Photo Credit: Photos courtesy of Belgian Waffle Ride
Stan’s-Pivot riders Keegan Swenson and Rose Grant swapped their usual Mach 4 SL world cup race rockets for the dropbar mixed surface marauder that is the Vault. Of the pair, Keegan had some gravel experience having done two races previously, while it was Rose’s first ever gravel event. Given that 75% of the course was off-road, their proven mountain bike handling skills gave them a significant advantage against the talented field that contained pro gravel racers, pro peloton road racers, and iron man triathlon record holders.
“The race started with a neutral rollout for the first few miles to get the group safely out of town”, said Swenson. “But the quicker than expected pace and twisty route caught many riders off guard leading to several crashes before racing actually started. I think what made the BWR start more hectic than a WC start is the fact that it is neutral, and you are not going very fast. This causes a lot of riders to bunch up really close together which makes it pretty dangerous. The BWR start was also four miles long instead of just a few hundred meters so that in itself makes it challenging, lots more time for things to go wrong”
Despite damaging his front brake in one such crash during the rollout, Keegan managed to stay upright and near the front of what quickly became the lead group of elite riders for the entire race.
“The Vault did great in the singletrack,” says Swenson. “It definitely is not a Mach 4 SL but it rips! The slacker headtube on the new Vault makes it a lot more capable in the techy trail. The ISO flex seatpost was a game changer in the rough stuff, it let me sit down a lot on the singletrack which was key that late in the race when everything is tired.” The finish came down to a 2-man sprint against gravel pro Peter Stetina, with Keegan putting in a final hard effort that Stetina couldn’t counter, resulting in Keegan taking the win.
Having crashed badly in mass start races in the past, Rose took it easy making sure to avoid the chaos of the start, sliding back into the field. At mile 50, she had made up ground to catch and pass race leader and former DH World Champion Kathy Pruitt, who had to stop to fix a mechanical.
“I officially rode my Vault for the first time ever on dirt the Thursday before the race,” says Grant. “Although, the feeling was different, I had confided that an hour or so into the race, I’d get comfortable with the bike and conditions. I was happily surprised with how well the Vault rode on the singe track, loose sand, and gravel; even the washboard felt smoother than I expected on the Vault. The biggest challenge was how fast the speeds were in groups on loose gravel, but when it’s sink or swim… we swim!!” Grant then managed to find a group with a good pace and stayed in the lead all the way to the finish, claiming her first gravel win.
For this race, the pair rode Vaults with Shimano GRX 1×11 mechanical, Stan’s Grail wheels, and Maxxis Rambler 700x40c tires (Swenson 30psi front/32psi rear, Grant 34psi front/36psi rear). “I just really like the simplicity of the 1x system,” says Swenson. “Sure, you lose some gears but I think overall it is just a more reliable system. It is also a bit lighter which never hurts!”
Both Keegan and Rose thoroughly enjoyed the change of pace and variety BWR Cedar City provided and plan to do – and win – more gravel races in the future.