Fast Times Posted at NUE Series Opener in Southern Utah with Biggest Ever Field
Saturday’s True Grit Epic saw it’s biggest-ever field with over 600 racers taking on the treacherous, rock-strewn course tucked in the south west corner of Utah. The record-setting participants were rewarded with some of the best race conditions possible with calm winds, temperatures in the low 60s and overcast skies keeping the sun at bay.
All this allowed racers to post some of the fastest times around the notoriously techy True Grit course.
The NUE opener experienced a youth infusion with riders like Gwendalyn Gibson (Norco) and Hannah Finchamp (Clif Bar) who just recently left the junior ranks. 50 miles was not too much for these youngsters though as the powered away from the outset battling each other most of the day.
Gibson took the win with Finchamp just minutes back. It wasn’t all about the kids though as Jenni Smith (Kenda/Cannondale) who just turned 45 rallied all day and finished just behind in 3rd. Nicole Tittensor (Scott) and Liza Hartlaub (GU Energy Labs) finished off the podium in 4th and 5th.
The men’s marathon was a showdown between Justin Lindine (Apex) and another youngster testing out the long distance scene, Zach Calton (Spry/ LPB Sotheby’s).
The two rode wheel-to-wheel through the most technical first half of the race before Lindine opened a gap and took the win after just missing it last year in a sprint finish.
Former winner Alex Grant (Maybird/Cannondale) took third followed by Nic Beechan (Trek) and Clayton Otto (Giant).
Dave Harris won the 50+ marathon event but had to leave part of his face on the course to do so proving that even living in St. George and riding these trails everyday doesn’t give you a free pass on the True Grit course.
100-mile winner Taylor Lideen (Pivot/DNA Cycling) turned in one of the most impressive rides at the True Grit taking the win just three weeks after winning the solo race at 24 Hours in the Old Pueblo. When asked if he considered doing the 50 mile event instead he said, “Never, I don’t have that kind of fire in my legs right now – my goal was just to set my pace and see how it went.”
Lideen was challenged throughout the opening lap and a half by Pete Karinen (Broken Spoke Racing) before a flat, on the second pass through Zen trail, sent him back in the pack and Brazilian Stefano Barberi (Team Barberi) took up the chase. He couldn’t catch Lideen as he finally finished second followed by David Krimstock (Pearl Izumi/Pivot). Pete Karinen rallied after his flat to finish fourth with Coulton Hartrich in fifth.
Larissa Connors smashed the True Grit course winning by 30 minutes over Sparky Sears (First Hand MTB) and Carla Williams (Joe’s Bike Shop). Connors was so fast she would have placed just off the podium in the open men’s category in 7th.
Chase Hansen (CZ Racing) finished 4th followed by Lauren Cantwell.
By far the most exciting part of the 2018 True Grit Epic despite the great weather, amazing views, brutally fun course, and fantastic volunteers and staff was the number of young racers on hand.
The number of participants under the age of 21 was truly impressive and a testament to the success of the NICA high school racing league in the southwest. Dozens and dozens of kids strapped on their helmets and conquered one of the toughest endurance events in the country with many even contending for race wins. It was an exciting development I hope we continue to see for years to come.