Wednesday, while Nash Dory enjoyed his best finish of the week in fourth.
On the women’s side, Alexis Skarda won her fourth consecutive stage in 3:52. Rose Grant ended Evelyn Dong’s second-place run in 3:56, though Dong (4:02) remains comfortably second overall. Skarda leads by 19 minutes in the GC standings.
For those outside the field, it’s hard to comprehend just how fast even the midpack racers cover ground at the Breck Epic. But that’s especially true of the top third. Among this week’s standouts is Macky Franklin, a 34-year-old fat-tire chameleon from Taos, New Mexico. Franklin won the Singlespeed title at the Epic in 2012 and is the current Singlespeed national champion. He’s also competed in more than 20 Enduro World Series events, and makes a living as a pro racer and YouTube personality. This week he’s swept the Singlespeed division and finished 14th, 12th, 12th, and 13th overall, crossing in 3:42 Wednesday.
Franklin keeps more meat on his bones than the father-son duo of Chris and Justin Peck, who have run away with the usually tight Duo Open Men division. Chris, a 51-year-old engineer at Apple, and Justin, an 18-year-old college freshman-to-be (and one of at least a dozen teenagers in the race), hail from Los Gatos, California. Chris weighs 140 pounds and ski bummed in Breckenridge in his early 20s; Justin weighs 115 and can sometimes be heard hooting on the trail. They finished in 3:56 Wednesday and hold the 28th fastest GC time overall.
GC margins grow during Queen Stage around 13,370-foot Mt. Guyot
Local riders making moves as race moves into second half
By Devon O’Neil
BRECKENRIDGE — Despite a bit of late-race drama Tuesday, the Breck Epic’s Queen Stage delivered one more reminder who the fastest racers in the field are. Keegan Swenson overcame a brief, unintended detour to pad his lead in the pro men’s field, while Alexis Skarda won the pro women’s race by her biggest margin this week.
Swenson rode off course just before the finish (the exact cause was unclear, but it required him to pedal about two additional miles), yet he still won by 53 seconds ahead of perennial runner-up Luis Mejia of Colombia. Swenson’s winning time of 3 hours 18 minutes leaves him almost eight minutes up in the overall standings. Lachlan Morton remains in third overall, 20 minutes back of Swenson.
“I’m not doing any more work than I have to,” said Swenson, whose Santa Cruz team put burlier tires on his Blur CC for Tuesday’s rugged descents. “I didn’t attack [Mejia], he just fell off after Aid 3. So I was like, I’ll turn the screws just a hair and snap the elastic.”
Skarda, meanwhile, further separated herself in the GC standings with a time of 3:56 and a 6-minute advantage over Evelyn Dong, who remains in second overall, 8:35 back. Rose Grant took third and moved onto the GC podium heading into the week’s longest stage, Aqueduct.
The circumnavigation of 13,370-foot Mount Guyot takes riders over the Continental Divide twice, through two counties, and down some of the area’s sweetest singletrack for a total of 40 miles. It is typically one of two stages, along with Wheeler, in which locals improve their overall ranking. That didn’t happen with Breck’s Jarad Christianson, because he was already in first place in the men’s 30-plus category; but he tripled his winning margin from Stage 1. Christianson, 31, works 8-5 for a construction company and rides after work. He started entering local races four years ago. On Tuesday, he finished 15th overall, pros included, in the 387-rider Breck Epic (3:53—30 minutes faster than his 2019 time).
The only local ahead of Christianson, 17-year-old phenom Lasse Konecny, suffered what you might call a mining-town-only mechanical. An ancient, heavily rusted, 4-inch-long rectangular nail pierced his sidewall and exited his tread like an arrow through a banana late in the race. Konecny ran to the finish pushing his bike and losing minutes, but still finished ninth (3:39). He sits in 11th place overall, four minutes out of eighth.
Close to a dozen other locals are toeing the line this week, and not everyone is taking time off from work to compete. John Rauen, a 22-year-old who finished in 4:54, clocks in at an escape room from 3:30 to 10:30 p.m. every night between stages. The field is dotted with ski patrollers (Duke Barlow, Breck’s snow safety supervisor, finished in 4:51 on a recently replaced knee), massage therapists (Ro Mayberry took third in the Coed Duo division in 4:45), and government workers (Nicole Valentine, Summit County’s communications director, clinched the 3-day Open Women’s title in 5:27).
WHO NEEDS TWO GOOD ARMS?
One of the week’s most impressive sights was watching Robin Brown, a retired Las Vegas firefighter, navigate the high-speed technical descent from 12,000 feet with a prosthetic left arm. Brown and Mark Duncan, another Vegas firefighter, conquered the Queen in 6:07 and stand second in the Duo 100-plus class. Brown lost his forearm to a grain auger in Panhandle, Texas when he was 4, but he still played football, basketball, baseball, and golf growing up. He became a paramedic and captain in the Clark County Fire Department and has entered dozens of endurance races, but never the Breck Epic. Asked about riding the course with one hand, he said, “I don’t think anything of it.”
Another visiting racer, Sean Perry of Issiquah, Washington, has competed all week with a cast on his wrist. Perry suffered an intra articular fracture of his distal radius while training on the Miners Creek Trail three weeks ago—the most perilous descent in the race. It was his first ride in Colorado. “I thought there was no chance I would get to do the race,” he said. He finished the Guyot stage in 4:39.
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
We posed this question just below the summit of 12,046-foot French Pass, the Queen’s high point. As usual, sentiments varied.
“I’m not sitting in an office, so pretty damn good.”
“Can’t. Too much altitude.”
“Got a tail wind—what more can you ask for?”
“Like I look.”
“Literally could not be better.”
“I’ve got 20 pieces of metal in my elbow from Dirty Kanza. This is nothing.”
“As can be expected.”
“Fucking awesome, man.”
“Well, it depends. Are there Skittles up there?” Yes. “Fuck yeah. Then I feel amazeballs.”
