Haley Smith champion of first-ever Life Time Grand Prix series
Swenson stays on top of men's standingsPhoto by: Life Time / Facebook
After six of North America’s biggest races, spread out over seven long months, Haley Smith is the first Life Time Grand Prix champion. The Canadian cemented her title with a strategic race on Saturday at Bentonville, Ark.’s Big Sugar Gravel.
On the men’s side, Keegan Swenson takes home the men’s title in dominant fashion. The U.S. cross country racer landed four wins in six races and never finished worse than third.
Smith rides consistency to women’s title
Haley Smith (Maxxis Factory Racing) showed remarkable consistency across the season, and across gravel and mountain bike cross country events, to bring the first Life Time Grand Prix title home to Canada. Despite never having raced a gravel event before, Smith put in a big result at Unbound 200 gravel race and a win at the Crusher in the Tushar gravel on her way to winning the series. The Canadian was also in the top three Life Time racers at the iconic Leadville 100 and Chequamegon mountain bike races.
On Saturday, Smith fended off a challenge from Sarah Sturm and Sofia Gomez Villafane to take the title. Both riders were within striking distance of the Maxxis rider’s lead going into Big Sugar Gravel. While both crossed the finish line just ahead of Smith, she was able to mark the two riders through 100 miles of rough gravel in Bentonville to protect her lead. Smith wins the series, and the $25,000 prize purse, with 138 points to Villafane’s 134.
While Villafane couldn’t get the win she would have needed to catch Smith, her result in Arkansas see her jump past Sturm to finish second in the season. Villafane and Sturm both finish the Life Time series with 134 points but, with Big Sugar finish positions serving as tie-breaker, Villafane takes second overall.
Keegan Swenson started Big Sugar with an unassailable lead. While no one could challenge Swenson for the title, Russell Finsterwald did use Saturday’s racing to leap up the standings. The Colorado rider’s win in Arkansas sees him move from fifth to third overall, bumping Cole Patton off of the podium by two points.
Alexey Vermeulen, fourth at Big Sugar, defends his position in second overall behind Swenson.
Andrew L’Esperance finishes the first Life Time Grand Prix as the top Canadian man. The Maxxis Factory Racing rider ends the series ranked sixth overall with 111 points. Rob Britton and Adam Roberge are tied at 109 points, in seventh. Roberge rocketed up the standings after a sensational third-place finish at Big Sugar on Saturday. That result could also put him ahead of Britton, based on Life Time’s tie-breaker rules.