Keegan Swenson

From the Mid Mountain Trail to the Matterhorn, Keegan Swenson has ridden the greatest singletrack in the world. Growing up in Park City, he was always that young kid hanging out with the big boys. Heinrich Deters of Young Riders remembers him as a little guy who used to tag along on their rides: “I would look back and there was little Keegan pedaling away.” Today, Swenson is one of the world’s top riders, a product of his hometown and its hundreds of miles of trails. Now age 26 and a top athlete on the Stan’s-Pivot Pro Team, Swenson continues to pedal his way up to the top of the sport. While the calendar has shifted, the Tokyo Olympics remain his target.

Park City Magazine: Growing up in Park City, you had a lot of sport options. 

Keegan Swenson: Yeah, I started ski racing, playing soccer, all that kid stuff. I began riding a dirt bike when I was about 7; I think it was a Honda 70. I still ride dirt bikes in the off-season. It translates pretty well. A dirt bike gives you awareness and perception.

PCM: What got you into mountain biking?

KS: My family. I grew up riding with my parents [Jordon and Tanya]. 

PCM: What were fun rides as a kid?

KS: I liked to ride the Payday chairlift up to the Mid Mountain Trail, then down Spiro. Lost Prospector to SOS was one of my “dare to” rides. 

PCM: How did you move up to become a serious rider?

KS: I started in Young Riders [a youth cycling program] with Heinrich when I was 7. Then, I joined the race team at 12 with Tom Noaker. I started racing, traveling, and really fell in love with the sport. I learned I was pretty good and quit ski racing at 14. I went to my first nationals at 15 and then won at 16. After that, I decided to really give it a good go. I had my first European trip to Germany with USA Cycling at 17, then my first World Championships in Switzerland. I didn’t do great—maybe 60th. I just didn’t have a great day.... But I learned, ‘Hey, I can race with these guys.’

PCM: When did the Olympics come onto your radar?

KS: I hadn’t thought too much about the Olympics until I made the long team list for Rio. All of a sudden, I thought it might be possible. But, we only had one [Olympic] spot and I was the third American. Right now, I’m the top American, and I had been hoping to qualify [for the Tokyo Olympics] at the Nove Mesto World Cup [in the Czech Republic] in May.

PCM: What happened to your plans when coronavirus hit?

KS: I was training in Southern California this winter. Once all the races in California and South America were cancelled, there really was not a reason to hang out in Escondido. We felt safer going home than staying in Southern California. Plus, you cannot beat spring in the mountains.

PCM: How has that impacted your training?

KS: With not having a race on the calendar for a few months, we have really just gone back in time to December/January-style training—bigger hours with less intensity and more focus on gym work. In the long run, I think Tokyo being set back just gives me more time to train and better prepare myself for the qualifiers and Tokyo itself, if I am selected. 

PCM: What’s a nice day ride for you back home?

KS: Living in Heber, I like to ride up Pine Canyon all the way to Jupiter Peak (4,500 vertical feet), dropping into Dead Tree to Apex and on down to Old Town. Then I’ll hit the hand-cut trails in Ontario, climbing up to the Wow Trail and back down to Midway and Heber. It’s a nice little 60-mile ride, nearly all on dirt.

PCM: Your mentors say you’re the product of your environment. What have you seen in your two decades of riding here?

KS: Charlie [Sturgis] and Mountain Trails Foundation have had the biggest impact. There were a lot of trails when I was young, but [thanks to MTF, the number of trails] has almost doubled. It’s the same with Tom Noaker and South Summit Trails and Eric Porter and the Wasatch Trails Alliance. 

PCM: Have you ridden an e-bike? 

KS: Yes, and I want one! They are so much fun. 

PCM: After your globetrotting, what’s your favorite place to ride?

KS: I’ve mountain biked almost everywhere in the world. But Park City is my favorite place to ride. The amount of [high-mountain] singletrack, the organization of it, and the variety is just incredible. 

Homegrown Tread-setter’s Picks

  •   Favorite Trail: Dead Tree off Jupiter is one of my favorites.
  •   Favorite Restaurant: Ganesh Indian Cuisine or Alberto’s for a quick lunch 
  •   Off-the-Mountain-Bike Fun: I love riding my dirt bike in the summer and fall—lots of crossover skills. And I still love skiing.
  •   Local Hero: Ted Ligety
  •   Favorite Band: Blink-182
  •   Craft Beer Pick: Hazy IPA from the new Heber Valley Brewing
  •   Decadence: Ritual Chocolate is definitely one of my go-to spots.
  •   Favorite Trail Outside Park City: Gooseberry Mesa Trails near Hurricane, Utah

 

 

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