Skarda overcomes midrace stop to win second straight stage
Epic rookie leads Evelyn Dong by 2:30; Swenson dusts Mejia on Colorado Trail descent
By Devon O’Neil
BRECKENRIDGE — Shortly after starting Monday’s second stage of the Breck Epic, Alexis Skarda felt it. A familiar fluttering in her chest. As the pro women’s leader in her Epic debut, with a scant lead over former champion Evelyn Dong, Skarda knew she didn’t have time to spare. She also knew she had no choice but to stop.
So Skarda, a 31-year-old from Grand Junction in the midst of the best season of her pro career, pulled off the trail and dismounted her bike. She drank water and breathed. She watched other racers fly past her, agonizing at the time she was losing.
For much of her cycling career, Skarda has managed a rare congenital heart defect known as supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, an erratic heartbeat that comes from faulty electrical connections in her upper chambers. “It feels like a butterfly in your heart and lactic acid in your legs,” she said. She first felt it when she was 21. Ever since, it shows up periodically and unpredictably. It is caused by stress, but there’s no way to know exactly when or why certain moments trigger it, Skarda said. The first time it happened, her heartrate spiked to 260 beats per minute. On Monday morning, her rate rose into the 250s—an alarming number for someone who tries to stay around 170. “You have to relax to make it slow down, but it’s hard to relax when you see all these people passing you,” she said.
Since the episodes are random, Skarda often tries to build an early gap during races just in case it flares up. When asked if the condition—which is not dangerous in a mortality sense—has ever cost her a race, Skarda said, “It’s cost me a lot of races.” But she downplayed it being called a disadvantage. “I think everyone has something they deal with. This is just what I have to account for. I call it a body mechanical. It’s sort of like a flat tire.”
SVT didn’t cost her Monday’s race. Skarda got back on her bike once her heartrate slowed and rode strong to the finish, winning in 3:53:22. Dong finished second again, 56 seconds back, followed by Rose Grant in third. Skarda’s overall lead now stands at 2 minutes 30 seconds.
SWENSON BUILDS SIZABLE OVERALL LEAD
In Monday’s pro men’s race, reigning champion Keegan Swenson sent a message that echoed across Summit County—and perhaps down to South America. Swenson had narrowly beaten Colombia’s Luis Mejia in Sunday’s opener, winning by four seconds, and the two were tightly packed again until they began descending the Colorado Trail from West Ridge—one of the highlights of the week in terms of views and pure fun. Swenson sensed Mejia struggling to keep pace on the technical descent and rocketed away from his rival. Once out of sight, he built a seven-minute gap over the final 15 miles, winning in a time of 3:08:52. Lachlan Morton overcame a crash that bloodied his elbow to take third in 3:18:41.
BAD LUCK HAS NO GOOD TIMING
The Epic has exacted its share of bodily damage over 12 editions, and this week, although young, has been no exception. Monday a pair of unlucky racers sat next to each other at the Tiger Dredge aid station, commiserating over their mutual misfortune. Rich “Dicky” Dillen, one of the Epic’s most popular characters and familiar faces, had crashed earlier in the day, breaking his carbon-rail saddle, twisting his ankle, crunching an already injured right side, and realizing he had to withdraw from the race. His shoulder was bloodied and smeared with dirt. His morale was crushed. After finishing eight prior Epics, Dillen—a professional bike messenger from Charlotte, North Carolina and nationally known singlespeed racer who competes on rigid frames—struggled to accept he won’t be going home with a BMF belt buckle. “I bought a geared bike a month ago and I think God hates me until I sell it,” he joked. To his point, he’d broken a carbon rim, bruised his ribs and cracked his helmet, all before Monday’s crash. The 52-year-old sat beside the trail and cried when he realized he couldn’t continue the race.
Then Dicky found Bob Orlikowski, a 47-year-old nuclear regulator from Illinois, and plopped down next to him. Orlikowski had trained for the Epic for a year and a half—or, as his wife put it, “his whole life”—before arriving with two buddies to toe the line this week. Twelve miles into the first stage, while pushing his bike up Little French Gulch, Orlikowski heard what he described as two rocks hitting together. “I actually turned around to see if somebody was running up on me,” he said. “But I think the noise was just my Achilles tendon rupturing.”
He made it back to an aid station and found his wife, who drove him to the hospital. Monday his leg was splinted up to his knee; a pair of crutches rested against his shoulder. And yet, as he watched racers pedal by at the dredge, Orlikowski was smiling. “It’s sad, but to me it’s nothing I had control over,” he said. “It’s just bad luck.” Dicky, resting in the dirt a few feet away, added: “It helped to sit down next to Bob. It could be way worse.”
A MOMENT FOR BEN
Shortly before Monday’s start in downtown Breckenridge, racers and staff held a moment of silence for 2012 Epic champion Ben Sonntag. Sonntag, a longtime pro cyclist and beloved member of the fat-tire community, was hit and killed by a pickup truck traveling at 69 mph in a 35-mph zone on March 4, 2020, during a training ride outside his hometown of Durango. He was 39.
Swenson picks up where he left off in Epic’s opening stage
2019 champ shows no ill effects after winning Leadville 100 on Saturday; Skarda takes lead among women
By Devon O’Neil
BRECKENRIDGE — Two years after the last Breck Epic was staged in Colorado’s singletrack kingdom, much of what we know about the world has changed dramatically. But a few things haven’t, foremost: Keegan Swenson is still the man to beat in Breckenridge. Swenson, the 27-year-old defending champion from Heber City, Utah, made a late pass Sunday to beat a familiar foe in Colombia’s Luis Mejia and start the six-stage Epic with a four-second victory. He completed the 36-mile course in 2 hours 44 minutes.
The duo distanced themselves early on from the rest of the field, with Mejia—still smarting from a series of flat tires that derailed his 2019 bid to challenge Swenson—turning the screws on America’s most versatile racer. Swenson had won the Leadville 100 the prior day in 6 hours 11 minutes, the eighth fastest time in that race’s history. He’d also defended his XC national title in July and narrowly missed qualifying for the Olympics. He showed little weariness Sunday morning, less than 24 hours after his Leadville win, as the Epic kicked off on perfectly tack-ified dirt thanks to a brief rain shower. Content to chase Mejia’s frequent uphill surges and set the pace on the descents, Swenson found himself trailing the 36-year-old Colombian on the final downhill, until they reached the mini freeride features on Barney Flow. There, Swenson saw a window.
