Swenson and Villafane Crowned El Campeons de Fuego at Sea Otter

April 22, 2024

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

Monterey, CA (Monday, April 22)/ENDURANCE SPORTSWIRE/ – 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 presented by Continental and Sofia Gomez Villafane 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.

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

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

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 Gomez Villafane 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.”

Kimo Seymour, Life Time Senior Vice President and President Media & Events, said: “The first round of the Life Time Grand Prix Presented by Mazda was spectacular and we couldn’t have asked for a better day of racing. Conditions were perfect – it started off sunny and cool without too much wind and never got too hot for the athletes. We saw two fabulous races with Keegan and Sophia both coming out on top, which probably wasn’t a surprise to anybody as they are both so well prepared, so focused and so talented, but we also saw some fantastic action further down the field. It sets us up really well for the Series ahead.”

Extended highlights of the Fuego XL 100k are available on the official Life Time Grand Prix YouTube channel.

About the Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda

The Life Time Grand Prix presented by Mazda is owned and produced by premier leisure brand, Life Time. It is among 30 iconic athletic events owned, produced and operated by the Company, including the Chicago Half Marathon, Garmin UNBOUND Gravel, and the Leadville Race Series. To learn more about Life Time athletic events, click here.