Alex Grant Wins Season Opener: Defending Champ Cheryl Sornson Starts Off with Another Win
The National Ultra Endurance series kicked off this weekend
a bit earlier than usual. In itís first year on the NUE circuit, True Grit Epic
offered up an early season test for the nationís best ultra endurance athletes.
The desert climate of southern Utah did not disappoint as
riders were treated with warm, sunny skies throughout the event.
The True Grit racecourse features a roughly 50-mile lap
consisting of a very healthy dose of challenging technical riding and fast,
flowing desert singletrack. The 100-mile event cuts out the rugged and
demanding Zen Trail on lap 2 leaving racers with a total mileage around 90 at
Despite the early season date, a strong field including most
of the biggest names in NUE racing were on hand including previous NUE race
winners Josh Tostado (Bach Builders/Santa Cruz), Alex Grant
(Sho-Air/Cannondale), Evan Plews (Ibis), and Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt).
Headlining the womenís field was last yearís series champion
Cheryl Sornson who had made the long trip out from Pennsylvania.
Starting just before sunup riders charged out on course led,
for awhile, by singlespeed superstar Gerry Pflug.
Once on the singletrack the field quickly filtered out
leaving the best of the best up front.
Grant, Edsall, Tostado, and Cary Smith (Team CF) formed the
early lead group as Evan Plews was forced to chase on after missing the start.
Once onto Zen Trail, easily the most technical riding of the
day, Grant and Tostado began pulling away.
Not known for making early moves, Alex Grant started to open
a gap in the Zen singletrack.
"Alex and I were together going through ZenĒ Tostado would
later recount. "I made one little mistake, just a delay getting back on my bike, and he was gone.Ē
With Grant off the front it was Tostado, Cary Smith, Edsall,
and Plews battling for spots. With less than a minute or two between each other
the riders could all see each other and struggle to close the gaps.
Just after the start of lap two Drew Edsall ran out of water
and in the hot, dry conditions quickly started feeling the effects of
heatstroke. He was forced to abandon the race at the next feed zone.
With Grant still out front that battle was on for second and
Team CF rider Cary Smith as up to the challenge. He caught and passed Tostado
proving that heís got what it takes to challenge for a top spot in this yearís
Tostado slotted into the third spot and did his best to hold
off any late-race surge coming from Evan Plews. Plews is known for coming on
strong at the end of races but his day was not following the usual script.
By the finish Alex Grant had built up a lead of over ten
minutes and looked cool and collected snatching his first win of 2013 and the
early lead in the NUE series.
Cary Smith crossed the line in second getting Team CF started
on what would, in the end, be a very successful day. Josh Tostado rode in
strong taking third with Evan Plews less than one minute back in fourth.
Fifth went to a very happy Jonathan Davis (Trek Colorado)
who is just weeks off a solo 24 hour win at Old Pueblo.
The womenís event was mainly a one-woman show with Cheryl
Sornson being the class of the field.
After a slower-than-normal start and a brief wrong turn
Sornson found herself in second place following Alice Drobna (Webcyclery). Once
into the technical singletrack sections however Sornsonís bike handling skills
started to shine and she quickly regained the top spot.
"This is my favorite kind of ridingĒ Sornson shared after
the race. "Itís just like the riding we do back in Michaux Forest only there
everything is green and covered with moss.Ē
Once out front Sornson felt no pressure from her competitors
and handled the heat and dry conditions well crossing the line almost thirty
minutes out front, the only woman to complete the 90-mile course in under 9
Alice Drobna put together a great showing for second place
followed by NUE stalwart Brenda Simril who also made the trip out from the east
Fourth place went to Susan Lynch of Union Velo.
The next round of the NUE series will be just over a month
from now as the Cohutta 100 in Ducktown, Tennessee, plays host to the NUE
To learn more about the NUE series visit http://www.nuemtb.com