Paton, Johnston Top-5 at Life Time GP Series Opener!

Monday, 22 April 2024


The Life Time Grand Prix series kicked off with the Fuego XL MTB race at the Sea Otter Classic cycling festival in California, and Giant Privateers Cole Paton and Brendan Johnston both scored top-five finishes.

The Fuego XL marked the opening of the 2024 Life Time Grand Prix, which combines seven major mountain bike and gravel events across the U.S. An invitation-only field of 60 athletes (30 men and 30 women) will battle all season long for a share of the $300,000 purse. Paton and Johnston return for Giant this year after a strong 2023 season that saw them finish third and seventh respectively in the Life Time series.
The Fuego XL race at Sea Otter was a two-lap marathon mountain bike race that covered 100km on a mostly singletrack course at the Laguna Seca Raceway. Paton chose to race his XtC Advanced SL, unveiling a new stars-and-stripes version of the hardtail featuring special graphics to celebrate the U.S. MTB Marathon national championship title he won last year. He also raced on the Giant XCR 1 30 WheelSystem.
“It was a special day debuting my custom-painted U.S. champ XtC,” said Paton, whose race kit also included a Giant Rev Pro helmet with stars-and-stripes graphics. “The hardtail was a wise choice considering the countless hills that totaled nearly 9000 feet of climbing here in Fort Ord.”
Paton and Johnston joined a lead group of about 25 riders who split away early. That group stuck together in a tactical race until midway through the second lap, when three riders, led by eventual winner Keegan Swenson, escaped off the front. Behind the lead three, Paton and Johnston took the next two spots, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.   
“It was a tough race that had a lot of battling for positions in and out of the singletrack sections,” said Paton, who finished 1:44 off Swenson’s winning time. “I gave it my best and it was good enough for fourth on the day. It wasn’t the result I hoped for, but I’m on the right track, learning, and proud of my progress. I have no regrets on the race, but I’m leaving Monterey hungry for more.”
Johnston also had a great ride, finishing less than a minute behind Paton to lock up fifth place. The Australian chose to ride his full-suspension Anthem Advanced 29 with a Giant XCR 1 30 WheelSystem.
“I had a great start and rode in the lead group all day until 15km to go,” said Johnston, who wore the new Giant Rev Elite helmet. “That paid off later though, as I was able to recover and attack through many of the flagging frontrunners in the final minutes, riding my way back up to fifth place. It felt great to finish strong and share the podium with my fellow Giant Privateer Cole.”
Looking ahead, the Life Time Grand Prix racers will trade in their mountain bikes for gravel bikes as the series heads to Kansas June 1 for Unbound Gravel, a grueling 200-mile race through the Flint Hills.