By Shannon Boffeli
Utah State Championship Series Race #1, Lambert Park, Utah, April 23, 2011
April 23rd marked the beginning of a new mountain bike race series in Utah, the Utah State Championship Series (USCS). If the race was any indication the USCS will quickly become a major player in local MTB events.
Despite being the first event, the race, in Lambert Park, went off like clockwork. After the finish, all participants raved about the great course and exciting race atmosphere.
The pro event started at 12:30, with the weather holding off just long enough for a dry race. The men started first and got things going quickly as Kuhl rider Kevin Day charged off the line and into the lead on the opening climb. Day was quickly over taken by Bryson Perry (Lifetime Fitness), Alex Grant (Cannondale), and Keegan Swenson (Whole Athlete/Specialized) and it didn’t take long for the turbo-charged trio to open up a gap on the demanding Rodeo downhill.
Just behind, a chase group of talented riders lined up including Nick Fisher (Rooster’s), Jason Sager (Jamis), and Chris Holley (Trek 29er Crew).
The short course XC format favored those riders with early season high-end fitness and lead group had plenty. The group of three never let off the gas and held the chasers off for the duration of the hour-long event.
On the third of four laps Grant surged ahead before the Rodeo descent and pushed the limits in the tight singletrack. The attack dislodged Perry from the group and briefly undid Swenson.
The Cannondale rider said after the race, “I opened it up a bit on the rocky downhill and got a gap but Keegan was hooking up really well in the swoopy, loose stuff later in the lap and he closed it up in there.”
Perry did his best to stay close but the leaders were now out of reach. On the final lap Grant again opened it up on the more technical descent but not enough to keep the 17-year old XC national champion from reeling him back in.
Grant still held the lead and tried everything to create a gap without success. Swenson was pasted to Grant’s rear wheel as the two exited the singletrack and prepared for the uphill finishing sprint.
Only one last bump remained between Grant and the final paved section leading to the finish line and on that bump the Cannondale rider’s foot slipped from his pedal. In that instant Swenson was able to take over the lead. While Grant was able to recover and contend for the win he couldn’t bring the youngster back.
By mere seconds, Keegan Swenson took the win in with Grant just behind.
Bryson Perry rolled in for a well-deserved third place followed by Jason Sager.
Nick Fisher had an inspired ride to take 5th.
The women had an equally exciting showdown with Sarah Kaufmann (Elete Electrolytes) and Kelsy Bingham (Jamis) who have been battling it out on the national scene going up against Utah stalwart KC Holley (Trek 29er Crew).
This time it was Bingham taking the early lead before the descent that left Kaufmann all over her rear end.
That didn’t last long as Bingham’s read end proved to be her undoing. Before she finished the opening lap the Jamis riders rear skewer had come undone and her wheel was beginning to come out.
By the time she diagnosed the problem Kaufmann and Holley had moved on.
Now out front, with a clear line of sight, Kaufmann used her expert descending skills to shred the Lambert Park course. Attacking the descents and powering through the rocks the Elete rider moved well out front.
After 4 laps, Kaufmann took the win with a time better than most of the expert men.
Holley rode a strong and consistent race holding off Bingham and securing the second step on the podium. Kelsy Bingham took third.
Swenson and Kaufmann now lead the Utah State Championship Series and are in the driver’s seat for the series win in August.
Riders will face off again for the second round of the USCS on June 25th in Park City, UT. The traditional length XC event will take place in Round Valley and feature some of the areas best high-speed flowing singletrack.
USCS officials paid 8 riders deep in the pro men's field and all three pro women went home with cash in hand. Checks also went to the fastest overall sport and expert finishers both male and female
For more information and full results from the event go to www.raceuscs.com
1, Keegan Swenson (Whole Athlete/Specialized)
2, Alex Grant (Cannondale)
3, Bryson Perry (Lifetime Fitness)
4, Jason Sager (Jamis)
5, Nick Fisher (Rooster's)
6, Chris Holley (Trek 29er Crew)
7, Kevin Day (Kuhl)
8, Brent Pontius (Rooster's)
9, Geoffrey Montague
10, Alex Rock
11, Quinn Bingham
12, Blake Zumbrunnen (Kuhl)
13, Ryan Krusemark (Kuhl)
1, Sarah Kaufmann (Elete Electrolytes)
2, KC Holley (Trek 29er Crew)
3, Kelsy Bingham (Jamis)