By Marlee Dixon — It’s 7am on March 12, 2016 and the True Grit 100 mile race is just starting. The weather is forecasted to be overcast and mid-60s, a rain storm in the night and very early morning has made the trails slightly tacky – overall perfect conditions for an epic race day. Many racers have traveled a long distance to race in Santa Clara, Utah, in the first race of the National Ultra Endurance series (NUE). This year there is a large field of mountain bike racers including a handful of Costa Rican pro racers. The True Grit Epic attracts some of the fastest endurance mountain bikers in the country and this year some of the top Costa Rican racers too.
The race starts and racers quickly ride through the streets of Santa Clara to the dirt trails and the 100 mile course. The course includes some very technical riding as well as steep climbs, screaming fast descents, and over 10,000 feet of elevation gain. It’s a true test of a racer’s strength, technical skill and fitness as well as bike and gear choice.
This year the top five open men in the 100 mile category rode together for the first lap. On the 2nd lap two Costa Ricans, Luis Anderson Mejia (Coopenae Extralum Economy) and Jonathan Carballo (Coopenae Extralum Economy), pulled away from the pack. These two were out in front but Mejia flatted and the Carballo was briefly lost. They were able to recover and finished 2nd and 4th but it was Taylor Lideen (Pivot Cycles, 92 Fifty Cyclery) from Arizona that took the win. In 2015, Taylor came in 3rd place, but this year he pulled ahead and won in a time of 6:56:39 followed by Mejia (6:58:59) in 2nd. Cary Smith (The Hub), the 2015 True Grit winner, placed 3rd in a time of 7:01:39, followed by Carballo (7:03:26). 2015’s 2nd place finisher, Josh Tostado (Santa Cruz, Swiftwick), placed 5th (7:08:12). The Costa Rican’s definitely changed up the top pro men this year in a close race for the podium spots.
For the open 100 mile women it was Angela Parra (Coopenae Extralum Economy) from Costa Rica that took the win in a time of 8:08:10. There was some question before the race on how the Costa Rican racers would do in the technical desert single-track riding, but they definitely proved to be some of the fastest racers this year setting the pace for much of the race. Parra pulled away from the start and remained in the lead the entire race. Christy Olsen (Crazy Pedaler Fat Fish) finished 2nd in a time of 8:21:27 remaining close to Parra for most of the race. 3rd place went to Marlee Dixon (Pivot Cycles/DNA Cycling) in 8:46:10.
Fourth place Chase Edwards (Flagstaff Bike Revolution and Paragon Athletics) (8:54:02) and Liz Carrington (Pale Goat Racing, Honey Stinger) (DNF) raced together for the first lap. On the 2nd lap Dixon was in the lead when both Edwards and Carrington went off course. Edwards backtracked to the course and finished 4th while Carrington and a few others continued and eventually DNF’ed after realizing they had missed part of the circuit. Brenda Simril (Motor Mile Racing), the 2015 NUE champion finished 5th in a time of 9:16:24.
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. Since the True Grit 100 course consists of two 50-mile laps the 50 mile racers started at 9:00am; completing one lap.
For the top-7 pro men; there was only a 7 minute time difference by the end of the course. Justin Lindine was clearly in the lead for the entire race finishing in a time of 3:16:21. Tinker Juarez (Cannondale/360Fly) had no problems hanging on to second place in a time of 3:18:26 while Chris Holley (Kuhl, Racer’s Cycle Service) dropped his teammate, Drew Free (Kuhl, Pivot Cycles) (3:19:34) on the final techy climb of the day to finish third (3:18:48). Roger Arnell (Team Endurance 360) finished 5th (3:21:18) followed closing by Bryson Perry (Canyon Bicycle/Shimano) 3:21:59 and Alex Pond (Sonoran Cycles) (3:22:34).
The women’s 50 included several strong contenders who got things going right from the start with Karen Jarchow (Ergon) pulling ahead early while Jenny Smith (NoTubes) and Jen Hanks (Pivot/DNA Cycling) were close behind. For Smith a flat tire and a malfunctioning dropper post would ultimately bring a premature end to her day. Jarchow finished 1st (3:53:11) followed by Nicole Tittensor in 2nd (Jans Mountain Experts/Scott) (4:01:55), Jen Hanks in 3rd (4:10:45), KC Holley (Kuhl, Racers Cycle Service) in 4th (4:11:36) and Isnaraissa Moir (Juliana/MRP) in 5th (4:17:20).
The True Grit Epic ended with live music, vendors, a beer garden, and food trucks in downtown Santa Clara. For many, it’s the start of the 2016 race season and a race we put on our calendar every year. The beautiful desert area with stunning vistas, challenging and exciting course, and great mountain bike race community are a reminder of why we love the sport.