Fourth annual True Grit Epic Bike Race, a windy ride through a century of dirt

Fourth annual True Grit Epic Bike Race, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – For many of us, riding 50-100 miles through the desert on a bicycle during a wind advisory warning would be a deal breaker, but for the racers of the fourth annual True Grit Epic Bike Race, Saturday’s wind seemed to just add a little more “grit” to the course.

By about 9:13 a.m. the last group out of some 380 racers registered, including the newest category of age 60+ racers, took off down Curly Hollow Drive in St. George. Curly Hollow turns to dirt and connects Moe’s Valley to Green Valley Raceway, weaving through the valleys between Santa Clara and Bloomington and intercepting seven popular mountain bike trails from Barrel Roll to Zen. Racers either rode the 50-mile loop or doubled the route to complete a century.

Racers take off across the starting line at True Grit Epic Bike Race, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 |Photo by and courtesy of Dell Brown, St. George News
Racers take off across the starting line at True Grit Epic Bike Race, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by and courtesy of Dell Brown, St. George News

“I’m looking forward to every part of the course,” Heber City resident Kathy Sherwin said.” These are trails that you ride when you come to St. George anyway, and they just happened to be combined into one big 50-mile lap.”

Sherwin took 1st place in her category, the 50-open pro, Cimarron Chacon, race coordinator said.

Salt Lake City resident Drew Free has been training 20 hours a week on the bike, but he said that riding through the desert’s rocky terrain is completely different than the smooth trails of Salt Lake City.

“Down here its a whole body workout,” Free said.

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Videocast by Amber Green, St. George News

This also marks True Grit’s second year of serving as the season-opener for the National Ultra Endurance Race Series, a mountain bike races series that draws endurance athletes from all across North America to compete in 13 races in 13 states. The last race will take place in September seeking one top winner for each of the four divisions: Men’s Open, Women’s Open, Single Speed, and Master’s 50 plus.

At about 12:45 p.m. Bryson Perry of Sandy crossed the finish line first overall out of the 50-milers.

“It was all about pacing,” Perry said. “Pushing hard enough, but not wearing yourself out. The most difficult part mentally was the headwind.”

Around 2:30 p.m. a live band, Dixie Slim, began to play whimsical, calming music from a stage.

Band plays peaceful music at the True Grit Epic, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
Band plays peaceful music at the True Grit Epic, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

Resident of Blackhawk, Colorado, Jonathan Davis, said that he’d been daydreaming of drinking a Coca-Cola for the last hour-and-a-half before he finished the 100 miles on his single speed. He grabbed an aluminum can of a gleaming red coke from the back of his van and sat on the grass.

“Some people define a race as fun,” Davis said. “I don’t think riding a hundred miles is fun, it’s all about the satisfaction you get in the end.”

One of the youngest riders, Harrison Christensen, 16, who rides on a mountain bike team at Mountain View High School, said that he was able to meet his goal of finishing the 50 miles within five to six hours, which he was proud of especially because the trails were unexpectedly different than the ones he rides at home.

“St. George is a lot more rocky than the trails I’m used to. I can feel it in my hands from all the vibrations,” Christensen said.

Racer ascends a dirt hill at the True Grit Epic Bike Race, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 |Photo by and courtesy of Dell Brown, St. George News
Racer ascends a dirt hill at the True Grit Epic Bike Race, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 |Photo by and courtesy of Dell Brown, St. George News

Cheryl Sornson traveled from Pennsylvania for her second time competing in the True Grit. She was the first to finish the 100-mile track for the Women’s Open and also met her goal of completing the century in under eight hours.

“The wind would try to blow me off track,” Sornson said, “but I kept on. I figure I might as well see a hundred miles of where I traveled to.”

During Jeremy Branch’s trek through the desert, the wind was not his greatest nemesis.

“I’m not exactly sure how it happened, I think I hit a rock or something because I broke two spokes,” Branch said. “I didn’t want to walk my bike all the way back to the car, so I put a tube in and I thought well this wheel is true enough, and then I rode the rest of the way back.”

The first 100-mile single speed racer to finish was Gerry Pflug of Pennsylvania. Pflug is also a five-time NUE winner of the 100-mile single speed division. He said his favorite trails to ride are at home lately through several feet of snow.

“During the winter I ride what we call fat bikes that you can ride through the snow. That’s my training,” Pflug said.

Jayman Whitehead, Salt Lake City, rode a Townie in the True Grit Epic, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
Jayman Whitehead, Salt Lake City, rode a Townie in the True Grit Epic, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

Jayman Whitehead, originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and more recently from Salt Lake City where he has resided since 2006, came to the True Grit Epic to train with his townie bike. A townie is different from the traditional mountain bike.

“It has a rack and basket up front, fenders – fenders are unusual for mountain bikes and totally unnecessary,” Whitehead said. “It has the old style rim brakes, and only one gear.”

Whitehead registered to run the True Grit 100 on his townie but said he had a bunch of mechanical issues, four flat tires among other things, and missed the cut-off for the 100 and so continued on and finished the 50 instead.

Today was Whitehead’s fourth True Grit, which he rode to train for a 24-hour Townie World Championship in Colorado.

Jeff Geiskopf of Brentwood, California competed in the 50-mile single speed division.

“It was good, tough course,” Geiskopf said. “For me, the wind and the dry air were the toughest.”

Jeff Geiskopf, accompanied by his wife, Michelle, both came from Brentwood, Calif., and this is their first time visiting St. George, they chose to stay at the Seven Wives Inn to get a real taste of St. George. Geiskopf finished fifth in his category, the 50-mile single speed.

Jeff and Michelle Geiskopf, from Brentwood, California. Jeff Geiskopf ran the True Grit 50 mile singles race and came in 5th, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News
Jeff and Michelle Geiskopf, from Brentwood, California. Jeff Geiskopf ran the True Grit 50 mile singles race and came in 5th, St. George, Utah, March 15, 2014 | Photo by Joyce Kuzmanic, St. George News

Coming in second in the 100-mile single speed division, again, A.J. Linnell said that he took a wrong turn in the beginning that cost him some time. He was second beneath Pflug last year as well. Though his key to a fast time is “finding a pace that you can sustain all day,” he said.

Besides the heart-pumping dirt trail system, the True Grit Epic Bike Race is great for St. George’s economy, race director Cimarron Chacon said.

“About 95 percent of the racers are from out of town which generates revenue for St. George through lodging and food,” she said. As for the fourth annual True Grit Epic mountain bike race, “we do it every year and we are proud to put it on,” she said.

Click on photo to enlarge it, then use your left-right arrow keys to cycle through the gallery. 

Ed. note: NAME CORRECTION made: Kathy Sherman’s name was incorrectly given as Sherwin. It has been corrected. She placed first in the 50-open pro category.

Results

True Grit Epic Mountain Bike Race results 2014 – note some results are in flux pending confirmation, results are expected to be final end of the day March 16

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