“He wasn’t jumping the doubles and I started jumping the doubles and gained some time,” Swenson said. “Then I took one of the log skinnies and made the pass.”
Longtime World Tour racer Lachlan Morton of Australia held third for much of the day until a sprint for the finish with Costa Rica’s Carlos Herrera saw Herrera edge him by a few thousandths.
SKARDA’S FAST START
Swenson wasn’t the only Santa Cruz Bicycles team member who enjoyed a happy Sunday. Breck Epic rookie Alexis Skarda of Grand Junction led from start to finish ahead of Epic veteran Evelyn Dong and a host of other challengers, winning by 25 seconds. Skarda said she concentrated on staying under her target heartrate of 170bpm to preserve energy for the subsequent stages. She’d trained for the Epic by riding—and winning—the Telluride 100 last month. She also finished second at XC nationals to 2021 Olympian Erin Huck, another Epic vet. Though Skarda won on the same bike as Swenson—a Blur CC—she rode a 100mm fork while he opted for the cushier 120mm.
Skarda and Dong figure to see more challenges later this week from five-time national marathon champ Rose Grant, who won Leadville on Saturday and finished TK SUNDAY.
“I figured if I didn’t go too crazy, I wouldn’t ruin it for the rest of the week,” Skarda said at the Carter Park finish. “But it’s tough when you’re feeling fresh to not go too hard.”
BIENVENIDO A LOS TICOS
Though the pandemic changed many racers’ plans, especially international competitors, plenty still braved the travel it took to get here. They include two dozen Costa Ricans from San José, who are riding in custom white jerseys this week. Due to a 9 p.m. curfew imposed in their country, riders couldn’t count on night miles to build their training base. Instead, they rose early—and often. Epic rookie Isaac Centeno, 26, trained six days a week for six months, starting at 5 a.m. “My friend Pablo told me to come because it’s his fourth time here,” Centeno said. “I just want to explore different landscapes and weather.”
STATS AND STUFF
Sunday’s opening stage saw 387 riders start. More than seven hours later, all but one crossed the finish. Pro racer Kyle Trudeau crashed hard coming down the notoriously tricky Grind into Indiana Creek, telling a teammate he thought he’d broken some ribs. He abandoned the race—but not until he’d finished a grueling climb to Boreas Pass Road. In all, the stage covered 36 miles and roughly 5,000 vertical feet. Full results can be found here:
HOW DO YOU FEEL?
Each day, we ask this very simple question at some point on course, usually at the top of a merciless climb. Today it was posed near the top of Little French.
“Legs don’t feel great, but it’s the first day, they’re not supposed to.”
“Like 50 cents.”
“Pretty good. Actually, great.”
“This is heinous. Wait, is this Heinous?” [Ed’s note: No. Heinous Hill will introduce itself in Stage 2.]
“Could be worse.”
BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
Millard Allen won the singlespeed division at Leadville on Saturday and stayed in the Cloud City for the awards Sunday morning, which meant he arrived late to start the Epic. He hopped on course at 10 a.m. and caught the sweep halfway up Pennsylvania Gulch, eventually finishing in 3:54 on a geared bike.
Stage 2 takes riders across multiple drainages highlighted by the locally famous West Ridge descent on the Colorado Trail. Real-time results can be found at itsyourrace.com.
Slated for August 14-19, 2022, 400 riders. In the words of race director Mike McCormack, “Sometimes bigger is better. We feel that in Epic’s case, better is better. There’s a balance we need to strike. To us, that means enough riders to create that special big race feel, but not so many that we experience crowding on course. We want our riders to experience the soulfulness of Summit County’s trail system and backcountry–that’s hard to do if you’re riding nose-to-tail all day.”
McCormack added, “Additionally, while our trail system holds up very well, fewer riders means less impact. We love our trails…we just don’t want to love them to death.”
This time it was Scott’s Erin Huck taking the sprint win in front of Sofia Gomez Villafane (Clif Bar) flip-flopping their short track results from last week. Kelsey Urban came home in third followed by Alexis Skarda (Santa Cruz) and Rose Grant (Juliana).
The men’s race also saw last week’s runner-up move in front of the pack with Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz/Monster) taking the win in front of Canadians Tyler Orschel and Leandre Bouchard.
Cole Patton (Orange Seal) finished fourth while Torbjorn Andre Roed completed the podium in fifth.
Sunday’s cross country event will feature an equally strong field competing on a new course in Fayetteville, Arkansas. The arrival of Chloe Woodruff (Pivot) will provide extra excitement as we get to see how the world cup race winner’s form is coming along.
Unfortunately, race fans will not get to see Trinity teammates Haley Batten and Christopher Blevins this weekend as they flew to Europe in preparation for the opening round of the 2021 World Cup season.
Mexican National Champion Daniela Campuzano & Christopher Blevins Win in Fayetteville
Elbows-out, world-cup-style racing is what the US Cup was hoping to deliver in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this weekend and did not disappoint. Exhilarating head-to-head racing throughout the women and men’s categories led to sprint finishes to decide both winners.
The best of the best were on hand in round 1 of the US Cup and they clearly brought their A-game treating the crowds with constant attacks, big drops, technical descending, and plenty of speed.
The women’s race featured multiple national champions going all out for the win. A lead grouping of Haley Batten (Trinity Racing), Mexican national champion Daniela Campuzano, and Erin Huck formed at the front after Lea Davison succumbed to a flat tire.
Huck and Campuzano got clear on the penultimate lap before finishing in a wheel-to-wheel sprint with Daniela Campuzano coming out on top just 2 seconds in front of Huck.
Batten stayed clear in third position while Alexis Skarda (Santa Cruz) dropped an impressive last lap to jump into fourth place in front of Hannah Finchamp.
