Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Keegan Swenson’s 2023 season might look a lot like 2022, but that’s totally fine with him.
Swenson will again be riding for Santa Cruz Bicycles and told VeloNews he’s signed a contract with the California brand through the end of 2025.
A former World Cup cross-country mountain biker, Swenson transitioned to a domestic program of gravel and cross-country in 2022, taking the off-road world by storm with impressive performances across the country.
The 28-year-old won the inaugural Life Time Grand Prix, with first place finishes at Sea Otter, Crusher in the Tushar, and the Leadville Trail 100 within the series.
He also defended the US national title in cross-country and won SBT GRVL the day after Leadville.
Although he’s been dirt-focused since he was a junior, Swenson’s results piqued the attention of the road cycling world last year. In September, USA Cycling awarded him a last minute call-up to road nationals in Australia.
Jordan Nguyen, Santa Cruz’s global athlete program manager, said that the brand had to get creative to be able to retain Swenson, who was receiving offers from within the industry. However, after a two-year relationship in which Swenson blossomed from a mid-pack World Cup racer to a winning endurance pro, neither wanted to see him walk away.
“We’re an American brand, and we’re an American mountain bike brand with a focus on all things off-road racing,” Nguyen said. “At this point in time, I think we have the best off road racer in North America and maybe in the world in this ever-evolving niche discipline.”
Swenson returns in 2023 with a program nearly identical to his race schedule last year.
“I feel good about it,” he said. “It’s nice to have that experience, last year there were a lot of unknowns with Unbound and other Life Time events. I’m excited to go back to Unbound knowing what I’m getting into and what’s going on. Same with Steamboat. It’ll be fun.”
As far as titles to defend, there are many. There are also a few near-misses he’d like to correct — namely, breaking the course record at the Leadville Trail 100 and winning Unbound Gravel, which he lost in a sprint to Dutch rider Ivar Slik.
Swenson’s season begins with a new event — BWR Arizona in Scottsdale — after which he travels to South Africa for the Cape Epic stage race. He’ll then turn his focus to the Life Time Grand Prix, which kicks off at Sea Otter in mid April.