With victory, Park City racer Keegan Swenson defends Point 2 Point title
Swenson edges out Wells in endurance race
Last year was local rider Keegan Swenson’s first time riding the Park City Point 2 Point mountain bike race.
He won and set a new course record. On Monday, Swenson joined the lineup again to defend his title and finished in 6 hours, 6 minutes, 57.3 seconds – another course record.
But it wasn’t without a fight. He and Todd Wells, a national cross country mountain biking champion many times over, rode in close competition through the entirety of the race, and Swenson only edged Wells out in a sprint over the final few meters of the 75-mile race.
According to Swenson, a group of eight or 10 racers broke away within the first hours, and by three and a half hours into the race, only Swenson, Wells and Geoff Kabush, an Olympic-level Canadian racer were left. The conditions were silty, loose, and temperature climbed into the 80s. But the racers kept their pace. He, Wells and Kabush continued in close competition until Kabush’s tire burst on the Crescent Mine Grade trail.
To Swenson, the race is “an anomaly” in terms of its distance. He usually rides much shorter races — 3-4 hours for longer races. In fact, he had opted out of a World Championships race in Australia with the U.S. National team to race Point 2 Point, but in an interview on Monday, it didn’t sound like a tough choice.
“Because we are still a couple years from the next Olympics, I wanted to stay home,” he said. “It was just kind of a personal decision I thought was best.”
The course was familiar to Swenson – last year he had scouted it extensively in addition to his years of experience as a local rider. The only surprise this year was a moose that lumbered by John’s Trail near Park City Mountain Resort. The distance of the race gave him time to think, and Wells said he spent the last two hours of the race trying to find a way to lose Wells, a larger-than-life figure that Swenson listed as his hero on his USA Cycling Profile.
Swenson had grown up watching Wells race, but he had, over his career, raced against Wells many times. For Swenson, there was nothing sentimental about it; he had a race to win.
“It was kind of hard,” Swenson said. “There were still two hours left in the race and none of us wanted to really go, none of us could go too much harder than the other, so we just kept a solid pace.”
Swenson said he didn’t know how it would play out.
“In the last couple hours, I thought a lot about how to beat him and I couldn’t really think of anything other than the sprint,” he said.
He tried to lose Wells down the final descent. It was rocky and pinched with switchbacks, but Wells stuck close and passed Swenson going into the final stretch toward Kimball Junction and Skull Candy headquarters.
Swenson stayed close to Wells, drafting him for the last 200 meters of the race before pushing out for a last-second head-to-head sprint, winning by .4 seconds.
The proverbial icing on the cake was that by winning, Swenson kept the title among Utah cyclists.
“It’s definitely a pretty important race considering it’s local,” he said. “It’s important to do well on your home turf.”
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