The men’s race featured a stacked field with all eyes on the battle between US national champion Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) and Trinity Racing’s Christopher Blevins who are battling for a spot in the upcoming Olympics.
The duo did not disappoint as they lead a train of North America’s top talent around the Fayetteville course ultimately dropping everyone except a determined Riley Amos (Bear Development) who did not shy away from the challenge of racing for a win.
On the final lap Swenson and Blevins opened enough of a gap to play a little cat and mouse before unleashing a roaring sprint to the finish line with Blevins taking the win by less than a bike length.
Amos rode home in third followed by Cole Paton and Puerto Rican Georwill Perez Roman.
The 2021 Race season was in full swing last weekend with The Cactus Cup stage race hosting most of the US’s 2021 Olympic hopefuls in Phoenix, AZ. The race format included a Time Trial, 40-mile XC race, and Enduro. Sofia Gomez Villafane (Clif Bar) who has spent the winter training in Tucson rode away with the overall after taking the lead in the 40-mile XC stage. The young Kelsey Urban had an impressive weekend with her consistency paying off for a 2nd overall. Erin Huck, Rose Grant, and Hannah Finchamp rounded out the women’s GC podium. The desert got the best of Savilla Blunk, winner of the TT, and Haley Batten, winner of the Enduro, who both ran into mechanical issues during the XC race costing them spots on the GC podium.
Sofia Gome Villafane 3:16:49
Kelsey Urban 3:17:48
Erin Huck 3:18:21
Rose Grant 3:20:55
Hannah Finchamp 3:20:58
Ruth Holcomb 3:23:30
Ruby Ryan 3:23:50
Gwendalyn Gibson 3:27:09
Amy Chandos 3:29:21
Alisha Welsh 3:32:48
In the men’s race, Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) took the overall by only 18 seconds over Riley Amos. Cole Paton, Kyle Trudeau, and Daxton Mock wrapped up the GC top 5 with less than two-minutes separating first through fifth.
Keegan Swenson (Santa Cruz) 2:53:47
Riley Amos 2:54:06
Cole Paton 2:54:15
Kyle Trudeau 2:55:30
Daxton Mock 2:55:30
Tobin Ortenblad 2:55:41
Russell Finsterwald 2:56:02
Alex Wild 2:57:07
Tydeman Newman 2:59:49
Paul Fabian 3:3494
True Grit Epic St. George, UT
This weekend was supposed to be the True Grit Epic which includes racer’s choice of a gravel ride, gravel race, or 100 or 50-mile mountain bike race on classic Southern Utah trails. Racers could also choose to participate in the Extreme Grit Gravel/MTB stage race that combines all three stages over three days. Sadly the weather had a different plan. Unseasonal cold, snow, and rain forced race promoters to cancel the mountain bike portion of the race.
Southeast Gravel: Gravel Battle of Sumter Forest Clinton, SC
Gravel Battle of Sumter Forest is the first race of a six race gravel series promoted by the popular Southeast Gravel. Liv Factory racer, Kaysee Armstrong bested Laura King by a mere 12 seconds over 75 miles of racing. Armstrong’s winning time was 3:24:38. Tere Casas, Marjie Bemis, and Elizabeth Mccalley completed the top-5.
Kaysee Armstrong 3:24:38
Laura King 3:24:51
Tere Casas 3:35:54
Marjie Bemis 3:36:04
Elizabeth Mccalley 3:36:07
Annie Rambotham 3:36:08
Ava Sykes 3:38:22
Kim Pettit 3:41:58
Simone Berger 3:41:58
Rhylee Wittrock 3:45:23
Sierra Sims 3:45:27
Scott McGill took the men’s race followed by a sprint finish among Drew Dillman, Issac Bryant, Tim Coffey, and Michael Bissette. Former ProTour road racer, Bobby Julich, who was also in the sprint, placed 7th.
Scott McGill 3:11:54
Drew Dillman 3:12:00
Issac Bryant 3:12:03
Tim Coffey 3:12:07
Michael Bissette 3:12:08
Heath Dotson 3:12:09
Bobby Julich 3:12:10
Matt Moosa 3:12:19
John Croom 3:12:27
Parker Kyzer 3:13:55
Stay tuned as MTBracenews.com continues to bring coverage of some of the most exciting events.
Keegan Swenson Wins in a Sprint on Whiskey Row While Annika Langvad Out Duels Chloe Woodruff
Keegan Swenson (Stan’s NoTubes/Pivot) closed down a gap on Howard Grotts (Specialized) in the final approach to Whiskey Row before out sprinting the US national champion to win by a bike length.
Previous marathon and cross country world champion Annika Langvad (Specialized) took a solo win in Prescott after handling challenges from past Whiskey champion Chloe Woodruff (Stan’s NoTubes/Pivot) and Erin Huck (CZ Racing).
Keegan Swenson Takes Sprint Victory Over Todd Wells While Larissa Connors Dominates the Women’s Field
Written by: Shannon Boffeli
Saturday morning, the backcountry mountain bike spectacle known as the Park City Point 2 Point sounded the start canon. The race that normally ushers in Utah’s colorful fall blasted off but none of the cool temps, changing foliage, or damp hero dirt that usually accompany the event were on hand. Instead, summer conditions were in full force in the Utah high country.
The forecasted temperatures in Park City were hotter than ever but so was the competition at the 9th annual Point 2 Point. With a $2,000 winners purse the Point 2 Point always draws some top talent but 2017 featured a faster-than-ever group of men vying for the top positions. Highlights of that group included former national champions Todd Wells (Scott/Troy Lee) and Geoff Kabush (Scott), defending P2P champion Keegan Swenson (Cannondale), who passed up a trip to the world championships for a shot at defending his title, as well as a host of ultra-endurance honchos like Construction Zone Racing/Scott Sports teammates Kyle Trudeau and Fernando Riveros-Paez, Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar), and Justin Lindine.
Todd Wells cuts through the early morning sunlight. Angie Harker/Selective Vision
Right from the gun it was clear this year’s P2P was going to be like no other. An hour in, despite miles of singletrack, no fewer than a dozen riders still occupied the lead group, and they were rolling fast.
