LAGUNA SECA, California (April 22, 2023) — Sofia Gómez Villafañe and Keegan Swenson rode to first place finishes at the Sea Otter Classic Fuego XL cross country mountain bike race, the opening round of the Life Time Grand Prix. Swenson is the reigning series champion and won at the Sea Otter Classic last year, while Gómez Villafañe, who placed second in the overall and at the Sea Otter Classic last year, kicked off the series with top points.
In the women’s race, a group of five racers crossed through lap one together, but that group got whittled down to just Gómez Villafañe, Vera Looser and Alexis Skarda after Erin Huck and Hannah Otto dropped off. After a long day of solo riding, Haley Smith caught the group of three with just four miles to go. Gómez Villafañe attacked on the final climb back to Laguna Seca and crossed the line solo. Skarda placed second with Looser in third and Smith in fourth.
“At some point I wanted to do an attack, and I felt that last pitch was probably my best chance to go,” Gómez Villafañe said. “I dug in pretty deep today to get the win. I’m lucky number 13 and it turns out it wasn’t so unlucky for me.”
In the men’s race, a group of seven racers stayed together through the first lap before riders began dropping off the back as the race heated up during the second lap. Swenson and Russell Finsterwald dropped Christopher Blevins in the closing kilometers of the race and rode onto the Laguna Seca racetrack together before Swenson sprinted to the line ahead of his friend and rival. Former short track cross country World Champion Christopher Blevins placed third.
“I think there was a bit of pressure on myself to win this race, I mean I won it last year,” Swenson said at the finish. “It’s a good way to start off the series, start off with the lead, and that takes pressure off the next few races.”
The racers took on the 100 kilometers of fast fire roads, flowy singletrack and tough climbs in the Fort Ord National Monument with the race starting and ending on the Laguna Seca Raceway track. The course featured over 8,000 feet of climbing to kick off the North American off-road cycling calendar in earnest.
Women’s Race Results
|Sofia Gómez Villafañe
|Heber City, Utah
|Grand Junction, Colo.
Men’s Race Results
|Heber City, Utah
|Colorado Springs, Colo.
|San Jose, Cali.