Keegan Swenson successfully defended his title at Leadville Trail 100 MTB on Saturday. He crushed his winning time from 2021 by 11 minutes, sealing his 2022 victory in 6 hours plus one second.
John Gaston took second 48 seconds in front of Howard Grotts. Alexey Vermeulen rolled across the line another 43 seconds later in fourth, well ahead of Cole Paton. Morton, who was second last year, finished sixth.
Swenson leads the men’s standings of the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda, where he added to his lead over second-placed Russell Finsterwald and third-placed Vermeulen. Finsterwald's two-point margin over Vermeulen was in jeopardy as he finished ninth at Leadville, the fourth of six events that comprise the series.
“We had a big group rolling out from Pipeline and everyone worked quite well together,” Swenson said. “Going up Columbine, it was Howard Grotts, Alexey Vermuelen and myself, and then halfway up I slowly pulled away from those guys, rode at my own pace and rode smart.”
The Leadville Trail 100 MTB covers 104 miles of high-elevation, off-road terrain that starts at 10,152 feet in the Rocky Mountains, with a mix of rough forest service roads, double and single track dirt tracks. The route tops out at 12,424 feet at Columbine Mine on the out-and-back course, and racks up a total of 13,129-feet of elevation gain at the high altitudes.
All of the top men’s finishers had no issues with the high elevation, as four of the top six in the men’s race live and train in Colorado, Swenson based on the other side of the Rocky Mountains in Utah and Paton from Washington state.
How it unfolded
In the first hour of racing, Swenson was in a pack that included Finsterwald, Todd Wells, Gaston, Grotts, Matthew Beers. Just 15 seconds back were Alex Howes, Paton, Vermeulen, Eli Kranefuss and Lance Haidet. Keeping the lead packs in sight were another group with Peter Stetina, riding 15th overall, in a line that included Cory Wallace, Stephan Davoust, Ian Lopez de San Roman and Truman Glasgow.
On a single-track section 34 miles into the race, outbound to Twin Lakes, Patton and three-time Leadville winner Todd Wells formed a tandem at the front, trailed only 10 seconds back by Vermeulen, Howes, Gaston, Swenson, Finsterwald, Grotts, Haidet and Beers. It was then the duo of Wallace and Stetina another minute back.
Headed to the Columbine climb, Swenson had three minutes over Grotts, and another 4 and a half minutes on Vermeulen and Paton. And it was Swenson who crested the high alpine climb alone in the lead.
On the return leg to Twin Lakes, Swenson had extended his lead to five minutes and then to close to eight minutes as the finish line loomed just under 25 miles ahead. John Gaston was part of the main chase group, along with Vermeulen, Grotts and Patton. Lachlan Morton had worked his way up the ranks and was in sixth place, a little more than three minutes out of the main chase group, and another minute and a half back were Beers, Stetina and Haidet.
Around the far side of Turquoise Lake to Carter Summit, it was all Swenson. He extended his lead to 12 minutes over the chase group of Grotts, Gaston and Vermeulen, who saw Paton drop out of contention and hold off a charging Morton, who was just one minute behind him looking to take over fifth place.
|Pos.||Rider Name (Country) Team||Result|
|1||Keegan Swenson (USA)||6:00:01|
|2||John Gaston (USA)||0:14:30|
|3||Howard Grotts (USA)||0:15:18|
|4||Alexey Vermeulen (USA)||0:16:01|
|5||Cole Patton (USA)||0:20:14|
|6||Lachlan Morton (AUS)||0:24:08|
|7||Matthew Beers (RSA)||0:28:04|
|8||Peter Stetina (USA)|
|9||Russell Finsterwald (USA)||0:29:27|
|10||Rob Britton (CAN)||0:30:09|
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