Keegan Swenson & Sofia Gomez Villafane Win the Fuego XL at the 2024 Sea Otter Classic

Apr 19, 2024 at 14:45
by Sarah Moore  

Elite Women

1st. Sofia Gomez Villafane 4hr, 42min, 23sec
2nd. Samara Sheppard +3min, 40sec
3rd. Hannah Otto +17sec

Women's full results here.

Elite Men

1st. Keegan Swenson 4hr, 00min, 13sec
2nd. Alexey Vermeulen + 49sec
3rd. Matthew Beers +17sec

Men's full results here.

PRESS RELEASE: Lifetime Grand Prix

History repeated itself in the opening race of the 2024 Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda, with Keegan Swenson winning his third consecutive Fuego XL 100k presented by Continental and Sofia Gomez Villafane also repeating her success of 2023.

Swenson led from the front in the men’s race, pulling away with 15 other riders before going solo in the closing stages and pressing home his advantage, crossing the line with a 49-second winning margin.

American compatriot Alexey Vermeulen battled hard to finish in second place with South African Matthew Beers a further 17 seconds back in third.

In the women’s race, Villafane proved in a class of her own. The Argentine attacked from the gun and only Alexis Skarda (United States) was able to keep pace with her on the opening lap.

That situation didn’t last long though, and by the time Villafane climbed Lookout Ridge for the second time she’d built a lead of almost two minutes, and that advantage only continued to grow.

The 29 year old flew down the descent to the finish and wrapped up an incredible win by three minutes and 40 seconds.

New Zealander Samara Sheppard, making her Life Time Grand Prix debut, finished the women’s race in second, 17 seconds ahead of an impressive Hannah Otto (United States).

Those results mean Swenson and Villafane sit at the top of the men’s and women’s overall standings on 35 points respectively, with Vermeulen and Sheppard both on 33 points, and Beers and Otto two points further behind.

Reaction from the Fuego XL 100k:

Men's winner Keegan Swenson said: "In the first race of the year you never really know where your fitness is at so it was good to have a hard and tactical race today. There was a pretty large group for the first lap and a half and not many guys were willing to do the work on the front. That meant we were fighting for the technical and singletrack sections, and it took a while for Matt [Beers], Alexey [Vermeulen] and I to create a gap and then work together for a bit. I managed to break clear from them on the descent to the final climb and then extend my lead into the finish.

"This is one of my favorite events of the year and I’ve been racing here since I was 17 years old. I have a lot of good memories and it’s always fun to come back and race in Monterey."

Women's winner Sofia Gomez Villafane said: "This is the first race of the year I’ve had where we had a separate women’s start. That gave us the opportunity to get a gauge on where everyone is and I had a good day. Last year I remember leading on the first singletrack descent and getting a gap, so I put in a big push at the top of the tarmac and build a pretty big lead again and decided to run with it.

"Alexis Skarda was able to bridge up at the end of lap one and we worked together until I felt she was hurting. I wondered if it might be too early to go but thought I’d give it a shot and I’m super-stoked to come away on the top step of the podium.

"It was 100% my decision to ride this Series again this year. I’ve already won the Grand Prix so that gave me the freedom to take some risks today and thankfully it worked out."

Kimo Seymour, Life Time Senior Vice President and President Media & Events, said: "The first round of the Life Time Grand Prix Presented by Mazda was spectacular and we couldn't have asked for a better day of racing. Conditions were perfect - it started off sunny and cool without too much wind and never got too hot for the athletes. We saw two fabulous races with Keegan and Sophia both coming out on top, which probably wasn't a surprise to anybody as they are both so well prepared, so focused and so talented, but we also saw some fantastic action further down the field. It sets us up really well for the Series ahead."

Author Info:
sarahmoore avatar

Member since Mar 30, 2011
1,390 articles

  • 16 2
 Wake up babe, new Keegan+Sofia lifetime win just dropped
  • 5 0
 Imagine the little super athlete babies they’d have
  • 5 0
 Those 13 seconds are going to live rent free in Keegan's head till next year.
  • 1 1
 not if he a swiftie
  • 1 0
 The prize money will more than pay that rent I'm pretty sure...
  • 2 0
 @Lokirides: Is it just me, or do others think the prize money is low for the level of racers that are participating in the lifetime grandprix ?

US$500 for the win at Sea Otter, and $30000 for a series win doesn’t seem alot for the amount of training these girls and guys have to do, plus travel costs etc. Especially those travelling from abroad.

Is there an appearance fee or something that is paid to athletes selected for the series ?
  • 2 0
 @Killerfox: the majority of these athletes income is not coming from prize money. First up not many of the people in the lifetime are making a "world tour" living off of the off road sense. I would say maybe less than 10 athletes are making 6 figures for those who are the majority of there income will come from name brand sponsors for example Santa Cruz for Keegan, or Red Bull for Payson, etc.

Yes the best athletes will get paid apearence fees for a lot of events they go to. That is why you see Keegan and others sometimes show up to obscure gravel events throughout the season.

Most of the athletes in these races either have second jobs or are in school or something similar. For the time being pro gravel is a great way do you entire hobby paid for but not a great way to make great money but it would be great to see it get bigger so more $$$ comes into the sport.
  • 1 0
 @ndutton: thanks for the reply. Looks like a very hard living for the international competitors.
  • 4 0
 Samara Shepherd - stomping run for 2nd on that final climb / downhill

Backing up Cape Epic form with Sofia
  • 2 0
 Did Alexis Skarda blow up? I thought she was a lock for second
  • 1 0
 According to the full results, Sharda was 4 min back.
  • 3 2
 A spoiler free headline would have been nice, we have those for other events...
  • 2 0
 Awesome result for Saffer Matt Beers. Go enjoy a cold one Beers!
  • 1 1
 Keegan just keeps winning. He needs to be a MTB Olympian with Blevins. Make it happen
  • 1 0
 He did the World Cup thing for a few years, whether it's the shorter distance or being in Europe half the year it never really worked for him. His physiology is probably better served as a World Tour road pro but again lots of time away from home.
  • 2 0
 @Henchman21: Keegan did win national champs xco distance in 2022 though, beating Blevins. Didn't race last year, I believe because it conflicted with lifetime. If we hold on to two spots, it'll go to amos since he's actually racing xco distance and contributing points, but I'd put money on Keegan being one of our fastest two
  • 1 0
 keegan also has had a huge bump in fitness from all the big weeks training for leadville
  • 1 0
 *lifetime, not just leadville
  • 2 0
 @brianb11: Keegan is very good at picking races that play to his strengths. He won 2022 primarily because he’s excellent at altitude. I think Blevins is the better XCO racer any day of the week, but not at that altitude. Also prob why Keegan didn’t race nationals in 2022.

Realistically Keegan is at most, a top 10 xco World Cup racer. Even that is a stretch, as he was solidly low mid pack on the world cups he’s raced. Which is fine; he’s the best general off-road racer in the US. His skills in a broader discipline like the lifetime Grand Prix are more impressive than being a great XCO racer (imo).

But unfortunately the Olympics are XCO, so it doesn’t make sense for him to go.
  • 2 0
 @theconorcons: totally cool that he gets to pick the MTB career path that works better for him. I also think it's cool that he has raised the profile of US based off road racing.

That being said, winning everything you enter does seem to get old, and as a result I get more stoked off a Blevins podium.
  • 1 0
 Glad to see Michigan native Alexey up there on the podium. Fantastic job!

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