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True Grit Epic - NUE #1 - Utah

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |May 14, 2014 2:12 AM
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NUE Series #1

True Grit Epic

March 15, 2014

By Ryan O’Dell

On Saturday, The True Grit Epic Bike Race, the KENDA NUE Series Opener, released mountain bike racers on a race course spanning 89 miles, nearly all off-road, heading from Tonaquint to Santa Clara and back just outside the city of St. George in Southern Utah. True Grit also featured the Epic 50 covering 51 miles. Since joining the NUE Series two years ago, the race has nearly doubled in size with 373 registered racers this year.

For 2014, True Grit kicks off what will be a best four of thirteen NUE race series that includes a series cash prize purse of $12,000 plus an all-expense paid trip to compete in a three day stage race across Costa Rica at the LaRuta de los Conquistadores this November. This year, all four NUE Series division winners will qualify. In addition, all series finishers will receive a prize package with contributions from each NUE Series sponsor.

For NUE #1, Racers were treated to sunny skies and mild temperatures in the seventies. However, the buzz, or perhaps more aptly described as "the roar”, at the race was the high gusting winds. All pop up tents and anything not staked to the ground were taken down. The Kenda arch, typically an icon of the NUE Series finish line, was safely tucked away to prevent it from becoming a large tire kite soaring over the desert mountains. From the start/finish area, spectators were witness to the dust clouds trailing up high into the sky trailing behind racers as they descended the ridge toward the finish line.

Women’s Open

Sornson goes sub-8, forty minutes faster than last year!

Defending NUE Women’s Open Champion, Cheryl Sornson, Rare Disease Cycling, got off to yet another great start this season taking the top spot on the podium again for 2014 in7:55:54, more than a half hour faster than last year!

"It was so good to be in sunny St George for the weekend and a very welcome escape from the cold in the east.  Having done the race last year, I was excited to come back and enjoy the techy desert riding.  I also had a goal to best last years’ time of 08:36:04. The course was different and was expected to be faster, but the wind on race day made going fast in some areas nearly impossible.  

The new flow of the course was enjoyable and despite the crazy desert wind I bested last years’ time and made it in just under my goal of eight hours.  Having the start an hour later and splitting the field into two groups made for a much safer start this year.  As usual, I struggled to get going but was motivated by a sassy Sonya Looney who pushed the start pace.  She and I hung on with two others to fight the wind in the starting miles.  It was not until the course turned upwards into the washes and first climbs that I was able to form a gap.  Eventually I lost sight of her and got entranced with the techy flow of the barrel and zen trail. I love that stuff.”

Sonya Looney, Topeak Ergon, placed second in 8:18:03, "I was really happy to be in St. George with a great crew and the course was as tough as it promised!  I rode my own race, taking it easy for the first 3.5 hours and cranked up the intensity later in the race.  My plan of attack later in the race didn't go as smoothly as I would have liked due to several factors, with the biggest being that my front brake completely stopped working at the start of the second lap with about 3.5 hours to go!  

It was tricky navigating trail and keeping my speed in check, and it definitely kept me very alert!  I refused to give up as long as I was riding safe.  I was happy with my overall technical ability, especially since it was my first time on rocky singletrack in many months!   I'm glad to get a solid training day in the desert for the Titan Desert Stage Race not too far around the corner!  Any day on dirt is a good day!”

Brenda Simril, Motor Mile Racing, placed third in 9:13:14, seven minutes faster than last year. 100 miles was apparently not enough to tucker out Simril, who placed third overall in the NUE Series last season, she and husband Lee spent the next day downhill skiing at a nearby resort.

Jocelyn Linscott, Toasted Head Racing, was unable to finish, but had this to say about the race, "The course was definitely as billed: long, tough and technical. Saturday, Mother Nature decided to dish out some really high winds. Not only did it make riding tougher and a bit precarious at times, but it also wreaked havoc on the course markings. There were quite a few of us who went off course. I went off course on three separate occasions.

Once I got back on course, I worked to make it to the check points. The wind on the Stucki trail was brutal. Every time I crested a climb a wall of wind would hit. I was stopped dead until I finally could fight and get the pedals to turn over. I had a pretty spinny gear on but it felt like a monster in the wind. Nutrition products and bottles were flying out of rider's hands and it was like you were in a video game.

The third time I went off course it just became too much time for me to make up after I found my way back on course. The arrows were so blown and folded I had to stop and unfold them to make sure I was going the right way. I was just over the time limit in making it to one of the last checkpoints. To say I'm bummed is an understatement. I felt good and really enjoyed the course (a few less MPHs of wind would have been nice). The views and trails were amazing. I will definitely be back next year to redeem myself!”

