If you’ve been around the Downhill scene for a while you’ve probably heard of JD Swanguen, and if you’re still around you may be wondering what happened to him. For the last couple of years JD has been off the bike and hitting the books. Back in his heyday JD was a top American talent. He was best known for getting a silver medal in Juniors at the World championships in 2007 at Fort William. JD stopped racing world cup and national downhill races in 2011 and has jumped into a cycling program at Lindsey Wilson College in Central Kentucky – a far cry from his hometown of San Diego, CA. We recently bumped into him at Big Bear while he was shredding some laps on summer break. He was nice enough to link up one evening a few days ago to blast some jumps and answer some questions.
MTB-MAG – So, JD! What brings you back into San Diego?
JD – Well, I came back for a visit to the family. I’m on summer break right now, going into my Junior year in college. Also trying to find some work, link up with old friends and reconnect with some sponsors. Big Bear is good to go again 10 years later so that was nice.
MTB-MAG – So you’re at Lindsey Wilson college. What’re you getting into out there?
JD – We’re located in central Kentucky. It’s very rural – lots of farming, not much to do outside of campus. The town were in is in a dry county, so no alcohol, there’s no movie theater. Biggest things in town are Wal Mart, McDonalds, Sonic. It’s Middle America – not much to do outside of just study and ride bikes. We have a great cycling program, probably the best in the country. Being in the midwest we don’t really have big mountains to work with, yet we were number 4 as a team in collegiate nationals. We have rolling hills and great XC trails, a slalom track, dirt jump track, pump track, BMX track. I practice my gate starts here and there but mostly stick to the slalom and pump tracks. Our coach is about to build a velodrome, that’s pretty rad.
MTB-MAG – So you’re settling in pretty well then?
JD – Yeah, I got two little dogs – lab husky mix, they love riding. They hear a freewheel and get all excited to go. They’re only a few months old but I’ve taken them out on 6 mile XC rides and they’re hooked.
MTB-MAG – So going from racing full time to being a student must’ve taken some time to acclimate. How has that gone?
JD – It’s a good college for studying – not too many distractions. I was never a book worm but I’ve been on the Dean’s list the last 3 semesters. I plan to keep it that way, if not – I plan to move up to presidents list. I’m looking to take on a second major.
MTB-MAG – So you stopped racing in 2011 and jumped into school in 2012. What was the last race you did?
JD – The USGP at Lake Tahoe where Peaty and Greg Minnaar showed up. Well I did a race at Windrock, Tennessee a while ago but Tahoe was the last major race.
MTB-MAG – Do you miss racing?
JD – Oh yeah, big time. I really miss racing but I’m glad that I’m getting school done.
MTB-MAG – What was the last world up you raced?
JD – Windham 2011. I didn’t qualify, crashed in that rock garden at the bottom. You were right there when I crashed! You were on the freecaster video!
MTB-MAG – No way? that was the first world cup I ever shot, I was probably looking at my camera and chimping.
JD – Yeah. You were.
JD – Thats a tough one. Too many good ones to choose from.
MTB-MAG – Well, which track did you feel best on?
JD – Maribor, 2008 my first ever world cup. I qualified 23rd as the fastest american then finished 27th right behind Kyle Strait. I still think Fort William will be one of my favorites. That’s where I finished seconds in World Champs. I like that it’s such a long track but it’s still super technical. There are tons of places to make up time if you’re both strong and have the ability. The naturally talented riders strive but you still need stamina. It’s a man’s track and it favors riders that are well rounded.
MTB-MAG – Earlier, we were talking about how we actually miss the NORBA races despite not really appreciating them when they were around…What was your favorite NORBA track?
JD – Durango, Colorado. That’s one thing that has always been a favorite. It is basically like outdoor moto and you’re under the lift the whole time in plain view. Each run you watch your competitors and it makes you want to step it up. It had everything in terms of fast sections, techy bits, huge drops, steep stuff, EVERYTHING!
MTB-MAG – OK, so do you miss So Cal?
JD – Oh yeah, I definitely can’t wait to come back
MTB-MAG – Since you’ve left, what have you noticed needs to change here?
JD – Every time I come home I hear about trail closures. It’s sad because it’s one of the best places on earth to ride – you can ride every day of the year. A place like this shouldn’t be limited but it is. Lots of the rest of the country have much better trail advocacy even though they have a lot less to work with.
MTB-MAG – So when are you going to come back and start racing again?
JD – I don’t have any particular goals as to when I will come back. School and building my future is my focus. I get to race a bit in school and although it isn’t world cup competitive it does keep me on my toes. I’d like to show my face in the next two years but I won’t do it until I can live up to expectations. I will do it when the time is right.
MTB-MAG – Well, we’re all looking forward to seeing you around once you’re ready. Best of luck with the next couple of years at school and don’t be a stranger!