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Keegan Swenson and Sofia Gomez Villafañe win Cactus Cup MTB stage race

Cactus Cup 2021
Russell Finsterwald leads the men's field during day 2 of the 2021 Cactus Cup (Image credit: Cactus Cup via Facebook)

Keegan Swenson and Sofia Gomez Villafañe won the Cactus Cup mountain bike stage race in Arizona this weekend. The three-day event consisted of a time trial, marathon cross-country race and an "XC-style" enduro on desert trails northeast of Phoenix. The race attracted some of the biggest names on the United States mountain bike race scene, including Olympic hopefuls such as Christopher Blevins and Hannah Finchamp. 

"Some wicked tight racing this weekend at the Cactus Cup," Swenson wrote on Instagram after wrapping up the men's GC win. "Stoked to come out on top at the end." 

Racing was tight in the men's field as Swenson trailed race leader Riley Amos by just 1.7 seconds heading into the final day of racing. Amos, a 19-year-old racing for the Bear Development Team, won the opening time trial before losing time to Swenson on day two. 

On social media, racers noted how competitive the fields were this year and how fast the XC race was. According to Strava data, the average speed for the men's XC race was about 16 mph, while the women's race was about 15 mph. 

Savilia Blunk took the lead in the women's field on day one but lost time to Gomez Villafañe after suffering a double flat tire in the XC race. Gomez-Villafane placed fourth in the final stage but maintained a lead of nearly a minute on Kelsey Urban to take the GC win.

"The desert shows no mercy, and I think the majority of the field struggled with something today," Gomez Villafañe wrote on Instagram after day two. "Happy to take the W and to move into the GC lead."

Swenson placed second on the final stage but extended his GC lead to 18 seconds.

Both Swenson and Gomez Villafañe are hoping to be selected for the Tokyo Olympic Games, which are currently scheduled for 23 July to 8 August. Swenson is one of two American's on USA Cycling's Olympic long list for mountain biking, along with Christopher Blevins.

Gomez Villafañe is not on USA Cycling's long list, but she could qualify to represent Argentina in Tokyo, as she was born in the country and lived there until she moved to the United States at age 12. She is also a multi-time Argentine MTB national champion.

The Cactus Cup began in 1991 and attracted the nation's top mountain bike talent like Ned Overend, John Tomac, Juli Furtado, and Susan DiMattei throughout the '90s. The race went on hiatus after 1999, but was revived in 2017 and is seen as a traditional season opener race before the US Pro XCT, Epic Rides, and World Cup series of races.