Men’s Open

Edsall wins the NUE Series Opener, setting a new course record!

Relying on a Kenda Karma in the back and a Kenda Kozmik Lite out front, Drew Edsall, Pro's Closet/ Stans No Tubes, started his season off big at True Grit with a winning time of 6:40:44, a minute faster than the course record set by last year’s winner, Alex Grant, Sho-Air/Cannondale (6:41:37).

"I felt great from the start and pretty much stayed that way all the way up to hour five where a little dehydration starting kicking in. That's tough to see happen in a 100 mile race. My legs were phenomenal from the get go, my Felt Nine FRD was flying uphill, and my nutrition was dialed in thanks to Hammer Nutrition. Amazing what a dialed in nutritional plan and fitness can do at these races and it for sure helped today. 

I went out on a hard solo effort from the get go and got a gap early on through the Zen trail but was caught by Cary Smith shortly after a mechanical on that downhill. We joined up for about thirty minutes at the 1:30 mark, but shortly after I suffered two slow leaking flats. Luckily, Stan's Sealant sealed it up after a second stop to fill it. At that point, Cary had a 2+ minute gap on me, but I was still feeling great and slowly reeled him in on the climbs. I got him at about 4:00 hours in, but then continued to battle the tremendous wind for the remainder of 2:30 hours on the bike. Cary never gave up and was riding strong also, so I was very happy to have the legs I did and held onto the small 3+ minute gap at the end of the race. 

I am looking forward to more tight battles like this in the future. Fun times on the bike. The course had a great mix of fast and fun, mixed with super technical sections. It was well run, and the weather was perfect for me, well, besides the 30-40 mph winds. Great day on the bike and I am very excited to see what the rest of the year holds for me with my new team, The Pro's Closet / Stan's NoTubes Pro Mountain Bike Team.”

Cary Smith, The Hub Bikes, finished less than three minutes back at 6:43:29 for second place. Brent Pontius, Rooster's/Biker's Edge, rolled in seven minutes later at 6:50:53 to capture the third spot on the podium.

Four minutes later, Dana Weber, Stage 21, finished fourth at 6:54:49, one of just four racers to go sub seven on the day. Just two minutes separated Mark Trump, 7:05:36, from Jonathan Davis, 92Fifty' Racing. Davis, who finished fifth, last year, finished 7:07:34. Josh Tostado, santa cruz/maxxis/shimano, who finished sub-7 in third place last year, had derailleur difficulties early in the race and was forced to return to make the repair. Even though the repair put him an hour behind the field, rather than sulking or quitting, Tostado returned to the course like a champion and completed the race, still managing to finish 24th on the day.


The Pfluginator crushes last year’s winning time!

Following an epic battle last season that appears to have picked up right where it left off, five-time defending NUE Series SS Champion, Gerry Pflug, Rare Disease Cycling, narrowly edged out AJ Linnell, getting off to yet another great start of the NUE season at True Grit. The Pfluginator crushed it, finishing7:08:10, twenty-two minutes faster than last season’s win at 7:30:35.

"Like last year, the True Grit 100 was a blast to ride.  But, I thought the course was even more fun this year with the new course only doing 2 laps of the Barrel Roll loop instead of 4.  Not only was the course layout better, but the course markings and race volunteers also made the race better than last years’ experience.  It was a really great way to start the NUE Series!  

After being bounced all over the place last year, I decided to make my full-suspension Specialized Epic into a single speed for this race. The bike worked perfectly and really helped smooth out the rough trails this course has to offer.  I also used a slightly easier gear ratio (34x20) than I did last year, which made things a bit easier for me.  

I wasn't sure what to expect at the start of the race this year because we were separated from the open men at the start and were mixed in with the women and master men riders, starting 7 or 8 minutes behind the open men.  I decided to start fast and see who wanted to come with me.  As it turned out, I rode off the front alone with a group chasing me.  I stuck with that pace because I wanted to stay at the front and away from trouble.  

Eventually, AJ Linnell caught up to me as we began doing the three long climbs before the Zen Loop.  We rode most of Zen together but I was able to get a small gap on the climb after the Zen check point.  I would see AJ behind me from time to time until we exited the first lap of Barrel Roll, about 47 miles into the race.  After that, AJ apparently missed a turn and lost a couple minutes getting back on course.  Not seeing him chasing me allowed me to ride my own pace to the finish for the SS win.”

AJ Linnell, Fitzgerald's Bicycles/Pivot Cycles, finished just six minutes back at 7:14:13 to take second place.  