Another hour of climbing only managed to dislodge two riders as a pack of 10 powered through the Deer Valley feed led by ’15 P2P champ Robbie Squire. All the top riders were represented with Geoff Kabush biding his time a few bike lengths off the back.
Around the halfway point, Swenson attacked, pushing the pace into the long enduro segment on the Corvair trail. A move that worked for him in 2016, Swenson popped more riders from the lead group but couldn’t shake Wells. By the time he entered the aspen-rooted maze known as John’s Trail, Swenson and Wells established a gap of a few seconds over the rest of the lead group.
Geoff Kabush rode to third place in his inaugural P2P. Photo by: Angie Harker/Selective Vision
The two leaders stayed wheel to wheel and Kabush rejoined the affair as they climbed up and around Shadow Lake, the high-point of the race. As they descended down the 20-minute Crescent Mine Grade trail Kabush would blow a tire before they reached Park City Resort (Support Station #3), dropping him back a little more than 5 minutes.
With just over 20 miles left the lead duo now had a 2-minute gap on Kyle Trudeau and Ben Sonntag and over 5 minutes on Canadian, Geoff Kabush.
Wells and Swenson continued their two-man battle over the final mix of climbs, rocky descents, and unbroken singletrack from Park City Resort to the new finish line outside Skullcandy headquarters.
An unregistered participant spotted on course. Angie Harker/Selective Vision
After 75 miles the race came down to a sprint finish. Wells took the early lead out on the slightly downhill paved bike path that made up the final 200 meters of the Point 2 Point course. Swenson tucked in behind as both riders built up speed all along the finishing stretch. In fact, they were coming so fast that race director Jay Burke had to clear all the spectators from the finishing venue and pull up stakes on the finishing chute to make room for the elbow-to-elbow battle.
Both riders powered out of the saddle in their biggest gears, surging toward the line with Swenson popping out of the draft in perfect slingshot position to nip Wells at the line and take his second Point 2 Point title.
Eric Porter manuals his way to the finish line. Angie Harker/Selective Vision
Geoff Kabush made an impressive final surge, posting the fastest time over the final 20 miles, taking minutes out of the leaders but coming up just short only a minute and a half behind at the finish.
Ben Sonntag rolled in for fourth just in front of Kyle Trudeau.
The ladies of the 2017 Point 2 Point provided their own firepower for this ultra-endurance event.
Larissa Connors smiling her way through the 75-mile P2P course. Photo by: Angie Harker/Selective Vision
Past winner Evelyn Dong (Liv) made her return to Park City and the P2P. Hannah Bingham (Eriksen), winner of the Steamboat Stinger, made her debut at the race as did TransSylvania Epic winner Kaysee Armstrong (Liv). Recent Pierre’s Hole 100k champion Caedran Harvey (Fitzgerald’s) was also on hand along with Breck 100 and Lutsen 99er champion Larissa Connors (Twenty20/Felt).
From the start the pace was high as Connors and Armstrong jumped to the front opening gaps early on.
Kaysee Armstrong testing her legs out west. Angie Harker/Selective Vision
Connors quickly established herself as the early leader though, pulling away from Armstrong and the rest of the field in the winding one-track of Round Valley. The early climbs certainly didn’t slow Connors either as she steadily opened a gap to the chasers while picking off riders in the open men’s field that started in front of her.
A battle for second was brewing behind the lone leader however, Firecracker 50 winner Marlee Dixon (Pivot/DNA Cycling) was riding just in front of Caedran Harvey as both riders climbed past Deer Valley and Shadow Lake over 50 miles into the race.
Dixon held about a minute lead until both riders entered the Park City feed together. Harvey left the feed just in front of Dixon and despite having several thousand feet of climbing in front of her, Harvey started to feel her best form of the day coming on.
Harvey made the best of it, putting almost 10 minutes into Dixon in the last 20 miles. Despite Caedran’s impressive surge Connors was too far-gone to even think about bringing back.
Larissa Connors had such a good day in fact that at the finish her time would have placed her in the top-20 of a stacked open men’s field.
After just over 7 hours of riding Connors crossed the line to claim another win in her long list of ultra-endurance triumphs this summer. In a surprise move Connors donated her entire $2,000 prize purse to the Summit Bike Club, a local youth mountain bike development team.
Connors took the win by almost 30 minutes over second-placed Caedran Harvey. Marlee Dixon held on for third over past P2P winner Evelyn Dong who finished fourth. Hannah Bingham took the final podium spot in fifth.
Once all the excitement, awards, and money had been dispersed the final finisher was still on course. Although the fastest finishers cross the line in just over 6 hours most riders in the Park City Point 2 Point take much longer to cross the line.
Josh Murphree collects the red lantern award after completing his first P2P. Angie Harker/Selective Vision
Each year the P2P saves a special prize package for the Red Lantern, the final racer on course, recognizing the incredible effort of the rider who spent the longest time on their bike and persevered to the finish. This year Josh Murphree took home the Red Lantern prize who in his second attempt at the Point 2 Point finished the 75-mile course in 12 hours 52 minutes and looked surprisingly fresh doing so.
Keegan Swenson and Jenny Smith Win NUE Opener in Utah
Written by: Shannon Boffeli
In it’s second year as an official NUE event the True Grit 50 or marathon event showed significant growth and stacked fields to compete in the series opener.
Once again riders from all across the country made the trek to Santa Clara, Utah, to take in the desert singletrack oasis tucked in the southwestern corner of the state. Warm weather and ideal trail conditions greeted the 500 riders registered for this year’s True Grit Epic.
The fact that the NUE series finale would be moving out west in 2017 provided extra buzz as many of those in attendance would be making a run at the series title, a challenge that is typically out of reach for most racers out west who have a hard time traveling to the east coast for the series final. This year’s finale will be located in Big Bear, California.
Keegan Swenson leads Justin Lindine on course.
