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Swenson and Gomez Villafañe Win Sea Otter’s Fuego XL in 2024 Life Time Grand Prix Kickoff

The opening race of the unfolded with familiar faces dominating the singletrack at the Fuego XL 100K race. (Santa Cruz Bicycles-SRAM) and (Specialized Off-road) claimed victory once again, marking Swenson’s third consecutive win and Gomez Villafañe’s second in the endurance mountain bike race.

This year, Life Time is offering extended highlights via their within 48 hours of the conclusion of each race. Here are the highlights of the Fuego XL 100.

The Fuego XL is a two-lap marathon mountain bike race that covers 65 miles and 7,800 feet of elevation on an old-school and flowy singletrack course. It is also the first race out of seven in the (LTGP) series, and different editions of the race have been part of the Sea Otter Classic since 1993.

In the men’s race, Swenson, 30, took charge of the race from the beginning, taking along a group of 15 riders before going solo in the last kilometers and crossing the line with a 49-second winning margin. American roadie (ENVE-Factor Bikes) showcased his newfound mountain biking prowess to clinch second place, while South African (Specialized Off-road) finished in third place 18 seconds behind. Swenson completed the course in 04:00:15, a whole three minutes faster than in the previous edition.

a group of people riding bikes on a roadLIfe Time

“It was a tough and tactical race. Only a few guys were willing to push on the front,” Swenson told Bicycling. There was a bit of a fight with a bunch of guys sitting on and only a couple working. No one was pushing hard enough to blow the race up. So it came down to positioning going into the end of the last lap, in the last couple of singletrack sections.”

“I knew where I wanted to be. I knew that I wanted to put pressure on the sand because the guys were starting to hurt a bit. Matt Beers, Alexey Vermeulen, and I were able to sneak away there and worked well together,” added Swenson.

“Coming from the road is a big deal for me. So it’s been five years to get there with mountain biking. I came in here knowing I had to do a top five; I wanted to be on the podium again,” Vermeulen told Bicycling.

a man riding a bike on a trail with other people behind himLIfe Time

The women’s competition unfolded with equal intensity as Gomez Villafañe, 30, went on another relentless pursuit of victory right from the start. Notably, (Santa Cruz Bicycles-SRAM) made a significant effort to bridge to and hold the pace of the Argentine powerhouse in the second half of the race. Still, Villafañe’s unmatched speed and endurance saw her leading the race again solo on the last time over the Lookout Ridge climb. Skarda wasn’t able to pull off a repeat as runner-up and ended up in fifth place.

a group of people riding bikesLIfe Time

New Zealander (Specialized) made a striking debut in the LTGP series, finishing in second place following a solid performance at the Absa Cape Epic last month. Hannah Otto (Pivot Cycles) displayed unwavering resolve to secure third place. This women’s edition of Fuego XL also turned out to be a whole lot faster than 2023’s, with Gomez Villafañe finishing the race thirteen minutes faster.

“I raced like a complete junior, but I loved every second of it,” Gomez Villafañe told Bicycling after the race. “I just really wanted to see where everybody’s fitness was, where my fitness was, where my mental strength was. And it was exciting to have Skarda bridge out to me at the end of the last lap and have somebody to share a little bit of the workload.”

“Today, I raced without fear. I’ve won this race, I’ve won the Grand Prix. I was on a good day; I have many people behind me, and my team is amazing. I’m just excited to deliver another result,” added Gomez Villafañe.

a man riding a bicycleLIfe Time

The top ten professional men and women at the Fuego XL were all part of the invitation-only 60-rider field of the . Points are awarded on a higher scale to the top five finishers in each event compared to the rest. Winners will be decided based on the highest points accumulated from five out of the seven events, with the final race, Big Sugar Gravel in October, being the ultimate determinant for the overall titles.

Fuego XL Men’s Top 10

  1. Keegan Swenson 04:00:15
  2. Alexey Vermeulen 00:00:48
  3. Matthew Beers 00:01:06
  4. Cole Paton 00:01:44
  5. Brendan Johnson 00:02:34
  6. Taylor Lideen 00:02:45
  7. Payson McElveen 00:02:47
  8. Cameron Jones 00:03:16
  9. Zach Calton 00:04:17
  10. Howard Grotts 00:04:19

Fuego XL Women’s Top 10

  1. Sofia Gomez Villafañe 04:42:23
  2. Samara Sheppard 00:03:47
  3. Hannah Otto 00:03:55
  4. Haley Smith 00:04:14
  5. Alexis Skarda 00:04:21
  6. Jenna Rinehart 00:05:05
  7. Erin Huck 00:05:58
  8. Sarah Sturm 00:09:40
  9. Hayley Preen 00:11:25
  10. Melisa Rollins 00:12:09