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PRESCOTT, Arizona (VN) — Overcoming a one-minute deficit on a long, rocky singletrack descent back to Prescott, Keegan Swenson won the Whiskey Off-Road Sunday in a sprint finish ahead of Howard Grotts. Nicola Rohrbach was third, 21 seconds behind.
Now in its 15th year, the Whiskey is known for its brutal, exposed, 12-mile climb out of Skull Valley, halfway through the 48-mile course. With head/crosswinds whipping across the dirt road, this edition was especially challenging.
Grotts led the front group of six riders into the long descent to the turn-around in the valley, at the end of the out-and-back.
The Coloradan seemed keen to make the race selective. However, in retrospect, he admitted that perhaps he’d worked to hard to drive the pace in that group of leaders, which included Swenson, Geoff Kabush (Yeti), Rohrbach (Goldwurst-Power-Felt), Fernando Riveros (Construction Zone), and Luke Vrouwenvelder (LukeVCoaching).
“I think I pulled a lot on the descent and coming up no one really was working. It was just Keegan, Rohrbach, and I basically,” said Grotts.
Nevertheless, Grotts attacked on some of the Skull Valley climb’s steepest switchbacks and quickly distanced the others.
“I couldn’t hang with him I just did all I could do without trying to blow myself up. I was hoping I could keep him just within a minute or so going over the top,” said Swenson.
Rohrbach said he understood why Grotts chose to employ an aggressive tactic and escape midway up the day’s major climb.
“I think he has to do earlier because he is not that strong in the downhill,” the Swiss rider said. “I mean he lost the race today in the downhill, I think. He attacked where it is the steepest part coming up. But yeah, I couldn’t follow then.”
It looked like pre-race favorite Grotts (Specialized) had the victory in hand. He rode with a one-minute lead over the top of the course’s high point, 7,000 feet above sea level, about 12 miles from the finish.
Despite riding a hardtail bike, Swenson (Stan’s No Tubes-Pivot) rode a fearless final descent and caught Grotts just before the final paved run-in to town.
Asked if he took risks on the descent, Swenson said, “A few, but not a whole lot. I wanted to keep air in my tires and stay upright, but I definitely went pretty fast.”
“Maybe I was just being too cautious or something on the descent,” said Grotts, admitting he had ridden the final descent conservatively. “I did have the full-suspension; he was on the hardtail. Normally I would have the advantage, but Keegan is just a really good descender.”
The duo knew that Rohrbach was close behind and worked together on the last few miles of pavement into town.
“I got back to the road and I tried to go all-out to the finish. I mean I almost caught those guys also,” added Rohrbach, who had started cramping on the course’s final short climb, halfway down the descent. That section is aptly named “Cramp Hill.”
Swenson won the sprint into the final left-hand corner and earned his first win in the event ahead of Grotts, a two-time winner at the Whiskey Off-Road. The 23-year-old also snapped a four-year streak of Specialized riders winning this race.
“Keegan came into the sprint definitely a little better, second wheel, and he had more watts in the end,” said Grotts.
The Epic Rides Series continues May 18-20 at the Grand Junction Off-Road in Colorado.
Whiskey Off-Road 2018 results, pro men
- 1. Keegan Swenson, STAN’S NOTUBES, PIVOT CYCLES, MAXXIS TIRES, 02:59:16
- 2. Howard Grotts, SPECIALIZED RACING, 02:59:16
- 3. Nicola Rohrbach, GOLDWURST-POWER/ FELT BICYCLE, 02:59:37
- 4. Geoff Kabush, YETI, MAXXIS, SHIMANO, FOX, STANS NOTUBES, GU, 03:00:56
- 5. Russell Finsterwald, TEAM CLIF, GROOVE SUBARU, ODI GRIPS, UNION SPORT, 03:01:53