The opens men’s race featured some of the fastest legs in the United States. Two-time U.S. national championship runner-up Keegan Swenson (Cannondale) was making his first appearance at this 50-miler. Swenson would be going up against longtime friend and teammate Alex Grant (Cannondale) who was making his return to mountain bike racing after being sidelined for almost all of 2016 after suffering a foot fracture in the world cup opener.
Last year’s NUE marathon champ Alex Pond was on hand looking to defend his title as was Justin Lindine (Apex/NBX) who always finds his way to the front of the pack.
Off the start it was Keegan Swenson and Justin Lindine providing the watts early on. Driving the pace and easily shedding the majority of the field in the early miles. The early pace was too much for Grant but California rider Menso De Jong (Clif Bar) and youngster Zach Calton (Competitive Cyclist) emerged from the pack staying close to the leaders. Calton surged ahead bridging the gap to the leaders.
After the race’s early climbs Swenson and Lindine led into the slickrock labyrinth of Zen trail. Both talented bike handlers, the lead duo flowed over the rocks like a flashflood pulling away from everyone including Calton who had worked hard to match the leaders pace.
Now the duo forged ahead, pushing the pace once again and opening big gaps behind them.
In the final miles, Lindine and Swenson traded attacks with neither rider getting an advantage. Late in the race the lead duo stayed together approaching the 1-mile paved finishing straight into downtown Santa Clara.
Lindine took the lead out with Swenson tucked behind waiting to make his final surge, which came just feet from the finishing chute as the Cannondale rider popped ahead just enough to take the win by one second.
Behind them Alex Grant had worked through his early cobwebs and traded the third spot with Calton. He made his final move on the Barrel Roll trail just miles from the finish securing a third place finish.
Calton rolled in for fourth followed by De Jong for fifth.
Riders flows over the rocks on Zen trail. Photo by: Crawling Spider
The 2017 women’s field represented the most competitive bunch ever assembled at the NUE opener. Over twenty women registered for the race including mountain bike speedsters like Alexis Skarda (NoTubes/Kenda), Jenni Smith (NoTubes/Kenda), last year’s runner up Nicole Tittensor (Scott/Jan’s), collegiate cyclocross star Sofia Gomez-Villafane (Assos/Pivot), Arizona speedster Erin Osbourne (Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution) and ’16 podium finisher Jen Hanks (Pivot/DNA Cycling).
A mixed start with the open men’s group meant a fast start for the ladies. Alexis Skarda showed the most power off the start opening it up early. She was joined early on by Gomez-Villafane.
Jenny Smith managed to find her way up to the lead group before being gapped again just before a notoriously technical section called “the Waterfall.”
Skarda managed a small gap that widened at Sofia Gomez-Villafane missed a turn and ended up off course. This put Smith in second position chasing her teammate Skarda.
“Alexis was climbing so well today,” said the always-cheery Smith after the finish. “She would pull away from me on the climbs and I would have to claw my way back on the flats and downhill sections.”
Lucky for Smith she stayed close enough throughout the race to pull ahead in the closing miles and take advantage of the rolling downhill terrain leading to the finish line.
An impressive effort throughout allowed with race winner to cross the line with a smoking fast time of 3 hours 50 minutes; fast enough to beat more than half the open male riders.
Alexis Skarda came in about 5 minutes back after being in close contact with Smith for most of the day.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane soldiered on for third place after encountering some confusion on the notoriously tricky racecourse. “I didn’t have the luxury of pre-riding the course so I got off track about four times out there… Overall a hard day on the bike, but it was a good day.”
Nicole Tittensor secured the fourth spot after trading her position with Jen Hanks several times throughout the day. Ultimately her strong climbing gave her the advantage over the Pivot/DNA Cycling rider.
Start of the True Grit Marathon
A moderately-sized crew signed up to race one-speeders in the southern Utah desert. Ten in all, decided riding 50 miles of rugged terrain would just be too easy with gears.
The favorites included 2 podium finishers in the 100-mile True Grit event in 2016. Shannon Boffeli (Pivot/DNA Cycling) and Corey Larrabee (Kuhl) finished fourth and second respectively in ’16 and spent much of the race wheel to wheel last year.
The 2017 race got off to a quick start with several of the singlespeeders spinning their way to the singletrack with the lead group of geared 40-49 racers. Once on the dirt Larrabee and Boffeli were joined by Brent Cannon (Team Elevate) as the three leaders made their way through Cove Wash and onto the early climbs in Green Valley.
When the uphill started Larrabee showed a clear advantage being marked for a short time by Boffeli but eventually opening up a solid advantage on the climb to Zen trail.
Now riding with the fastest of the geared riders Larrabee kept putting time into the chasers pushing a 32 x 20 over the 50-mile course.
In the end the Kuhl rider passed all but two of the geared riders he started with and posted a time that was over 10 minutes faster than last year’s winning 50-mile finisher.
A satisfied Shannon Boffeli took second suffering a bit in the heat. “Even on my best day I couldn’t have matched Corey on the climbs,” Boffeli shared at the finish. “I could get close on the flatter stuff early on but he just crushed me when it started to get steep.”
Brent Cannon solidified the third spot with a strong finishing time well ahead of the next closest rider.
Both Larrabee and Boffeli have eyes on the NUE marathon title so expect to see them at more NUE events throughout the season.
50+ Masters Men
The master’s event turned out to be a battle of local talent with local legend Dave Harris (LW Coaching) taking the win over fellow Utahns Zan Treasure (Bountiful Bicycle) and Dave Smith (Red Rock Bicycle).
Although once active on the race scene Harris has been absent from competition for years focusing his efforts on youth mountain bike coaching and desert moto riding. After Saturday it was clear the years away from racing haven’t slowed him much as he posted a time of 3 hours 51 minutes, which would have put him in the top-30 of the open male category.
Once again the True Grit epic did not disappoint. Riders taking on the True Grit challenge know they can expect a tough, technical course with incredible views, great weather, enthusiastic support crews, and a hefty dose of spring-time singletrack riding.
