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After the win, Swenson retains his lead in the Life Time Grand Prix series, while other riders have moved around in the standings. Stetina and McElveen, both beset by early injuries this season, have moved up in the series after Saturday.
Swenson disrupted the race fairly early on, escaping with fellow mountain biker-by-trade Howard Grotts at the beginning of the first dirt climb around mile 11.
“The group pretty much exploded right as we turned right onto the dirt,” Swenson told VeloNews.” Pete [Stetina] was the first one to push the pace, then Howard [Grotts], and then myself. I thought a small group of 2-3 would be ideal as the pavement section was quite short and with how bumpy a lot of the gravel was you really don’t need a big group in order to stay away.
“Howard was the only one able to follow when I pushed the pace, so from there on out we just traded pulls and tried to get out of sight before the big descent. Drafting was not a huge factor up there but it was nice to have a wheel to follow and take turns setting pace. After that first climb the race was pretty blown up.”
Cole Paton trailed Swenson and Grotts until the midway point of the race when he was caught by the chase group.
“I rode solo in third until about the halfway-point where I was caught by the chase group,” Paton said. “Then, we caught Howie who had some mechanical issues and were working together well until the route started to climb again.”
Grotts had dropped his chain on the huge downhill section, which left Swenson solo for about 10 pavement miles in the middle of the race. Swenson said he was nervous after losing Grotts — momentarily.
“I had no idea how much of a gap we had on the chase group and I was pretty worried they’d bring me back as I had a feeling it would be about 6-8 working to bring me back,” he said. “Luckily that pavement section went by pretty fast … once I hit the gravel again I was able to relax a bit. Luckily I had enough of a gap that the chase group could not see me. Always better to be out of sight in situations like that, once they see you it is normally game over.”
After riding solo through the infamous frustrating and sandy ‘Sarlacc Pit, Swenson cranked up the Col d’Crush, winning the KOM handily.
Behind him, Grotts, Paton, Stetina, and Easter formed a small selection to chug up the 4,000 foot climb. They lost Grotts with about 10 miles to go, and the quartet sprinted up the steep final mile of the race. McElveen had been with the group but punctured at the bottom of the climb.
“I was in the group riding for second and I smoked a big square edge rock that I didn’t see hidden in the dust,” he said. “It took a little bit to find where the hole was, it was punched behind the rim. I got it plugged, rode my own pace, found a rhythm, felt good, and picked out a bunch of spots. I came within sight of Cole, Griffin and Pete and watched them battle it out.”
McElveen said he was stoked to gain some Grand Prix points and looks forward “to continuing to build the momentum toward Leadville.”
The Leadville Trail 100 is the next stop on the Grand Prix series, and Swenson is the defending champ of the high altitude century. Before turning his attention fully to Leadville training, Swenson will first attempt to defend the starts and stripes jersey at the USA Cycling Mountain Bike National Championships in Winter Park, Colorado on July 23rd.
- Keegan Swenson, 4:02:24
- Cole Paton, 4:13:53
- Griffin Easter, 4:13:59
- Peter Stetina, 4:14:03
- Payson McElveen, 4:15: 47