Top-tier mountain bikers share a house, but not a schedule
Competitive mountain biking is a small world, and it doesn’t get much smaller than a single house.
Keegan Swenson, Sofia Gomez Villafane and Evelyn Dong occupy the same house in Daniel, just outside Heber City. The arrangement came about when Swenson and Gomez Villafane, who are dating, were searching for a roommate for their new residence in the Heber Valley. Dong, who has lived in many places but has come to call Utah home, was willing to move in.
The trio of competitive mountain bikers and friends say they have a good roommate dynamic. As bikers, though, they understand that storage might be a mess.
“Our garage situation, for instance, is out of control,” Dong said. “We all probably have four or five bikes each.”
While the three live together, their schedules differ so drastically that occasions when they can train together are few and far between. Still, living in an environment surrounded by fellow competitors can help keep them on track, they said.
“If I have a really hard workout and I for some reason skip it, or with my weight training, too, I have Keegan nagging me like, ‘Hey, you should go do your gym work,’ and things like that,” Gomez Villafane said. “It’s not like you’re being purposefully watched by your roommates, but we all know what we’re all doing.”
“It makes it hard to slack,” Swenson added.
A native Parkite, Swenson said he likes living in the Heber Valley because it provides a good mix of on- and off-road training opportunities, as well as being less crowded than his resort destination hometown.
“The training is more consistent, there’s more pedaling, there’s less people,” Swenson said. “If I have a really big mountain bike ride day, I’ll ride from here, up and over Empire Pass, do some mountain bike trails in Park City and then ride home.”
Dong and Gomez Villafane often find themselves riding together out of town more often than they do in it — as competitors. It doesn’t affect their friendship, though.
“We’re all friends at the end of the day,” Gomez Villafane said. “When we all line up on the start line is when we all just focus on ourselves.”
“The world’s too small to be that cutthroat,” Dong said.
Gomez Villafane said that having a competitor at a similar level like Dong close by is also an asset.
“A lot of women that are racing at the level we are, they don’t have training partners that can ride with them and train with them and do the same intensity, so in that sense we’re pretty lucky.”
They do have one friendly competitive outlet though, in the form of the Strava fitness app. Strava allows users to create profiles, track workouts and post them onto local leaderboards.
Currently, Dong is the Strava “Queen of the Mountain” on the Guardsman — 4th Switchback ride, a 1,699-foot climb up about three miles of Pine Canyon Drive.
“Sometimes we get a little competitive with that, but that’s all in good fun,” Dong said.
The life of competitive mountain bikers means that, often, Swenson, Gomez Villafane and Dong are in very different places. In the coming weeks, Swenson will find himself in Italy and Andorra for World Cup events before flying back to the USA Mountain Biking Championships in West Virginia, where Dong will be competing as well. Gomez Villafane is set to compete in the national championship in her native Argentina.
When their schedules do line up, the trio will often go somewhere to hang out with each other and their four-legged roommates, Mowgli and Wally. Even then, though, they’re athletes. They like to compete.
“There’s a nice little eddy where we can take the dogs down to and they can swim around,” Dong said. “That’s probably what we’re most competitive about. … Most of the time we’re just trying to one-up each other with our dogs.”
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Returning to Park City’s Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church on Saturday is the annual Bike and Hike fundraiser in support of the Good News Jail and Prison Ministry.