True Grit Epic (NUE #1) – Santa Clara, UT

Taylor Lideen and Angela Parra Take NUE Series Opener in Santa Clara

Written by: Jen Hanks

With the 2016 National Ultra Endurance (NUE) series set to kickoff Saturday morning things were not looking good in Santa Clara, Utah. Following a dry winter in southern Utah, rain began to fall just past midnight Saturday morning, the rain came down hard for several hours. Water ran down many of the same washes the True Grit Epic would be conquering just a few hours later.

The rains finally stopped about 90 minutes before race time and just before the 100-mile competitors were about to start they received news that the course was draining quickly and the muddiest sections should be clear by the time racers would arrive.

With good news fresh in their minds the more than 100 riders entered in the 100-mile True Grit Epic left the quaint, peaceful setting of Santa Clara for the rugged desert of the True Grit.

With the roads still damp and temperatures in the 40s riders hit the road out from Santa Clara and the leaders were soon stringing the pack out behind them.

As many as 15 Costa Rican riders traveled to Utah for the first race of the NUE series. The “Tico Invasion” served to drive the pace in the early stages as did Cary Smith (The Hub), Josh Tostado (Santa Cruz), and Taylor Lideen (Pivot/92 Fifty Cyclery), who finished second, third, and fourth respectively in 2015.

When the dust settled the lead group, included the three Americans and two Coast Rican riders Luis Anderson Mejia and Jonathan Carballo, teammates on the Coopenae Extralum Economy team.

Luis Anderson Mejia and Taylor Lideen. Photo by Ryan O'Dell

Luis Anderson Mejia and Taylor Lideen. Photo by Ryan O’Dell

These five riders stayed close throughout the entire first 50-mile lap. After the halfway mark the fireworks began as the Costa Rican duo broke away. What appeared to be the most significant move of the day was rather quickly neutralized as one of the leaders suffered an untimely flat and his teammate made a wrong turn getting him off course.

This put Lideen in the driver’s seat and the Pivot rider proved more than capable of steering his way to the finish. Lideen has a unique history of racing ultra-endurance events and enduro/downhill races. The technical skills he’s acquired in his downhill pursuits served him well in conquering the tough, technical terrain of the True Grit 100.

Taylor Lideen proved untouchable for the rest of the race and crossed the line in just under 7 hours to take a very emotional victory – his first at an NUE event.

Mejia and Carballo recovered from their unfortunate turn but it cost them a chance for a race win. Mejia rolled in to the finish in second place just in front of Cary Smith.

Carballo ultimately took fourth with Josh Tostado claiming the final podium position in fifth.

The women’s race provided some South American fireworks of their own with Angela Parra (Coopenae Extralum Economy) representing the Tico squad up front.

Parra appeared to have no concerns about the long mileage or technical terrain of the day as she set off with a fast pace right from the start. She got out front early and proved formidable on the early climbing sections of the course.

Christy Olsen (Crazy Pedaler Fast Fish) limited her losses in the early going occupying the second spot on course for the entire day.

Behind the lead duo a rotating group of Liz Carrington (Pale Goat), Chase Edwards (Flagstaff Bike Revolution), and Marlee Dixon (Pivot/DNA Cycling) battled for who would occupy third spot on the podium.

Dixon opened up a lead toward the midway mark leaving the others behind on the Barrel Roll trail.

Just a few miles into lap two Carrington and Edwards got off course accompanied by several male racers. Edwards decided to backtrack to rejoin the course while Carrington searched around and after seeing some course markings returned to the course. In doing so Carrington had unwittingly cut out a significant climb and after finishing realized her mistake and was disqualified.

Despite all the action back in the pack Angela Parra continued to power her way through the course and ultimately took the win in just over 8 hours.

Angela Parra crosses the finish line. Photo by Ryan O'Dell

Angela Parra crosses the finish line. Photo by Ryan O’Dell

Christy Olsen proved up to the challenge riding steady in second and claiming a few hundred dollars for her efforts.

Marlee Dixon stayed strong for the second half of her race taking a satisfying third place after she had to DNF in 2015.

Chase Edwards’ decision to backtrack cost her some time but ultimately paid off as she claimed fourth on the day with NUE series champion Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing) coming home in fifth.

Of all the days racing the 100-mile singlespeed event may have been the craziest. It started early as NUE series champion Gordon Wadsworth (Pivot/Blue Ridge Cyclery) and Steven Mills powered away in the lead group.

Wadsworth flatted early on, losing serious time to Mills and the large chase group that included Mike Montalbano (Ride 4 Rescue), Kip Biese (KJ Bike Coaching), Corey Larrabee (Kuhl/Fezzarri), John Haddock (JA King), and Shannon Boffeli (Pivot/DNA Cycling).

Mills was well off the front and by the end of lap one had well over 10 minutes on the chase group who in turn had another 10 minutes on Wadsworth.

By this time the lead group had winnowed it’s way down to Montalbano, Boffeli, and Larrabee. But Wadsworth quickly spoiled the party by turning in an impressive surge of speed that saw him eat up those 10 minutes in no more than 15 miles.

