Race Report: Keegan Swenson & Alexis Skarda Win at Epic Rides Whiskey Off-Road in Arizona

May 2, 2022 at 13:56
by Epic Rides  
Pro Women roll out for 20 minutes plus three laps in front of a packed beer garden on the town square.

Words and Photos by Eddie Clark

Everyone is in agreement, it's so good to have the Whiskey Off-Road back in Prescott, Arizona! After being temporarily on hold, mountain bikers, kids and fans were stoked to return to Prescott for the racing, 200+ miles of readily accessible trails, vendor booths and demos, free concerts, beer gardens and of course, Whiskey Row. For pro mountain bike racers, a $32,000 cash purse was up for the taking with a El Yucateco Hot Sauce Fat Tire Crit in downtown Prescott on Friday evening and then a 48 mile backcountry loop offering up 6,500 feet of climbing and plenty of choice singletrack the next day.

Previous Pro Women's Champion, Rose Grant sporting the number 1 plate from the last edition of the Whiskey Off-Road that ran in 2019.

It was a great evening to watch some bike racing in downtown Prescott.

Prescott local and multi-time National Champion, Chloe Woodruff, led the race in the early part of the Fat Tire Crit.

Alexis Skarda hits the afterburners with a massive attack a few laps into the race that would see her finish firmly in 1st place.

The lead women chase furiously to bring back Skarda.

Alexis Skarda blew the women's race up and turned the El Yucateco Hot Sauce Fat Tire crit into her own personal time trial in a foreshadowing of what could be expected for the Backcountry Race.

A whole lot of horsepower and practically all of the fastest mountain bike racers in North America minus one current World Short Track Champion.

Russell Finsterwald has a go at the front.

Stephan Davoust taking the people's prime.

Swenson covering yet another attack during the fat tire crit.

More impressive riding by Keegan Swenson in the Fat Tire Crit.

Ryan Standish races in jorts and goes fast.

Keegan Swenson claimed the win that he took by attacking the big climb on the last lap.

The Kaolin Cummins ceremoniously starts the race by running the Stars and Stripes before the crowd for an early 7am start.

After a short jaunt down Whiskey Row, the Pro Men take a right turn with a moto escort out of town for a 1,000 foot climb over the next 5 miles.

Keegan Swenson blasts the creek crossing as he leads the Pro Men.

Andrew L'Esperance riding in third place.

Lead pro women about to cross Aspen Creek.

Alexis Skarda rides in second with Sofia Gomez Villafane leading the Pro Women on the Aspen Creek Trail.

Rose Grant, Evelyn Dong, Katerina Nash and Hanna Otto on the Aspen Creek Trail.

By mile 13, Keegan had already established a 45 second lead.

Fortunately for Russell Finsterwald and everyone else, the winds were favorable on race day so that the 9,000-acre Crook forest fire in the mountains to the south did not blanket the venue with smoke as it had intermittently earlier in the week.

Rafael Escarcega on the Copper Creek climb.

Lead Pro Women Skarda, Grant and Villa Fane climb together up along Copper Creek.

Sofia Gomez Villa Fane takes a big swig of water before she drops into the long fast downhill for the out-and-back portion going into Copper Basin. Alexis Skarda and Rose Grant, also pictured, stayed glued to her wheel early on before racing to finish in 1st and 2nd while Villa Fane finished 6th.

Katerina Nash and Evelyn Dong trailed the leading women by roughly 30 seconds as they crested the second big climb of the day at mile 13.

Keegan Swenson was pretty much untouchable on the day and grew his lead over Finsty (Russel Finsterwald) as the miles ticked by to claim his 3rd consecutive win in the Whiskey Backcountry race.

Kyle Trudeau leads Andrew L'Esperance and Rafael Escarcega at the mid race point on Siera Prietta. The trio would respectively finish in 4th, 3rd and 8th.

Wiley race veteran Geoff Kabush worked his way up to 5th place for another podium at the Whiskey Off-Road.

US Marathon National Champion, Stephan Davoust and teamate Lukas Vrouwenvelder pair up to chase the top 5 at the entrance to the Siera Prietta singletrack. A flat early in the race on the Aspen Creek trail put Davoust on his back foot and chasing for the remainder of the race. Vrouwenvelder and Davoust took 6th and 7th, just off the podium but still in the money.

It wouldn't be a proper Whiskey Off-Road aid station without the whiskey!

30 minutes after the pro racers started, waves of amateurs each departed to tackle the 50 and 30 Proof races for a combined total of nearly 2,000 participants!

Keegan Swenson rolls into the Backcountry Race finish with a winning time of 3:15:14.

Alexis Skarda claims the Pro Women's Backcountry Race victory with a time of 3:55:01.

Skarda had a dicey run-in with a big cactus early in the race.

Phoenix-based rock band The Maine put on a stellar performance as the closing act for the free concerts on Saturday.

Full results here.


  • 15 0
 Standish in jorts, that's all I came here for
  • 2 0
 hell yea he is
  • 8 0
 Agreed. Bike checks for Crit and Trail race setups please.
  • 8 0
 Spoiler alert, Swenson wins every domestic race he signs up for this year.
  • 8 0
 Any bike checks?
  • 10 0
 I want tire checks. very curious about the 29er crit tires.
  • 3 0
 @hellanorcal: 700c is 29. I run 700x40 Maxxis tires on old school tubless "29r" Shimano wheels. Plenty of fat slick 700 tires out these days.
  • 1 0
 @Maslin02: yeah I was thinking with the rise of gravel bikes, the number of tire options for this type of race must be way better now than a few years ago.
  • 4 0
 Epic & the city of "Preskitt" did an amazing job and pulled off a truly EPIC event! Well organized and the city really embraced the racers and event. The Crazy Bear Bikes Team from CA will be back next year!
  • 3 0
 Haha - you identified the fastest way to get chased out of "Press-kitt." Say "Pres-scott" and you'll end up in the Yavapai Co. pillory.
  • 3 0
 Great event. Did the 30 proof and the whole operation is second to none. You get some crowded sections on the singletrack but they did a great job staggering the starts this go round.
  • 5 0
 Skarda is an animal. Or maybe some Bloodletting is the new doping.
  • 2 0
 I liked Prescott when I visited earlier this year, now I like it even more.
  • 2 0
 Anyone know if the green blur is a team specific color or the new 2023 color?
  • 3 0
 Seeing a LOT of good lookin' gloves in these photos
  • 1 0
 I'm partial to Lightning Bolts myself Wink
  • 1 0
 What are these skinny tires?
  • 7 0
 I would hazard you have to do both events (Crit and XC) on same bike.
  • 1 0
 @superkeen: hahaha fly me out!
  • 1 0
 Good to see equal prizes for men and women, although not much cash haha
  • 1 0
 $30k paid 12 deep in a single day. Not sure there is a bigger single day cash payout
  • 1 0
 green blur makes me horny

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