The Maah Daah Hey mountain bike race is a 100, 75, 50, 25 or 13 mile mountain bike race through the badlands of North Dakota. The race course is almost 100% single track along the uninterrupted Maah Daah Hey trail through the heart of the rugged Badlands. The Maah Daah Hey trail is a unique blend of dirt, clay, sandstone, and scoria with unending climbs and descents. On the tops of the badlands buttes you will find flat prairie grasslands. There are also some sparsely wooded sections scattered on the trail but overall there is minimal cover from the elements. Hence the name BADLANDS.
In 2020, the Maah Daah Hey mountain bike race actually happened! ~70 people signed up for the 100 mile race which started in a campground outside of Watford City, ND and ended in Medora, ND. At 6am on a beautiful sunny August morning, racers lined up for an epic day. Once on route, racers went through a series of check points and 3 aid stations over the 100 miles. Sag support was allowed to meet their racer anywhere on course or racers could leave drop bags at the aid stations. With temperatures only in the 80s’, it was an optimal year to race! For support vehicles, it was an exciting day of driving miles and miles of back roads through farmlands to catch their racer at the next check point.
For the Pro men, it was course record-holder, Tinker Juarez (Cannondale), Josh Tostado (Santa Cruz/Shimano) and Nathan Keck who lead the mens’ field. Tostado and Keck worked together for the first 15 miles before Keck crashed and started fading back. Juarez and Tostado rode together with Tostado in the lead at every checkpoint and aid station. By mile 50, Luke Nelson had almost caught up with Tostado and Juarez, maintaining a gap of only a few minutes behind the leaders for the next 30 miles. At aid 3 (mile 79), Tostado and Juarez picked up the pace and started putting time on Nelson. They continued to ride together until the end finishing less then a second apart and setting a new course record. Tostado won in a time of 8:32:58:31, Juarez finished 2nd(8:32:59) and Nelson in 3rd(8:41:00:37).
For the Pro women, only 5 brave women completed the Maah Daah Hey 100. Finishing 1st was Ashley Busack in a time of 11:34:34:54, Candace Jenkins in 2nd(12:39:47:25), and Sandy Marshall in 3rd(12:59:25:09).
For years, the legendary Maah Daah Hey Trail was disappearing due to neglect and a lack of resources. The Maah Daah Hey race has become an avenue to keep the trail alive. Since 2013, The race directors, Nick and Lindsey Ybarra and hundreds of incredible #SAVEtheMDH volunteers have partnered with the USFS and spent over 8,000 volunteer man-hours transforming the trail into a world-class destination.
This year’s True Grit 50 miler started an hour after the 100 milers allowing the trail a bit more time to soak up the previous day’s rain and the 100 milers to disperse some of the standing water.
The trip out of Santa Clara was warmer than the last several
years and the racing heated up quickly too.
Utah powerhouse Evelyn Dong (Pivot/Stan’s Notubes) surged
into the lead of the women’s open race early on. Being known as one of the most
talented technical riders in the US Dong was near unstoppable in the rocks and
ledges of the True Grit course.
After sailing through burly sections like the Waterfall and
Zen trail Dong spent the day challenging many of the top open male riders out
on course. Even a crash out on course couldn’t stop Evelyn Dong from taking a
win in the NUE series opener. After the race she had this to say about her
first True Grit experience.
my first time racing True Grit, which is a bit shameful having lived in Utah
for years now. The Green Valley and Santa Clara trails are some of my favorite
trails to ride so I figured I had no excuses not to race this year.
pretty excited to race and just to ride on dirt because the winter has been
pretty brutal this year. My race experience included going back and forth with
a few men for the entire race which made it fun, and one crash which
fortunately bang me or my bike up too much. Favorite part? Zen is always a
sweet spot and going down Barrel Roll is a good reward near the end.”
After the lone leader it was local legend Lynda Wallenfels
(LW Coaching) putting together a stellar effort on her home course proving she’s
back on form after a few years away from racing. Her second place finish was a
welcomed upgrade from her 2018 True Grit experience which saw her suffer a
catastrophic mechanical. Ride back to her house for a fix and then return to
complete the 50-mile course.
Behind Wallenfels, Nicole Tittensor (Scott) and Jen Hanks
(Pearl Izumi/Pivot) battled for third with Tittensor opening a lead on the
early climbs and holding pace for the first 30-plus miles of the race.
