Just a week after Keegan Swenson won his third Leadville Trail 100 MTB in succession with a record-breaking win, he continued his dominant run of results taking the win at the SBT GRVL. The Leadville Women's winner Sofía Gómez Villafañe also continued her hot run of form by taking the win on the champagne gravel of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
SBT GRVL has quickly become one of the best US gravel events, known for being a race that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. SBT works closely with a body-positivity advocacy group called All Bodies on Bikes, who aim to welcome everyone into cycling, making sure that people have clothing, gear, and equipment and also feel empowered to ride regardless of what their body looks like. With over three thousand riders across the four racing distances, the aim of inclusivity looked to have been achieved as riders set out from the mountain town of Steamboat Springs in northern Colorado and into ranch territory on the stunning gravel tracks of the region.
Men's SBT GRVL
Having obliterated the field at Leadville and extending his lead in the overall LifeTime Grand Prix series, Swenson would set another record time at SBT GRVL. On a day of high winds and average temperatures of 32°C, he finished with a time of five hours and fifty-seven minutes on the 229 km course that features around 2,800m of climbing.
The race would be broken up early, with Santa Cruz rider Swenson launching an early attack and a small group would form out front. It would be split further with continued attacks and only a select group that included some of the best gravel bike riders with only Peter Stetina, Alexey Vermeulen, Lachlan Morton along with Rob Britton, Payson McElveen, Adam Roberge, and Howard Grotts able to go with the blistering pace set by Swenson. However, his attacks continued and that group was whittled down further leaving just Swenson and Vakoč clear on the front.
Swenson and Vakoč had battled it out at Unbound Gravel earlier in the year with the win being decided in a close battle to the line. Swenson didn't want to cut it that fine this time and he would break clear of his rival with around 32 km to go, riding solo to victory. Vakoč would take second, just over two minutes later, and in a tight battle for third, Vermeulen would edge out Stetina and Morton in the sprint for the final spot on the podium.
Speaking on the SBT GRVL Instagram, Swenson said, ”I figured if I went early I could get a few guys together, and we could roll and maybe that would be the move. Or at the very least there would be another group chasing and then even if it came back together at least it would be a more select group rather than sixty or seventy guys, it makes for stressful racing when the pack is that big."
Women's SBT GRVL
The Women's race would also see another solo victory, with Specialized rider Sofía Gómez Villafañe riding clear and crossing the line in a time of just under seven hours. The Argentinian rider also set a hard pace from the start working on the front with Alexis Skarda, while Ruth Winder and Flavia Oliveira led the chase behind. With one of the pre-race favorites, Tiffany Cromwell who had won The Gralloch in Scotland earlier this year would fall behind on the early climbs out of Steamboat Springs.
After five-and-half-hours of racing Skarda would eventually drop away from the front, and on the corkscrew climb with Villafañe gone it would be Oliveira who would move into second before being overtaken by the now charging Cromwell, who at one point had been almost ten minutes back. However, it would be too late to catch Villafañe, and Cromwell would finish second coming over a minute after Villafañe with Oliveira holding on for third ahead of Skarda.