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Armstrong takes young protégé along to Alpine Odyssey

  • By Emily Zinn
  • Published Sep. 13, 2012
  • Updated Oct. 11, 2012 at 4:39 PM EDT
Armstrong won the Alpine Odyssey in Crested Butte last year. Photo: Alex Fenlon

In a tumultuous few weeks, Lance Armstrong ended his fight against the doping charges the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency leveled against him, was beaten by a 16-year-old in a local mountain bike race in Aspen, Colorado, and announced that he would start an unsanctioned mountain bike race this weekend in Crested Butte, Colorado.

After winning the Power of Four mountain bike race, the young Keegan Swirbul clearly made his mark on Armstrong, who will be bringing the Aspen, Colorado, native along with him to Crested Butte where he will race to defend his 2011 win at the Alpine Odyssey, a race in the Leadville Qualifying Series.

Lance rides on: Armstrong to race in Crested Butte this weekend >>

After his second-place finish to Swirbul, Armstrong tipped his hat to his young competitor on Twitter:

“Had a blast racing the #poweroffour this morning. Got whooped up on by a kid young enough to be my son! Keegan Swirbul – remember that name.”

The now 17-year-old has twice finished second at the junior national championships, but told Singletrack.com that in his list of best moments on the bike, beating Armstrong “was right up there for me, definitely.”

Near the end of the race, Swirbul’s bike stopped shifting as the Texan pulled away, but the young and determined racer dug deep and passed Armstrong while stuck in his big ring.

“On the climbs I could barely keep the pedals turning,” Swirbul remembered. “Some of the steeper climbs I had to walk, but on the flat and downhills it was fine.”

He is soaking up the attention now, in the hopes that it will help him accomplish his goals in the sport.

“Hopefully the press will help me get on a real team,” said Swirbul, who currently rides for the local Basalt Bike and Ski squad.

Next year we can expect to see the rising star competing at the Pro XCT and marathon nationals, and making a bid to fulfill his primary goal of winning a junior national title.

After that, he plans to follow Armstrong’s advice.

“Hopefully in the long term I’ll switch over to road,” he said. “Lance was trying to convince me that if you want to make a real career out of it, road is the way to go.”

Swirbul is determined and energetic, and under the advice of the Texan, he has his sights set on a big sponsorship and the big tours. But first he’ll go head-to-head again with the controversial Armstrong in central Colorado.

Read also: Jeremiah Bishop’s Go Big or Go Bigger: Where will mountain bike racing go from here? >>

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Emily spent her infancy in the back of a women’s team van while the team built wheels around her. She spent part of her pre-teen years in Europe following the major European mountain, road and gravity races and touring cycling product factories. College was the first time she lived in a home without a frame building shop in her garage or basement. Her favorite style of riding is getting lost in singletrack trail networks and taking her time finding her way back.

FILED UNDER: Leadville Qualifying Series / MTB / News TAGS: /

Emily Zinn

Emily Zinn

Emily Zinn spent her infancy in the back of a women's team van while the team built wheels around her. She spent part of her pre-teen years in Europe following the major European mountain, road and gravity races and touring cycling product factories. College was the first time she lived in a home without a frame building shop in her garage or basement. Her favorite style of riding is getting lost in singletrack trail networks and taking her time finding her way back.

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