Hanks stayed close and late in the race closed the gap on
the Rim Reaper trail and moved into third before the final singletrack on Barrel
Ami Stuart (Upcycle) took the final podium spot in fifth.
The men charged off the start line with Cannondale rider
Alex Grant looking to improve on his third place finish the last two years.
Defending champion Justin Lindine wasn’t on hand to defend
his title as a water leak at his home forced him to return home instead of
riding the trails in Santa Clara.
Grant got off to a good start joined by local contenders
Drew Free (Kuhl), Chris Holley (Kuhl), Bryson Perry (Rouleur Devo), and Clayton
Otto (Pivot, TRP, Rotor).
Grant shed his competition once and for all in the red rock
maze of Zen trail and powered solo to the finish line. He had this to say after
able to break away from the front group on the climb up to the waterfall
descent, and then hold the gap in to Zen where I increased it to a couple
there is was steady eddy all the way and I rode solo for the rest of the
race. I rode the Cannondale Scalpel-Si with the Lefty Ocho and it was the
perfect setup for the course.
really happy to take the win and want to say thanks to the promoters,
volunteers and city of Santa Clara for putting on another awesome event!”
Chris Holley stayed close to the loan leader but not close
enough to challenge. A gifted rider in the rocks, Holley used his skills to
hold off a strong challenge from Clayton Otto.
Drew Free crossed the line in fourth barely a minute in
front of Bryson Perry.
The two closest races of the day came from the singlespeed and 50-plus riders. Both coming down to sprint
finishes deciding the race winners.
In singlespeed, Preston Edwards (Zone Five Racing) took the
early lead cresting the opening climbs in first place. But after being forced
to dismount on the Waterfall drop he lost his spot to Shannon Boffeli (Pearl
Izumi/Pivot) and defending champion Christopher Heinrich (The Path Bike Shop).
Boffeli took the lead into Zen and holding Heinrich off throughout
the remaining course. The gap never reached more than a handful of seconds with
Boffeli pulling away on the climbs and Heinrich closing it down on descents.
“I did everything I could to drop Chris once I knew he was
back there,” Boffeli said after the finish. “I thought I had gotten clear but
as soon as we popped back onto the road just a mile from the finish he was
“I hit the pavement with maybe 10 seconds in hand and I felt
pretty confident. I lowered my dropper post a tiny bit to make it easier to
spin on the flats back to the finish and right when I did that both legs
“I was lucky enough to get my legs moving again but by that
time Chris was right on my wheel and he timed his sprint perfectly to pip me
just before the line. It was a great race on an exceptional course and Chris
fought hard for the win.”
Both riders collapsed at the finish with a very happy
defending champion in Christopher Heinrich.
Past race winner Corey Larrabee finished in third in front
of early leader Preston Edwards.
Brent Cannon took fifth.
The 50-plus men’s group saw Jeff Jacobson (UCC/JW Floors)
taking an early lead pulling away through the Waterfall drop and Zen trail
before Matt Crowley (LW Coaching) bridged up to the leader around the halfway
From Stucki Springs on, the lead duo matched each other move
for move surging back and forth through the Rim Reaper and Barrel Roll trails
before entering the final stretch into Santa Clara wheel to wheel.
Just feet from the line both riders unleashed their sprint
with Crowley only just getting the better of Jacobson at the line.
Andy Compas (VeloLove) was thrilled with his third place
finish after crashing on his face over the Waterfall drop in 2018. His sub-4
hour time was a big improvement over the previous year.
Mike Hileman navigated his way through a successful True
Grit finishing fourth in front of fellow Nevada racer Richard DeYoung.
The 2019 True Grit Epic saw the addition of a completely new
category to the NUE series. The women’s 50-plus category put forward a strong
showing in their first event as an official NUE category with seven riders
taking the start and all but one completing the gnarly 50-mile course.
Joanne LaBelle (Peaked Sports) was the winner in the
inaugural True Grit for 50-plus women. The Driggs, Idaho, rider logged a time of
just over five hours.
Gayle Olpin took second as Laura Shaw and Jennifer Kruleski
duked it out for third with Shaw crossing the line just seconds in front of
Danita Ritter (WomenMTB) took the final podium spot in
Next the NUE series moves east to the traditional east coast opener, the Cohutta Classic in Ducktown, Tennessee on April 27th.