Midway racers Dong, Swenson and Gomez-Villafane successful at Soldier Hollow Pro XCT
Summit Bike Club, a nonprofit based in Salt Lake City, hosted the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT Mountain Bike Races last Saturday, May 5, and Sunday, May 6, at Soldier Hollow. The race, only in its second year, is one of the most important professional cross-country mountain bike rides in the U.S., with only two other American races providing more points under the Union of International Cyclists – the world’s governing body of competitive cycling.
The event used a short track race on Saturday to determine the starting order of the first 16 racers in the next day’s cross-country race. According to MJ Turner, race director and president of Summit Bike Club, the short track race is the only one in North America that provides UCI points, replicating the new race format that world cups have adopted this year.
In addition to professional cyclists, the races served competitors in age-group races down to age 15 and drew nearly 375 participants, coming from around the U.S. as well as Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Switzerland.
Utah racers were well represented on the leaderboards despite the strong competition, with Midway-based athletes Evelyn Dong, Sofia Gomez-Villafane and Keegan Swenson all earning spots in the top five for the point-lucrative cross-country race.
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Dong took second in the cross-country race and fourth in the short track, while Gomez-Villafane finished second in the short track and third in the cross-country. Though Dong also took second in the cross-country race last year, she said this year’s was more satisfying, considering the high level of competition.
Dong will race in the Grand Junction Off-Road in Colorado, which is a U.S. Epic Rides race – a series separate from the UCI which doesn’t contribute to international rankings, but has the advantage of large payouts for winners.
The $600 Dong won for taking second on Sunday will be reinvested in her travel expenses for other races, though the athlete, who is 32, said she hasn’t set any specific goals for how she wants those races to pan out.
“I’ve kind of taken a step back from setting goals,” she said. “Goals work great for some athletes, and I think that’s awesome, but I kind of just ride as hard as I can at the races and have fun in training, and that’s all I ask for now.”
Swenson took 18th in the short track and second in the cross-country race.
He said the cross-country race, which carries more weight in UCI rankings, started in the wind. Swiss racer Nicola Rohrbach took a large lead of about a minute and 15 seconds in the second lap. Swenson and U.S. racers Ryan Standish and Russel Finsterwald started narrowing Rohrbach’s lead over the next two laps, until Swenson made a break for Rohrbach in the last lap.
“We were able to cut about 40 seconds off his lead; we just ran out of time,” Swenson said.
Swenson also recently raced at the Whiskey Off-Road, an Epic Rides race in Prescott, Arizona, where he passed last year’s winner, Howard Grotts, in the last kilometer of the race to win by a fraction of a second.
This year Swenson is hoping to earn a top-20 finish at a world cup race and win the national championships in July. He will compete in world cup races in Albstadt, Germany, and Nové Město na Moravě, Czech Republic, after which the point cycle leading up to the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games will begin.
Ultimately, Swenson hopes to make the national team, which sent just a single rider to Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
Currently, Grotts, Chris Blevins and Swenson lead the nation in UCI points.
For a list of results from the Soldier Hollow Pro XCT, go to summitbikeclub.org
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It’s going to be at least another month before Summit County’s high school athletes have any chance of getting onto the field again.