- 6. Richard Cypress Gorry, ROULEUR DEVO P/B DNA CYCLING, 03:02:31
- 7. Ryan Standish, MERIDA BIKES AUSTRALIA, H, 03:02:55
- 8. Jerry Dufour, BEAR PRO TEAM/DUFOURFUN.COM, 03:03:47
- 9. Payson McElveen, ORANGE SEAL OFF-ROAD TEAM, 03:03:48
- 10. Luke Vrouwenvelder, LUKEVCOACHING, 03:03:58
- 11. Fernando Riveros, CZ RACING, 03:04:11
- 12. Cory Wallace, KONA, 03:06:27
- 13. Alex Grant, CANNONDALE, ENVE COMPOSITES, GEAR RUSH, 03:06:27
- 14. Pete Karinen, BROKEN SPOKE RACING, 03:06:27
- 15. Chris Baddick, GORE® WEAR, 03:06:35
- 16. Benjamin Sonntag, TEAM CLIF BAR, 03:06:49
- 17. Sandy Floren, BEAR DEVELOPMENT TEAM, 03:08:44
- 18. Brian Matter, LINEAR SPORT RACING, TREK, SHIMANO, CLIF BAR, 03:09:38
- 19. Liam Earl, CLIF BAR, NINER BIKES, DT SWISS, 03:09:41
- 20. Alex Wild, SPECIALIZED FACTORY RACING, 03:09:42
- 21. Oliver ZURBRUEGG, BIXS PRO TEAM, 03:09:42
- 22. Spencer Paxson, KONA BICYCLES, 03:09:44
- 23. Paul Fabian, BEAR DEVELOPMENT, 03:09:47
- 24. Evan Guthrie, RACE FACE/KAL TIRE/ON THE EDGE, 03:11:50
- 25. Tristan Uhl, GIANT CO-FACTORY, 03:12:07
- 26. Andrey Fonseca, TEAM FOCUS COSTA RICA, 03:12:16
- 27. Garrett Gerchar, CLIF BAR, 03:12:26
- 28. Stephan Davoust, GIANT FACTORY OFF-ROAD, 03:12:38
- 29. Cal Skilsky, ARIZONA DEVO, 03:13:05
- 30. Joshua Berry, 03:13:49
- 31. Kerry Werner, KONA, SHIMANO, JAKROO, 03:13:50
- 32. Brannan Fix, ALPHA BICYCLE CO.-GROOVE SUBARU, 03:13:50
- 33. Georwill Pérez Román, PROCYCLING, 03:13:50
- 34. Taylor Lideen, PIVOT CYCLES, 03:13:51
- 35. Jake Yackle, FSA/SHIMANO/PRIMAL/KHS/SIDI/KALI/OSPREY/CLIF/SLIME/GENUINE INNOVATIONS, 03:15:16
- 36. STEFANO BARBERI, 03:15:17
- 37. Nicolas Gaurin, 03:16:08
- 38. Zach Calton, SPRY – LEGACY PROPERTIES WEST, 03:16:25
- 39. Levi Kurlander, ORANGE SEAL OFF-ROAD TEAM, 03:16:26
- 40. Matthew Turner, SPRY CYCLES, LEGACY PROPERTIES WEST, THE FEED, ROTOR, 03:17:10
- 41. Nash Dory, CZ RACING, 03:17:31
- 42. Brian Scarbrough, STONEHAUS TREK RACING, 03:17:31
- 43. Ernie Watenpaugh, JACK DANIELS, BMC, TELLURIDE VENTURE ACCELERATOR, 03:17:33
- 44. Clayton Otto, GIANT CO-FACTORY, 03:19:13
- 45. Henry Nadell, CZ RACING, 03:20:24
- 46. Payson Partridge, DEKORRA PRODUCTS; SKRATCH LABS, 03:20:27
- 47. Cole House, HASIENDA BREWING / PETE’S GARAGE, 03:20:30
- 48. Andrew Clemence, 03:20:33
- 49. Bryan Alders, TRAININGPEAKS, YETI, PACTIMO, 03:21:13
- 50. Nick Gould, SKA/ZIA/TREK, 03:22:14
- 51. Keiran Eagen, CRC JANITORIAL, SCOTT, 03:22:17
- 52. David Krimstock, PEARL IZUMI, PIVOT CYCLES, LAZER, ENDURO BITES, MAXXIS TIRES, 03:24:13
- 53. Jacob Morales, 03:24:13
- 54. Yuki Ikeda, TOPEAK-ERGON RACING TEAM, LIMAR, MAXXIS TIRES, STAN’S NOTUBES, 03:24:17
- 55. Cody Waite, ASEA, SESSIONS:6, 03:27:38
- 56. Justin Desilets, GIANT BICYCLES, 03:27:44
- 57. Travis Woodruff, PIVOT CYCLES, STAN’S NOTUBES, MAXXIS TIRES, 03:28:48
- 58. Harrison Buckley, PROCYCLING, 03:29:19
- 59. Thomas Gauthier, FORT LEWIS COLLEGE CYCLING, 03:29:48
- 60. Quinn Moberg, ROCKY MOUNTAIN BICYCLES, 03:30:37
- 61. Gustavo Pedroza, HAROZCO, 03:31:13
- 62. Tom Foxx, DNA CYCLING, 03:31:15
- 63. Max McBride, 03:31:15
- 64. Chris Ganter, ROLF PRIMA NINER BIKES, 03:32:46
- 65. Jason Rowton, WHOLE ATHLETE P/B DNA, 03:32:46
- 66. Nic Beechan, TREK BIKES, SHIMANO, 100%, STAN’S NOTUBES, FOX, 03:34:05
- 67. Tanner Visnick, HONEY STINGER, 03:34:25
- 68. Wouter Zwart, TREK, LANDIS CYCLERY, GU, 03:36:45
- 69. Shane Johnson, DRYVE WHEELS, 03:38:52
- 70. Robert Gutgesell, TREK RED TRUCK RACING, 03:39:39
- 71. Jorge Munoz Jr., 03:40:05
- 72. Barry Wicks, KONA, 03:42:08
- 73. Ricky Creel, CZ RACING, 03:42:25
- 74. Will Foley, SPECIALIZED, SESSIONS:6, ICE FRICTION, 03:44:29
- 75. Cody Schwartz, SCOTT SPORTS, 9POINT8, SRAM, JAKROO, 03:50:10
- 76. Nick Thomas, 03:52:21
- 77. Kris Sneddon, KONA, 03:52:36
- 78. Enrique Garibay, 04:03:18
- 79. Anders Nystrom, CLIF BAR RACING, 04:13:43