Ernesto Marenchin, Pivot Cycles and Twin 6, from Stowe, Ohio placed third in 7:48:02. "True Grit went a lot better than I expected as the Ohio winter temperatures kept me indoors up until about three weeks out from race day. I came into it a bit over trained trying to play catch up with the fitness and hoped for the best. I was able to get in late on Wednesday with Gerry (Pflug) and Cheryl (Sornson) and it gave me a chance to check out the opening 15 miles or so on the first day and the Zen section on Friday which became critical.

The race started out pretty quickly as Gerry took off immediately with the rest of us chasing. The temps were perfect but the wind was strong and gusty. I wasn't feeling my greatest after wrapping up Zen and dropped back a bit off the pace. After fueling up, I felt a lot better and charged off into the headwind making up a few spots after the Barrel section.

At 55 miles, I grabbed some more fuel and was pumped by the fact that I didn't have to ride the Zen section again, something I didn't realize at first. That section was very difficult for anybody and, having chosen a 32x18 gear and riding a full rigid bike, was starting to beat me up a bit. Fueled on by not having to ride the toughest section again, plus the open climbs, single track, and awesomely warm weather, the last 30 miles turned over very easy for me. Definitely a race I will be back at next year. Next up for me on the NUE series is Cohutta. Then I plan to race the entire east coast NUE's and may possibly race the Tatanka event as well.”

Trevor Rockwell, Team Noah Foundation/Decorah Bicycles, placed fourth finishing 8:06:33. "Well NUE#1 is in the books. "The SingleSpeed class for the 2014 NUE Series looks to be a fun one with all the top finishers from 2013 returning to take up the challenge again. Right from the gun it was on!

Gerry took the early lead up the opening climb obviously wanting to open an early lead to make the rest of us chase him and that we did as A.J. and I took a chase position up the road climb working together to rotate and stay out of the wind. The story of the day was no doubt the wind!! For most of the day if you weren’t getting a boost from the tailwind you were getting stopped dead in your track with a massive head wind or blown over with even stronger cross winds.

After the opening road climb, things came together as Gerry, AJ, I, and another SS were right together to enter the Barrel Ride section of trail. It was here that mishap #1 on the day hit me. Unfortunately, this being my first time on the SS race bike in 4 months, not everything was set up and ready to go. My bars tipped on a nasty rock drop and I had to make the hard decision to watch the three other guys ride away as I fixed the bars. The bad thing was I needed to stop again later to move the brake levers as I mistakenly placed the bars just off.

After fixing the bars, I could see Hammer Nutrition SS in front of me so I made a push and worked my way up and past him to take hold of third entering Zen. During the pre-ride of this section, Zen was very challenging but surprisingly, at race pace, I was able to make all the drops and climbs with ease and push through very fast. Feeling good about this, I went on in hope of pulling Gerry and A.J. back.

The next section of Bear Claw Poppy trail was rocking fast. This section had multiple line selections and was ripping but bumpy. I could see why Gerry chose to ride a Full Suspension SS for True Grit due to this fast but rough section of trail that was all downhill. I was able to rock this out very fast and then it was on to the nightmare section of Stucki Springs.

Stucki Springs would have been an awesome trail with a pretty nice uphill grade for an SS to keep power to the pedals without spinning out but not today as Stucki led into a stiff, possibly 20-30 mph headwind. This sucked as it was about one hour of riding straight into the wind but "grit your teeth and get through it” is all I thought. Getting through this with a geared local’s help, I hit the Rim Runner trail with strength and was feeling good.

Barrel Roll Aid station was next as I pulled away from my geared friend and was on my own to get nearly blown off the trail and over a cliff by unbelievable cross winds!!! This was nasty as, many times, you would be on slick rock and feel your bike slide sideways because of the wind. A little unnerving but, again, in True Grit style, Grit and bear it!! I got through there fine and back to the aid station, heading to what was supposed to be my second lap but this was where the biggest mistake of my day happened.

Unfortunately, on this section of trail, a running race had been run the weekend before and had used white arrows to mark the route. On this section of the trail the arrows appeared and seemed to run right with the trail markings for the race which were hard for me to see due to never racing in the dessert with the wind and little orange pieces of tape that were getting blown away by the wind.

As I crested a hill, I saw the white lines and headed on with the fire road type trail not seeing, off to the left, the hidden sign where we were to enter a washout and head to lap two. I rode on, off trail for about 30-35 minutes, literally all uphill, and wound up back at the Barrel Roll Aid. Realizing that I had missed a turn, I did the only logical thing and headed back onto the trail to figure out where I missed the turn. By the time I found the missed turn, I had been bumped back and lost about 40 minutes to the now third place SS Ernesto. GAME OVER!!

I pushed on with the hope of pulling Ernie back in but knew it was not in the cards as I had used a lot of effort on the off course riding and now was into the wind and uphill sections of trail that worked me over pretty good. I did my best to limit my losses on the day but the second lap was pretty much myself riding with myself.