Cannondale rider Alex Grant’s thoughts after the race captured the overall feeling well. “It felt so good to be back out racing the mountain bike. It has been almost 11 months since my last MTB race. It felt so familiar yet so strange getting ready. Last year’s injury definitely gave me some perspective, when I was laid up and couldn’t step on my foot for 3 months I had plenty of time to think about how I would never take just being mobile and active for granted again. Every race I do is all just gravy because at the end of the day I unclip and walk away on two feet.”
Local Boy Keegan Swenson Sets New Course Record at Point 2 Point and Gretchen Reeves Takes Her Second P2P Title
Written by: Shannon Boffeli
In it’s 8th year the Park City Point 2 Point continues to establish itself as a favorite of racers throughout the country. Over 75 miles, the Point 2 Point circumnavigates the resort town of Park City, Utah, traversing the Wasatch mountains and the two world-class ski resorts of Deer Valley and Park City/Canyons.
A classic fall scene greeted the riders as the maples of the Wasatch range speckled the 9,000 foot peaks with shades of red and yellow and temperatures on race day hovered in the mid-seventies. Overnight rains tamped down the dust on a landscape that hadn’t seen rain in almost 80 days.
Pro women roll off the start line. Photo by: Selective Vision
Riders were twitching with anticipation as Fruit Loops, fired from a potato gun, rained from the sky signifying the start of the race.
And they were off, 350 riders of all experience levels, taking on the truly unique challenge of a course that’s 75-miles in length with a whooping 10,000 vertical feet of climbing spread across over 95% singletrack riding providing every rider a top-notch mountain bike adventure.
In the open men’s group everyone expected a showdown between Park City native Keegan Swenson (Cannondale), who also happens to be one of the United States top world cup racers, last year’s winner Rob Squire (Felt/Assos), and multi-year Point 2 Point runner-up Ben Sonntag (Clif Bar).
Keegan Swenson leads Ben Sonntag not long before Swenson decides to go solo. Photo by: Selective Vision
The trio didn’t disappoint as the created a clear separation early in the race and continued to power away from the chasers.
Around mile 32, the three leaders approached the base of the Team Big Bear climb, the steepest of the race’s early climbs, Swenson’s pace opened a slight gap that Sonntag was unable to cover. Squire attacked around the Clif Bar rider in an effort to close the gap but the separation stayed.
“I felt it might be a little early for me to be on my own,” Swenson shared after the finish, “But I figured if I kept Robbie off my wheel on the descents and didn’t let him follow my line I could keep putting time on him.”
The strategy seemed to work as Swenson crushed the enduro segment by over a minute on Squire and Sonntag.
Cary Smith took the singlespeed title in Park City and finished in 6th overall.
With some climbing mixed in, Swenson went to work on the John’s trail, Powerline, and Crescent Mine Grade descents and had over 8 minutes in hand by the time he reached the Park City feedzone at mile 55. Still looking fresh with an all-but-insurmountable gap all that was left for the young Cannondale phenom was the course record, set by his teammate and 6-time Point 2 Point winner Alex Grant, of 6:16:31.
Meanwhile, Squire was doing his best to hold off Sonntag. Powering through the climbs, the defending champ was looking good until a high-speed rock garden on the Crescent Mine Grade descent stopped him dead with two flat tires. He used his only CO2 cartridge to air up the rear but was forced to ride a flat front tire the rest of the way down to the feedzone at Park City. He was still holding onto the second spot at this point but Sonntag came and left the Park City feed while Squire’s bike was still in the repair stand.
Once his tires were aired up Squire remounted and produced an all out chase but Sonntag knows how to pace himself and had plenty left in the tank to punch through the final 20 miles and hold off Squire to the finish.
Out front most of the day, Keegan Swenson steered clear of any trouble and hammered his way through the final sections of the course in record time. He crossed the line 15 minutes in front of second place with an incredible finish time of 6:11:04 to take home the $2,000 race winner’s purse plus an extra $100 for posting the fastest time in the enduro segment.
Keegan Swenson looking relaxed after laying down an unbelievable time in his hometown of Park City. Photo by: Selective Vision
Sonntag crossed the line with a time that would have won in 2015 of 6:26:00. Rob Squire put his misfortune behind him for third place at 6:33:17.
Behind the leaders, Point 2 Point veteran Sam Sweetser (Cole Sport) was putting on a clinic on overcoming adversity. Somewhere around the horribly steep Steps climb, about mile 45, Sweetser felt his saddle break. “I could feel it crack and start to sag in the middle but it was still rideable,” Sweetser later relayed.
Just a mile or two later Sweetser stood on a climb and when he sat down the saddle was gone and only rails remained. “I tried to stand for the whole climb up and around Shadow Lake but at some point you just have to sit again.”
So for the next 10 miles the Cole Sport rider made-do with metal rails for a seat until he reached the Pack City feed and a friend quickly swapped the saddle of his bike for Sweetser’s.
Sweetser said the next 20 miles were the toughest of any Point 2 Point he has done but he proved strong enough to hold off David Krimstock (Giant) for fourth.
The Flynn Twins charging to the finish. George leads Bart through some final sections of single track. Photo by: Selective Vision
Carbondale, Colorado, rider Krimstock took fifth just in front of the Flynn twins, George and Bart, who sprinted for the finish crossing less than a second apart respectively.
The women’s group packed equal punch with previous winner Gretchen Reeves (Tokyo Joe’s), multi-year runner-up Marlee Dixon (Pivot/DNA Cycling), Canada’s U23 national champion in 2011 Mikaela Kofman (Ridebiker/Liv), reigning collegiate cyclocross national champion Sofia Gomez-Villafane, and local speedster Nicole Tittensor (Scott).
The front group formed quickly after the start with Kofman, Reeves, Dixon, and Gomez-Villafane establishing an early lead.
Kofman and Reeves would break away to form a lead group surging ahead on the climbs and rollers in Round Valley and on their way to Deer Valley Resort.
At the first aid station the leaders held a solid lead with Reeves looking fresh and cruising through the feedzone while Kofman made a stop to fill her bottle.