The defending champ was now in second with Mills off the front and seemingly out of reach, which is when things really got out of hand.

Mills held off Wadsworth for the rest of lap two and cruised into the finish assuming he had won but he and race officials quickly discovered that he had inadvertently missed a section of the course about 10 miles from the finish. So Mills rode back out onto the circuit to complete the missed section of trail, backtracking many miles to do so.

This meant Gordon Wadsworth was now in the lead with clear sailing to the finish line. No mistakes or missed checkpoints would derail his day as he rolled into the finish taking another win at the True Grit Epic.

Corey Larrabee couldn’t hang with the race winner but stayed well clear of the other competitors to take a resounding second place on the day.

Corey Larrabee and Gordon Wadsworth congratulate each other at the finish. Photo by Ryan O'Dell

Corey Larrabee and Gordon Wadsworth congratulate each other at the finish. Photo by Ryan O’Dell

Meanwhile Mills rejoined the course on the Barrel Roll trail not far behind third place rider Shannon Boffeli. The almost-race-winner Mills had plenty of juice left in his legs to pass Boffeli and secure a third place finish despite the extra mileage.

Boffeli held on for fourth in front of North Carolina rider John Haddock.

The master’s 50+ proved to be a truly epic competition as the top spot wouldn’t be decided until a last final sprint to the finish line.

Eventual winner, Greg Golet (Team Chico), got off to a good start jumping in front of top competitors Roger Masse (Rare Disease Cycling) and Jeff Clayton (Georgia Neurosurgical Institute) early.

That is until he encountered a vicious clay bog that had claimed several riders in it’s deep, sticky goo. Golet, like other riders, diverted around the worst of the clay but confusion about some downed course markings led to him rejoining the course on a climb he had already completed.

After riding the climb for a few minutes he realized his error and backtracked again. By now he had lost several minutes and found himself chasing Clayton, Masse, and David Jolin (Stark Velo).

He caught Jolin first, followed by Masse but Jeff Clayton still stayed out front.

With just a few miles left in the 100-mile race Golet finally made contact with the leader and the two raced the last several miles wheel-to-wheel back to the finish.

As they approached the line it appeared Clayton would lead out the final sprint but he missed the turn onto the final chicane leading to the finish allowing Golet to slide through for the win.

Clayton ultimately crossed the line in second.

David Jolin overtook Roger Masse to claim third with Masse fourth. Sten Hertsens (Muleterro) took the final podium spot in fifth.

New to the NUE series for 2016 is the 50-mile classification. Several races on the NUE calendar will be offering a 50-mile option this year that will be part of the NUE overall series titles. True Grit is the first of these 50-mile events.

Since the True Grit 100 course consists of two 50-mile laps the 50 milers would simple complete one. And as the open groups left the start line it was obvious that one lap would be a fast one.

Endurance racing grandmaster Tinker Juarez (Cannondale/360Fly) and Justin Lindine (Hyperthreads) were the first to take off, getting a solid gap on the chase group until Drew Free (Kuhl) bridged up to Juarez in the technical rocks of the Zen trail.

Lindine was out of sight as Juarez sped away fro Free on the smoother trails following Zen. Another Kuhl rider, Chris Holley joined Free at this point and the teammates rode the second half of the race together but were never able to close the gap to Juraez or Lindine.

Justin Lindine was clearly the class of the field taking the win with a healthy margin of around 2 minutes. Never really being challenged for most of the day.

Juarez had no problems hanging onto second place while Chris Holley dropped his teammate on the final techy climb of the day to finish third.

Drew Free held on for fourth place with Roger Arnell (Endurance 360) finishing out the podium in fifth.

Jen Hanks and Karen Jarchow celebrate after the finish. Photo by Ryan O'Dell

Jen Hanks and Karen Jarchow celebrate after the finish. Photo by Ryan O’Dell

The women’s 50 included several strong contenders who got things going right from the start with Karen Jarchow (Topeak-Ergon) climbing away early with Jenny Smith (NoTubes) and Jen Hanks (Pivot/DNA Cycling) close behind.

Unfortunately for Smith, a fast downhill led to a flat tire and once that was fixed a malfunctioning dropper post would ultimately bring a premature end to her day.

While all this was going on Nicole Tittensor (Scott/Reynolds) moved into the second spot ahead of Hanks.

Once out front though Jarchow could not be stopped. Karen made several trips to St. George this winter to dial in the most challenging sections of the True Grit course and it showed. The Ergon rider breezed through the drops and slickrock on Zen and charged through the remaining miles of the lap taking a well-deserved win.

Nicole Tittensor finished second followed by Jen Hanks.

KC Holley (Kuhl) and Isnaraissa Moir (Juliana/MRP) took the final podium spots in fourth and fifth respectively.

Whether completing the 50 or 100 mile race the True Grit Epic again proved to be every bit the long, tough, and technical challenge it is advertised to be.

Next the NUE series heads east for the Cohutta 100 in Tennessee on April 30th. Be sure to follow MTB Race News for full reports and results from Cohutta and all the 2016 NUE series.

Click here for full results from 2016 True Grit Epic

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