Swenson & Villafañe Crowned El Campeons de Fuego at Sea Otter

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2024 Series gets off to a flyer with the Fuego XL 100k at the Life Time Sea Otter Classic presented by Continental

MONTEREY, California (April 19, 2024) — 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 and Sofia Gómez Villafañe 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. 

Keegan Swenson three-peats at the Sea Otter Fuego XL 100K. Photo courtesy Life Time

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

Sofia Gómez Villafañe repeats her 2023 win at the Sea Otter Fuego XL 100K. Photo courtesy Life Time

In the women’s race, Villafañe 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 Villafañe climbed Lookout Ridge for the second time she’d built a lead of almost two minutes, and that advantage only continued to grow. 

Sofia Gómez Villafañe. Photo courtesy Life Time

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 Gómez Villafañe 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.”

Click HERE (men) and HERE (women) for the full race results.

Extended highlights of the Fuego XL 100k will be available in the next 48 hours on the official Life Time Grand Prix YouTube channel

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