Keegan Swenson finds redemption with repeat at nationals | ParkRecord.com
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Keegan Swenson finds redemption with repeat at nationals

Swenson won by two-and-a-half minutes

Keegan Swenson stands at the top of the podium after winning back-to-back cross-country gold medals. The race came just a month after Swenson missed the cut for the Olympics.
Courtesy of USA Cycling/Dejan Smaic

A month after being left off the U.S. Olympic mountain biking team, Park City rider Keegan Swenson knew he had something to prove at this year’s cross-country national championship in Winter Park, Colorado. With a chip on his shoulder the size of a boulder, Swenson raced like a man possessed, finishing in first place with a time of 1:22:14, two minutes and 31 seconds ahead of runner-up Stephan Davoust.

The victory made it back-to-back national championships for the 27-year-old. Swenson followed that up by winning the short track race the next day. There’s no doubt that the Olympics snub motivated Swenson not only to win, but to dominate.

“I wanted to go in and not just win by a little bit, but win by quite a bit,” Swenson said. “That was definitely the goal. You know, just to have that little bit of fire going into it is nice, a little bit of extra motivation.”



Swenson added that there was some extra anxiety in the field because the race was on the shorter end. It consisted of just four laps, giving every rider a little less time to make moves. Swenson was feeling like his legs were more than ready after one lap, so he decided to push the pace early.

“You could tell there’s more tension this time just because there was less time to get it done,” he said.



Heading into the last lap of the race, Swenson estimated that his lead was more than a minute. He continued to keep his foot on the gas while still trying to be cautious as to avoid a crash. Swenson made a clean run through the rest of the course and crossed the finish line with plenty of time to spare. Park City rider Evelyn Dong finished fifth in the women’s race, while fellow Parkite Grant Simonds finished in 40th in the men’s race.

“I still felt good, so I kept kind of turning the screws and riding my pace,” Swenson said. “There’s still a lot that can happen, like I could have flatted the last descent or maybe I crash or maybe something goes wrong. It’s kind of nice to build up that buffer if you feel good on the climb in order just to have a little extra time to play with because you never know.”

Aside from World Cup races, the national championships are virtually circled on Swenson’s calendar. He came in with all of the pressure of being the national champion and wearing the No. 1 bib and secured another victory.

“It’s awesome to be able to defend,” Swenson said. “There’s a lot of pressure with the No. 1 plate, so I think it’s pretty awesome to be able to defend that title and be able to wear the stars and stripes for another year.”

 


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