Keegan Swenson Is Winning Everything Right Now, Can He Win The Downieville Classic?

Jul 13, 2023 at 6:52
by Betsy Welch  
Credit Life Time

Words: Betsy Welch

The last time Keegan Swenson raced the Downieville Classic was in 2012 when he was 18-years-old. His recollection is this:

bigquotesI think I was racing for a podium spot, maybe behind Decker. I flatted before the finish in the downhill and lost some time. I think I wasn't far off a good result, though.Keegan Swenson

A quick scan of the event's results page shows that junior Swenson's memory serves pretty well: he finished eighth. Now 29, Swenson is coming back to race Downieville for the second time this weekend, although he said he always wanted to race it again. For the past decade, Swenson always seemed to have conflicts with the California event, whether it was domestic cross-country racing (when that was more of a thing) or being abroad for World Cups.

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Now, Swenson is firmly based in the U.S. — Tucson in the winter and Park City, Utah in the summer — and happens to have a free weekend in his busy racing calendar. He has also become the most dominant cyclist in the blurred-lines discipline being referred to as endurance off-road, a combination of gravel and cross-country mountain bike racing made official by the Life Time Grand Prix series that debuted last year. Swenson began to pivot toward gravel a few years ago, out of curiosity and a search for something that might put him on the podium instead of mid pack in the World Cup. He was immediately successful, winning Belgian Waffle Ride Utah in 2020 after riding more than 120 miles of rough gravel roads and singletrack without a front brake.

Then, in 2022 along came the Life Time Grand Prix, a race series launched by fitness center and event giant Life Time. The series took six races from the brand's off-road portfolio — three gravel and three XC, including the already epic Unbound Gravel and Leadville 100 MTB race — and offered up $250,000 to the ten men and women with the best results out of five races. Swenson not only won the series but he won three of the races outright and barely missed the first step of the podium at two others.

This year, Swenson has won all of the Grand Prix races thus far (Sea Otter, Unbound, and Crusher in the Tushar), as well as the Whiskey Off-Road cross-country race and the UCI XCO race at the Soldier Hollow Bike Fest. So what about Downieville, where riders vying for the all mountain title race a 26.5 mile point-to-point cross-country race with 4,500 feet of ascent and 5,700 of descent on Saturday, followed by the Downieville Downhill, which drops 5,000 vertical feet in 15 miles, on Sunday.

Can Swenson still send enough to win it?

bigquotesI think so. The descending skills haven't gone away, they're just a little rusty sometimes.Keegan Swenson

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Swenson is fresh off a win at the Crusher in the Tushar on Saturday, where he set a record for the fastest course time ever, completing the 69 mile up-and-down gravel race (some 10,000 feet of climbing) in just under four hours. The Downieville prep plan? Ride the mountain bike this week and remember how to go fast downhill. Swenson is confident going into the cross-country race and said that he'll be good enough on the downhill. It's not crazy technical, he said, more old school super D than super chunk DH. He does know, however, that the competition will be stout.

bigquotesThese guys are fast. I don't know if I could win the downhill," he said. "Steve [Davoust], Cole [Paton], Bradyn [Lange], [Christopher] Blevins — these guys are quick downhill, but I think I'm just as fast, it's just a matter of who's willing to push it.Keegan Swenson

The men's field for the all mountain title is stacked, and the stoke is high for the 25th anniversary of the event that has been on hiatus since the last edition in 2019. Davoust won that year, Geoff Kabush ( who won in 2018 ) was second, and Carl Decker, who won back in 2012, was fourth. All of them will return this year. Riders vying for the all mountain title must use the exact same bike for both races. There's a mandatory bike weigh-in and a parts check prior to both races, and the bike must weigh the same each day, or the racer is bumped from the all mountain class.

Swenson's weapon of choice is a Santa Cruz Blur TR. He'll ride a Maxxis Rekon 2.4 in the front, and the same size Rekon Race in the rear. He's got them lined with Tannus Armour inserts for increased protection and stability. Aside from the tires, inserts, and 120mm Rockshox Sid Ultimate fork, this is Swenson's typical XC rig. The all mountain race at the Downieville Classic may not be Swenson's typical race these days — he really does love gravel — but it seems unlikely that he won't win it.

