Mountain

Keegan Swenson to ride with a new Santa Cruz Bicycles cross-country program in 2021

The American cross-country champ has a new program after the disbandment of the Stan's-Pivot Pro Team, with Tokyo still his number one goal.

For Keegan Swenson, the road to Tokyo is aboard a Santa Cruz mountain bike bedecked with SRAM, RockShox, and Maxxis parts. He’ll be in Rapha kit for the ride.

Beyond that, Swenson told VeloNews, more details are to come.

The cross-country national champion’s new program was announced after his former Stan’s-Pivot Pro Team was shuttered in late December. Swenson said the parting was amicable.

“It was a great team for a few years,” he said. “I had a lot of fun and won a lot of races with them, so all is good. Chloe [Woodruff] did a great job running the team. She gave us plenty of notice and gave me plenty of time to put together this new thing. I’m grateful for the support and excited for a change.”

Swenson is also excited to be racing in 2021, after a summer of fits and starts — and FKTs and Everestings — in 2020. The Park City, Utah – based rider is currently training in Tucson, with hopes, albeit not high ones, to begin his calendar in early March at the U.S. Cup in Vail Lake, California.

“I feel like that one has a 50 percent chance of happening,” he said. “You can’t really plan on anything that early, but I think in April may we have a good chance of racing. I think they’re learning how to make events safe and happen regardless of who’s vaccinated or not.”

Swenson then hopes to travel to Puerto Rico for the C1 Tropical Mountain Bike Challenge and the American Continental championships on March 24.

After that, it’s back to the mainland for a few weekends of USA Cycling’s Pro XCT series in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

“I’m really excited about those,” Swenson said. “There are great trails there, and they’ve gone a great job with the Epic Rides series in the past.”

Then, if all goes according to plan, Swenson will head to Europe in early May for the first XCO World Cup of the season in Albstadt, Germany.

Swenson was one of the few members of Team USA who made the trip to Europe late last summer for the barely-resurrected World Cup races. He’s more hopeful that 2021’s calendar will resemble something more traditional, rather than last year’s two back-to-back races in Nové Město, Czech Republic.

But the most important date looming on Swenson’s horizon is July 23, the start of the rescheduled Olympic Games. When we spoke on Saturday, Swenson said he was confident that the games would go on; however a recent surge in COVID-19 cases prompted the Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga to declare a state of emergency for Tokyo on Thursday. The emergency order will remain in effect until the first week of February.

“I’m pretty optimistic it will happen this time around,” Swenson said. “I think having a whole year to plan – they’ll have multiple scenarios, whether people have had the vaccine or not. I’m sure there will be quarantine options, and whether or not they have spectators or not, I don’t know. But I think it will happen.”

Swenson doesn’t have an official “Plan B” for 2021 should racing resemble the haphazard puzzle that came together late last year. However, he’s not ruling anything out, and he hinted at a late-winter trip back to Moab to reclaim his FKT on the White Rim Trail. Another go at Everesting, on the other hand  . . .

“I think I’d have to be coaxed into that,” he said.

Swenson also dipped his toe into gravel last year, winning the inaugural Belgian Waffle Ride Cedar City in October. Depending on how the COVID-19 situation affects racing this year, he’s not ruling out more dirt road races in his life.

“I just have to see how they fit in with the main goal of Tokyo,” he said. “But after that, I’d like to do whatever’s left on the calendar. I had a lot of fun at BWR. I would love to try and do more of those, maybe Unbound. My primary focus is World Cups and whatnot this spring, but gravel is fun and I’d like to do more of it.”