Swenson aiming to defend Point 2 Point title | ParkRecord.com

Swenson aiming to defend Point 2 Point title

Men’s field expected to be one of the toughest ever

By Griffin Adams
The Park Record

Parkite Keegan Swenson is no stranger to success in the cycling world.

He's secured national titles in the U23 and Junior fields early in his career, and most recently, he claimed second place in USA Cycling's Pro XCT 2017 tour. Because of this efforts, Swenson was invited by USA Cycling to take a roster spot on the World Championships team, a dream for most aspiring cyclists.

However, Swenson turned down the offer to join Team USA to compete in the annual Park City Point 2 Point on Saturday morning.

"It was a pretty tough decision to turn down the Worlds Team selection, but given that we are still a few years off from the 2020 Olympics, UCI points are not as big of a deal this year, so I decided to hang around to defend my P2P title," Swenson said.

Swenson, who participated in the race for the first time in 2016, won last year's event in record fashion, finishing the race in 6 hours, 16 minutes and 31.0 seconds. Though he'll certainly miss riding with some of his national teammates, Swenson said, he's looking forward to defending his title at home.

"I’m pretty excited to be lining up for the P2P again," Swenson said. "I had a lot of fun last year racing it for my first time. It is one of the bigger endurance events around and being able to line up just a few minutes away from the house I grew up in is pretty awesome."

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However, earning the top spot on the podium will be easier said than done. Race Director Jay Burke said this year's Open men's field boasts some of the fiercest competition the event has seen in recent years.

"[Swenson] definitely is going to have his work cut out for him," Burke said. "We have three-time Olympian from Canada, Geoff Kubush, arguably one of the greatest cross-country racers of all time, worldwide. And then we have Tom Wells, who has similar credentials; American, multi-time Olympian, national champion. Then you throw Alex Grant into the mix. He's won this thing six times, super healthy.

"This is, quite easily, the most prolific male open class we've ever seen in Point 2 Point. And it goes way deeper than that."

The women's field is also expected to be a tight race, with local Evelyn Dong to be vying for the title.

The event, now in its ninth year, will run very similar to years past. The race will have roughly a 12,000-foot elevation gain throughout the race, and is 90 percent single track, one of the biggest draws, said Burke.

However, one change that will be coming to the event this year is the finish. Since its origin, the Point 2 Point ended at Canyons Village, but that will move to Kimball Junction in front of the Skullcandy headquarters for 2017.

"It's just kind of elongating and spreading out the race more," Burke said. "It's a good finish. I think it's better than what we had previously. … It's a good place to be out there to be able to have more space. It's going to be great. We're excited about it."

With the race being spread out and taking place throughout Park City's vast trail system, people hoping to watch can sometimes have a difficult time doing so. Burke said that two spots he thinks spectators will have their best chance of catching some of the action are at the bottom of the First Time lift at Park City Mountain (around 11 a.m.) and then, of course, the finish at Skullcandy.

Burke expects the leaders to finish around the same time that Swenson finished last year, but maybe even faster.

"As far as course length and climbing, most things are pretty much right on," Burke said. "I really look for times to be pretty similar. I think by the nature of the competition this year, it might be a little faster than six hours."

As for Swenson, he wants to defend his title, but he's mostly excited about lining up with some of the best competition this event has to offer.

"I wouldn’t say there is a ton of pressure," Swenson said. "Of course, I’d always like to win, but there are some fast guys racing this year. It's a long race so anything can happen."

Saturday's race is scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. from the Quinn's Junction Recreation Complex in Round Valley. The average time on course is roughly 7.5 to 8 hours.

Sidebar: Because the Park City Point 2 Point occupies much of the trails in town, Mountain Trails' executive director Charlie Sturgis recommends to typical trail-users to simply be respectful. It'll be tough to find trails that won't be occupied at some point, Sturgis said, but as long as users are aware the race is going on, all should be fine. Sturgis also suggests heading up to trails the race won't take place on, such as the Glenwild Trails or the Wastach Crest Trail. For course info, visit thepcpp.com.