The leaders then attacked the Team Big Bear climb where Kofman was able to all but close the gap to Reeves before the next feedzone at Guardsman Pass when Kofman again stopped and appeared a bit stressed to catch back up to the leader.
She wouldn’t see Reeves again however.
Into the singletrack descending portion of the course the Tokyo Joe’s rider appeared in her element as she stretched the gap behind her.
Marlee Dixon grinds out a few of the P2P’s 10,000 vertical feet of climbing on her way to a second place finish. Photo by: Selective Vision
At this point Kofman started to slowly drift back in the pack, appearing to suffer from her early efforts. Marlee Dixon, who was riding a hardtail, caught and passed her on the punishing Steps trail ascent.
Kofman still held onto third position as she hit mile 55 at the Park City feedzone.
Gretchen Reeves was long gone however. At Park City she had over 9 minutes on Marlee Dixon and kept the hammer down pulling further ahead with each mile.
By the end, Reeves would claim her second Point 2 Point title by just over 16 minutes with a time of 7:34:52. The Avon, Colorado, rider posted on Facebook later that the Point 2 Point is the toughest single-day race she has done.
Marlee Dixon powered through the finishing miles of the race to take another second place at Canyons Resort with a time of 7:49:59 and a $100 bonus for winning the enduro segment.
At this point the only question left to answer was where Mikaela Kofman would end up.
As the crowd looked on, they would first see Sofia Gomez-Villafane crisscross her way down the mountain to take the third spot.
Next would come the bright orange helmet of Nicole Tittensor, who wasn’t in the early lead group, but climbed her way into the mix finally moving into the fourth spot as Kofman struggled to find the finish line.
Big smiles from Gretchen Reeves after taking her second P2P title. Photo by: Selective Vision
Finally, 18 minutes after Tittensor crossed the line Mikaela Kofman came in to finish off the podium in fifth spot. It took a big effort from the tiny Ridebiker rider that was enough to finally get her home and still on the podium.
After the crossing the line riders and spectators spread out onto the lush lawn surrounding the finishing shoot at Canyons Resort. Both exhausted and elated, riders of all levels spun tales of their shared 75-mile struggles over free drinks and meals provided by the event organizers. After 8 years, the quality of the Park City Point 2 Point remains high; from the racecourse to the volunteers and race organizers, this five-star event keeps packing in the participants year after year.
Jon Russell was all smiles all day but especially at the finish line. Photo by: Selective Vision
Registration for the 2017 Park City Point 2 Point starts in February. The event has sold out in under 10 minutes that past 6 years so get ready when the exact date is announced.
Cannondale announced today a partnership with SUGOI Apparel and 360fly to create North America’s most powerful cross-country mountain bike team for the 2016 season – Cannondale 360fly, powered by SUGOI.
“Cannondale 360fly, Powered by SUGOI brings together three innovative brands with trailblazing technology to fuel North America’s fastest domestic mountain bikers,” said Matt Ohran, Team Director, Cannondale 360fly, powered by SUGOI. “This team has the talent to stand atop any North American XC race podium.”
Evelyn Dong seen here winning the 2015 Park City Point 2 Point. Photo by: Angie Harker
The team will be comprised of five standout athletes:
Raphaël Gagné, Canada: 2015 Pan Am Games Gold Medalist, 2015 Canadian National XC and CX Champion, 2015 Pro XCT Overall winner
Alex Grant, USA: 2015 US Nationals 3rd place in both XC and Short Track and winner of the Grand Junction Off-Road
Evelyn Dong, USA: 2015 Go Pro Games Champion, Overall Winner at the 2015 Breck Epic MTB Stage Race, 2014 3rd place at US XC Nationals
Keegan Swenson, USA: 2015 2nd place at US XC Nationals, 2014 U23 US National Champion, 4x Junior US XC National Champion
Tinker Juarez, USA: Multiple USA National XC and 24-Solo MTB Championships, 2x Olympian, 22-year Cannondale athlete and general bad-ass bike rider
The team trucks will be loaded with the Scalpel and the F-Si, two of the most race-proven bikes in the world, and the athletes will choose the ideal machine depending upon course demands. The Cannondale Scalpel delivers the ultimate XC speed in a full suspension bike and the F-Si boasts maximum performance in a cross-country hardtail.
“In supporting this team, Cannondale is turning up the level of excitement in elite racing in North America,” said Hannah Parish, Marketing Director for Cycling Sports Group, North America. “This roster is incredibly talented on the bike and remarkably engaging off the bike and that personality and performance will get our fans on their feet and cheering.”
SUGOI will be supporting the Cannondale 360fly team as the Official Performance Apparel sponsor. Team riders will enjoy the brand’s latest advancements in pro apparel, including the all-new 2016 Racing System Elite (RSE) Jersey and Bib Short. The RSE kit is SUGOI’s lightest kit ever, engineered to provide maximum performance and comfort, anchored by the Formula FXE chamois with pioneering cradle design. Team replica kits will be available for sale at select SUGOI dealers around the continent.
“Having elite level athletes working in collaboration with our product teams to design and develop the next generation of XC race apparel is invaluable to Sugoi,” said Ian Domaas, Vice President & GM, SUGOI.
Alex leads a group down the Beatrice descent at the world cup in Mount St. Anne
As the official camera, 360fly will capture fully immersive 360° video content. The interactive 360° video is easily shared to social channels such as Facebook and YouTube via the 360fly smartphone app. Additionally, by pairing the video with Google Cardboard, fans can experience the team’s videos in virtual reality.
“We’re excited to be partnering with such great brands and supporting such a talented team of riders,” said Peter Adderton, 360fly CEO. “For the first time fans will be able to view videos and experience them as if they were there.”
Cannondale 360fly, powered by SUGOI will also be supported by these important partners:
Wilderness Trail Bikes (WTB): For tires, saddles, and grips
ENVE: For wheels, handlebars, and seatposts
Shimano: For components and shoes
Stages Cycling: For Hollowgram crank arm based power meters
Axial Racing: The official RC Car of The Cannondale 360Fly, providing “off the bike fun” for the team and support staff