I rode shortly with Curt Wilhelm of 92 Fifty but then felt an adrenaline rush knowing I was finally nearly done so I bursted off towards the finish. I ended up finishing fourth in the SS class and 22nd Overall. Not quite the start I imagined but here is what I found interesting. The SS class now sits with the top four from last year in the exact same positions we ended 2013. It may be weird but only fitting that this could lead to one heck of a year. Next up for myself and many of the top dogs is Cohutta 100 at the end of April. See ya there!”

Masters 50+

Whaley smashes the Masters field!

Defending NUE Masters Champion, Marland Whaley, Hammer Nutrition/Red Barn Bicycles/WTB, got off to a rousing start on the 2014 NUE season finishing thirty five minutes ahead of his nearest competitor at 7:51:39, the only sub-8 in the Masters division.

"After last year’s fiasco, the TG100 was a race I felt like I had to do to redeem myself and yet wanted to put it behind me ASAP. It's a more technical race than I would prefer so, last year, after slashing two tires before the sun had even come up then crashing on Zen trying to catch up and leaving the race with my arm in a sling, I have been somewhat paranoid.

I butchered the ZEN trail once again and lost a lot of time but at least this time I was still upright! My plan all along was to survive the technical and uncork on Stuki Springs trail and through Barrel Roll to hopefully gain back what had been worked! As for the tire issues, I was dressed for bear! I had two tubes, two co2 bottles, two inflators and one hand pump! Did I mention I was paranoid? I was almost disappointed I didn't get to use any of it.

I also wanted to mention that race director, Cimarron Chacon, had, in my opinion , did a fine job of correcting the issues of last year’s race that were troublesome . Well done!

When asked about what upcoming races he planned to enter, Whaley replied, "As for future plans and events this year, I 'm taking it as it comes. My oldest daughter Kendra was diagnosed with a somewhat rare type of leukemia and has recently undergone bone marrow transplant .She lives in Seattle and my wife and I are trying to make ourselves available to help take care of the grandchildren while her husband takes care of her as needed .Kendra is the true endurance champion in our family. She inspires me to press on.”

Todd Cassan, Rocinante, took second in 8:26:52 then, just one minute later, David Johnson, Cafe Velo, claimed third place, finishing 8:27:09. 58 year old John Lauk, Bountiful Bicycle/p/b Mountain America, and Gary Gardiner, Bountiful Bicycle Race Team, finished fourth and fifth respectively. Last year’s race winner, David Jolin, Stark Velo, of Bellville, Ohio finished seventh behind Roger Sutton, Brick City Bicycles, who blew in all the way from Florida to begin his NUE adventure with True Grit.

On April 26, The Kenda NUE Series heads to the Cherokee National Forest near Ducktown, Tennessee for the Cohutta 100. Stay tuned to right here for all the latest news, results and photos.


Open Men 100 Mile


Drew Edsall

Pros Closet/Stans No Tubes



Cary Smith

Hub Bikes



Brent Pontius

Rooster’s/Biker’s Edge



Dana Weber

Stage 21



Mark Trump




Jonathan Davis

92Fifty Racing



Matt Woodruff




Hunter Keating

Harmony Systems



Houston Peschi

Café Racers



Darrell Roundy

Wild Child Cycles



Scott Leonard

Mountain Flyer



Kurtis Bond

Café Racers



Ryan Cook




Mark McCann

Las Vegas Cyclery



Ross Toelcke

Great Northern Cycles



Paul Berry




Billy Wood




Curt Wilhelm




Richard Price

LTR Sports



Ryan Thompson




Raymond Willard

Empire Brewing



Jonathon Broyles

Team Honky



Josh Tostado




Christopher Barkow

Cheese Sammich



Lee Simril

Motor Mile Racing


Open Women 100 Mile


Cheryl Sornson

Rare Disease Cycling



Sonya Looney




Brenda Simril

Motor Mile Racing


Singlespeed 100 Mile


Gerry Pflug

Rare Disease Cycling



AJ Linnell

Fitzgerald’s/Pivot Cycles



Ernesto Marenchin

Pivot/Twin Six



Trevor Rockwell

Noah Foundation



Jared Fisher

Las Vegas Cyclery



Richard Long

Cyclesmart Grassroots



Christopher Latura



Open Men 50 Mile


Bryson Perry

 DNA Cycles



Cam Chambers

Podium Cycles



Chris Holley



Open Women 50 Mile


Kathy Sherwin

Stan’s No Tubes



Joey Lythgoe




Karen Jarchow



Open Singlespeed 50 Mile


Alex Smith

3B Yoga



Shannon Boffeli Brewing



Joe Finlayson

Average Joe


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