After a long season of gravel and cross country mountain bike endurance events, spanning from April to October, Haley Smith finished third overall in the Life Time Grand Prix. The Ontario racer clinched her podium position with a top 10 finish in Saturday’s Big Sugar 100-mile gravel race in Bentonville, Ark.
Sofia Gomez-Villafane unstoppable in 2023
This is the second season event organizer Life Time has grouped together its events into a high-dollar series. In 2022, Haley Smith (Maxxis Factory Racing) won the women’s Grand Prix (and $10,000 prize purse).
In 2023, it was Specialized’s Sofia Gomez-Villafane who proved unstoppable in Life Time events. The U.S.-based Argentine racer won four rounds to claim her title. That included the most high-profile XC and gravel races like Unbound and Leadville 100, cementing her claim to the mixed-discipline title.
Alexis Skarda finished second overall after never finishing outside of the top 10 in the best five-of-seven series. (Skarda did DNF at Unbound, but that result did not end up counting towards her points total).
Smith was similarly consistent, earning podiums at the Sea Otter Fuego XL cross country race and Crusher in the Tushar gravel race. That earned the Maxxis racer third overall in the Grand Prix’s sophomore season. With the new series rules,that result automatically qualifies Smith for the 2024 season, if she keeps her focus on the series. The Grand Prix wasn’t Smith’s only success this year, though. She also earned a Canadian cross country marathon national championship in Whitehorse, a marathon World Cup podium in Snowshoe, W.Va and won the first Belgian Waffle Ride event held in Canada.
Swenson shimmies to second Grand Prix title
On the men’s side it was, as in Life Time’s debut series, Keegan Swenson dominating the Grand Prix standings.
Swenson had a near-perfect season with four wins, a second place and a fourth. With the top five of seven results counting, he led the men’s standings with 172 points. Alexey Vermulen, with wins at Chequamegon and The Rad, was second overall. Cole Patton rode a string of podiums to a third overall in the series.
Andrew L’Esperance was the top-placed of the Canadian men in the series. He finished 22nd overall with the help of a fifth-place finish at Sea Otter Fuego XL cross country race. Adam Roberge was 31st overall with his impressive fifth at Unbound counteracted by a pair of DNF’s at the end of the season, including at Big Sugar….