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Keegan Swenson wins men’s Sea Otter Classic Fuego 80k

Russell Finsterwald and Alex Wild complete the podium in the first race of the new Life Time Grand Prix.

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MONTEREY, California (VN) — Keegan Swenson won the men’s Sea Otter Classic Fuego 80k after a late solo move earned him victory in the first race of the Life Time Grand Prix series. Swenson completed the 80km course in a time of 2:55:23.

Swenson dropped his final competitors on the last of two laps, and finished ahead of Russell Finsterwald and Alex Wild.

Finsterwald came home 18 seconds down on Swenson, with Wild almost a minute down on the winner. The result means that Swenson has taken the early lead in the Life Time Grand Prix. Mountain bikers dominated the men’s race with an early bottle-neck ruining the chances of several other high-profile riders, such as Lachlan Morton, who finished 11th.

“This one is pretty big for me. I’ve kind of struggled here in the past at Sea Otter to be honest, and I’ve never really been able to put it all together so it’s nice to be finally able to do that,” Swenson said at the finish.

“I think that the two-lap format suits me a bit better, it’s a bit longer, and I think that Cape Epic was also good preparation for me. This was different, it was fast and really smooth. I hit it hard with the leaders and we really tried to put some time into the guys behind. We hit it hard at the start and separated with the the lead group,” the winner added.

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The second lap saw the leading trio form an impressive group with Andrew L’Esperance, Cole Paton, Lance Haidet, and Tobin Ortenblad among those in contention. That group soon began to stretch out. 

“There were maybe six or seven of us working really well together. We tried to put time on the gravel racers behind us,” Swenson said.

“Then on the climb, on the second lap I put in a little bit of a dig and only Alex and Russell could go with me. Then on the last climb I put in a really big dig and I was able to ride Russell and Alex off and was able to ride away.”

“On the course it tended to break up and there were a lot of tactics. It was a bit like road racing in a way. It was a mountain biker’s course but you had to be smart too, and have a fair bit of power. You needed to know how to go.”

The win puts Swenson top of the Life Time Series standings in the men’s category after one event. The 28-year-old is targeting the event this year, and making it his priority in 2022.

“Whiskey Off-Road will be next for me and then all eyes will be on Unbound,” he told VeloNews just before stepping onto the podium.

“I think that this series takes an all-round rider. There’s this race and then there’s Leadville and Crusher, which are all really hilly, and then there are some longer flatter ones. It’s going to take a good all-round rider to win the series. This is my big goal.”