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Park City’s Swenson riding hot streak

Christopher Kamrani , Of the Record staff

Whether he admits it or not, Keegan Swenson’s recent domination of mountain-bike competitions around the country can be traced back to a relatively disappointing performance on a road bike.

"I guess so," said Swenson when asked if his participation which was cut short in the 2010 Tour of Utah criterium on Main Street in Park City in August had anything to do with his added motivation.

"Maybe he was just so damn disappointed," said Jordon Swenson, Keegan’s father. "It was kind of after that race when he was just firing. After that, he just went from one level to another level."

Keegan Swenson, the 17-year-old mountain-biking phenom from Park City, has improved so much in just the last six months that he has received a personal invite from the head coach of the U.S. Mountain Biking Team to partake in a team camp and has qualified for both a World Cup and a World Championship race this summer.

Swenson won the Sea Otter Classic in Monterey, Calif., two weeks ago, which automatically qualified him for the mountain-biking worlds in Switzerland in September.

"He was already on the radar," said Tom Noaker, who has coached Swenson for quite some time. "Those victories pretty much cemented his position on that (U.S. Mountain Biking) team."

In late May, Swenson will head to Germany for a World Cup race, foreign territory for the junior at Park City High School.

"That’ll be my first World Cup experience," he said. "So I’m not really sure what to expect. I’m excited to race with some of those kids. I’m sure they’re fast. It’ll be a good experience."

He will be partaking in a World Cup-based camp with the U.S. squad and racing in select races in Germany prior to the World Cup race.

After that, Swenson will be a pinball in the coming summer months.

He will head to another World Cup race in Canada in early July, before traveling to Ketchum, Idaho, to participate in the 2011 U.S. Mountain Biking Nationals a week later.

Swenson said winning the Sea Otter Classic was huge in that it took pressure off him to finish high at the nationals in order to qualify for the World Championships in Switzerland.

"It’s nice to have that monkey off your back," he said. "I’m excited to go race in Switzerland."

While Swenson attributes his 2011 streak to the right training, his father said his son has the correct mindset to go as far as he wants to.

"He’s still that way," the elder Swenson said of his son’s intense focus. "He’s kind of stoic in that respect. He takes (races) and he’s so focused and looks at what he needs to do know.

"That’s the way he’s geared and that’s the way his mind functions. He’s never boasting; it’s pretty remarkable."

Near the end of February, Swenson was in a pro race on mountains near to San Diego, Calif. A severe cold front moved in, dropping four inches of snow on the racers, who were mainly based out of Southern California.

"He just cleaned their clocks. It was pretty amazing," Jordon Swenson said. "For some reason, he’s got this mind that allows him to focus on what he needs to do. That’s amazing, especially for a 17-year-old teenager."

Both father and son said racing in Europe is an entirely different beast.

"It’s (going to be) nice to be able to race with guys that are faster, so I can become faster," Keegan said. "It just pushes me to pace faster compared to if I was racing against juniors."

Added Jordon Swenson: "I know deep inside, he’s totally excited. No doubt about it. There’s the potential to be 50 Keegans over there he’s racing against."

He has been racing in the Intermountain Series this year and has been regularly defeating pro riders.

"He’s racing the fastest guys in the state, definitely," Noaker said. "And he’s winning. That’s kind of his trajectory at his moment."

Jordon Swenson said he’s intrigued to see how his son handles the rigors of continual worldwide travel over the course of a few months and knows the U.S. coaching staff is eager to see how he handles it as well.

"One of the reasons the U.S. team takes him over there is to see how he breaks down," he said. "So next time they go it won’t be so awe-inspiring. When the time comes, if he keeps wanting to do this, flying back and forth to go to World Cup won’t be a problem."

The elder Swenson looked back to Keegan’s displeasure after the criterium at the Tour of Utah as the root of his son’s national possibly soon-to-be worldwide mountain-biking ascendancy.

"It’s been incredible watching his improvement," he said. "Basically ever since that race on Main Street, from there on out, he just went on a tear."

For those interested on following Swenson’s globetrotting, he has two blogs he posts on after each race: http://www.iamspecialized.com and http://www.mtbracenews.com .


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