Author Info:
betsywelch avatar

Member since Jul 30, 2018
13 articles

54 Comments
  • 82 1
 My money's on Dario.
  • 3 0
 Dario kicking arse over the weekend. Great job.
  • 69 1
 It's a shame Tom Pidcock is already signed up for some random race in France, this would be right up his street
  • 17 0
 He would probably win the race by 5-10 minutes.
  • 10 0
 @Garantson: pidcock vs Swenson would be brilliant
  • 28 1
 @ubqo: I think there is a zero percent chance Swenson could stay with Pidcock up the climb. Pidcock is 8th in the Tour right now, definitely would drop him with ease.
  • 4 2
 @Garantson: Perhaps, but Swenson did the World Championship road race last year and looked like he belonged there.
  • 1 1
 Pidcock is the ultimate weapon for any endurance race right now!
  • 3 0
 @ttaipina: until he bonks.
  • 1 0
 Oh, you cheeky bastard.
  • 1 0
 @opignonlibre: Just wait... everyone will bonk!
  • 43 0
 “completing the 69 mile up-and-down gravel race (some 10,000 feet of climbing) in just under four hours.“

What the actual f*ck? Basically 18mph over 69 miles with that much climbing. Unreal.
  • 12 0
 Right?!?. 300 watts average for 4 hours. No biggie. head explodes>
  • 29 0
 Downieville...before "downcountry" was a thing.
  • 27 0
 Aka mountain biking.
  • 24 0
 Only if he can beat me (and the 899 racers faster than me).
  • 9 0
 I raced crusher last week… it’s brutal as hell- wahoo said avg temp on the last 5000ft climb was 102°. Incredible Keegan finished in under 4 hours
  • 1 0
 That was an awful bit of bad luck for the race. Usually highs in Beaver are mid 90s at most.
  • 6 0
 Keegan can win if he doesn’t flat.
Going to be hotter than hell this weekend-Trail of Tears climb will be a sufferfest.
His preride yesterday was nuts - super fast DH times on an XC bike
www.strava.com/activities/9440111472
  • 4 0
 Ah the good old days when I raced the Downieville DH as a standalone event. Climbing up to the Saddle from Sierra City (assuming that's how it still goes) is a great way to spit up chunks of lung. Good luck to all the racers and the river in town should be cranking with snowmelt for the naked drunken pixie-bike jump contest.
  • 6 0
 So, so good. Used to race it single speed. We'd ride up to Sierra City from Downieville and then begin the real climb. Young me was a boss.
  • 1 0
 @sspiff: Check out the Angry Single Speeder's classic Downieville tales including a dude who double lapped from DV on a SS
www.mtbr.com/threads/ass-does-downieville-another-classic-classic-weekend.1171133
  • 2 0
 I rode the full course - up from Sierra City and down to Dville - two weeks ago, and there were extensive snow drifts above 7k, and covering all of Sunrise. Gold Valley/babyheads was completely inaccessible. Luckily it's been hot for a week, but I would plan for wet and muddy conditions. Good luck to the racers!
  • 2 0
 Nope, it was all dug out and melted. The only wet spots are from the multiple creek crossings. NO snow. Running rough and rugged!
  • 4 0
 I used the same tires as him for a race - Win!!! LOL
  • 3 0
 Nice article, gets me interested in this race. My money is on Blevins for the overall.
  • 3 0
 He's an impressive racer to say the least!
  • 1 15
flag Garantson (Jul 13, 2023 at 10:06) (Below Threshold)
 He
  • 1 0
 I’ve been following him on Strava for a couple years now. I don’t doubt he can win with how many crazy mile rides he does. His endurance is on point.
  • 2 0
 He'll win day 1, the DH idk. Is the overalls both time added or a point system?
  • 1 0
 Victory in All Mountain/overall
3rd in DH 34 seconds behind Blevins

How about Katerina Nash with the overall and a sub 50 minute DH at 46
  • 1 0
 Obviously on Aspens though.
  • 1 0
 He's got the best mechanic around. That's all the mojo necessary
  • 3 1
 too expensive now. rip.
  • 2 0
 Agree, event prices in general have been out of control.
  • 2 1
 Do you have to use the same bike in each race? Same tires, fork,...?
  • 7 0
 Do people read the articles? "Riders vying for the all mountain title must use the exact same bike for both races. There's a mandatory bike weigh-in and a parts check prior to both races, and the bike must weigh the same each day, or the racer is bumped from the all mountain class."
  • 2 0
 Well he won day one
  • 1 0
 Keegan will do what he's been doing: whatever he wants.
  • 1 0
 Go Keegan.
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