Keegan Swenson recently kicked off his second year of racing with the Cannondale Factory Racing team at an event in Cyprus. Having just graduated from the junior ranks, 2013 is his first year as a pro, and the Utah resident is embracing the transition. He will spend much of 2013 focusing on racing the U23 cross country World Cups.
"Last year was a good year for me. I won nationals and got a top five at worlds. I got a few podiums at World Cups," said the US cross country junior national champion to Cyclingnews at a recent team camp in Finale Ligure, Italy.
Swenson credited his excellent 2012 season, both in the US and abroad, to several factors. "Consistent training helped, and coming over here [to Europe] and racing helped the most. It's important to get the feel of how the races works. If you don't, you won't do as well. It's just different - more aggressive and faster."
The young pro further compared racing in the US and at the elite level European races.
"The courses in Europe are completely different than in the States," he said. "The climbs aren't as long and tend to be more roll-y. The courses are more technical, with more wet rocks and roots. In the States, the courses are more mellow. I kind of wish the courses in the States were more like that so you could race on them and then race better over in Europe."
Last season, Swenson helped his results by focusing on getting a good position off the line.
"The main thing for me was my starts. I was lacking there and I worked on those," he said. "I realized that if I could have good starts, I'd already be at the front, and then I wouldn't have to work my way back up to the front."
Swenson hopes his practice with starts will pay off when he lines up with the U23s. As a first-year U23, he starts over on UCI points and will have work his way up into a better start line position at World Cups.
"I'll be starting farther back in the U23 races, so fast starts will be important."
Finished with high school, Swenson is taking advantage of his freedom by training more and moving with his Cannondale Factory Teammate Anton Cooper of New Zealand to Stuttgart, Germany for part of the season.
"I'll spend all of May and June over here in Europe racing all the World Cups and doing some German national series, Italian national series and Swiss Cups together," he said.
The future roommates just met and were getting to know each other the Cannondale Factory Racing team camp in Finale Ligure, Italy, last week. Both riders have a lot in common.
"We're about the same age and both speak English." They are also both making the transition to the U23 ranks from the junior ranks.