The Crusher in the Tushar based in Beaver has helped put Utah on the U.S. gravel map. However, an hour and a half down I-15, there is a new gravel event with a promising future.

For the past eight years, the True Grit Epic endurance mountain bike race showcased the impressive mountain bike trails outside the hub of St. George. As the mountain bike race thrived, gravel racing has obviously grown a bit as well.

This year, the organizers of the True Grit Epic decided to add the True Grit Gravel Epic to the weekend. True Grit … that sounds familiar.

Wait, let’s try that again. That sounds familiar.

“This event would not have happened without the partnership of Lauf,” GRO Promotions owner Cimarron Chacon said. “The course was designed on a Lauf True Grit bike, with routes that would take advantage of the Lauf fork and unique gravel geometry of the bike. Lauf is the Gravel Race title sponsor.”

Lauf was a fitting sponsor for the True Grit Gravel Epic. photo: GRO Promotions

Lauf was a fitting sponsor for the True Grit Gravel Epic. photo: GRO Promotions

A Course Worthy of the Name

The longest distance of the True Grit Epic mountain bike race is 100 miles and the event kicks off the National Ultra Endurance Series. The event certainly lives up to the name “epic.”

The same obviously has to go for the True Grit Gravel Epic. You better have a challenging course to live up to the name!

It is tough for a race called the True Grit Gravel Epic to live up to the name. photo: BLM

It is tough for a race called the True Grit Gravel Epic to live up to the name. photo: BLM

The route for the True Grit Gravel Epic covered 83 miles with nearly 9,000 feet of climbing. Eighty percent of the route is off-road. One big difference with its Utah cousin the Crusher is the True Grit Gravel Epic never gets above 5,000 feet of elevation, making it more friendly for riders based below the clouds.

“We set out to create a gravel course worthy of the True Grit name and reputation,” Chacon said. “My hope was that the course would have at least the same challenge level as the Crusher but be accessible for training in the spring when the Crusher course is often under snow. Based on social media threads on the Utah Gravel Grinder group we accomplished that.”

2019 True Grit Gravel Epic course map

2019 True Grit Gravel Epic course map

Riders who opted for the True Grit Gravel Epic over its mountain bike friend were treated to a variety of terrain, including some singletrack early in the race.

“The singletrack in Bear Claw Poppy features fun rollers that are fairly smooth,” Chacon said. “I wanted to create a course that was truly a gravel course and not a road course. So I wanted to connect the start with as much dirt as possible, even if it was singletrack.”

Southwest Utah is noted for the beauty of its landscape, and although the course was incredibly challenging, riders got to chew the scenery a bit during their rides.

“[The route] travels through three different ecotones,” Chacon said. “A portion of the course also goes through the Beaver Dam National Conservation Area. This area has a high density of Joshua Trees. And in a wet year like this one, you can see them blooming.”

The route featured plentiful beautiful vistas. photo: BLM

The route featured plentiful beautiful vistas. photo: BLM

The True Grit Gravel Epic course traveled to the top of three different peaks, concentrated in the first two-thirds of the route—fortunately, Mile 65 to the end is nearly all downhill, half of it on pavement.

Looking at the course map and the three peaks the route travels up to, the irreverent spirit of gravel was alive and well at the True Grit Gravel Epic. Climb one featured 2,000 feet of elevation gain to Hard Root Beer Hill. The reward for cresting the climb seems straightforward enough.

The second climb features what are affectionately known as the “Rollers of Doon,” and a reward that took a bit more of an explanation.

“Last spring, I rode the course with friends numerous times to dial it in,” Chacon said. “There was always a point during the Rollers of Doom (aka Death Rollers) that you kind of what to quit. When they were over we would stop and eat a giant pickle. This became known as Committing to the Pickle.”

Then after one more big climb, it was time to coast to the finish back in Santa Clara.

The Race

The first-ever True Grit Gravel Epic took place on Saturday, March 9, starting at 7:30 a.m. from Santa Clara and finishing in the same location 83 miles later.

This year’s inaugural event drew 94 starters—the first edition of the True Grit Epic mountain bike race had 140 starters and has now grown to 850, for some perspective on where the event might be able to go.

Across the country, we have seen gravel grow by pulling riders from other disciplines but more importantly, by bringing new people into the sport. Chacon said the True Grit Gravel Epic drew some of both.

“There are definitely new racers on the gravel that do not like the highly technical aspect of the True Grit mountain bike race,” she said. “However, We have had quite a few requests to hold the events on separate days or even make a stage event—a gravel slash mountain bike stage race would be something new.”

With the True Girt Epic mountain bike race holding its ninth year of racing this year and its place on the national ultra-endurance calendar, the race has developed payouts that give $650 to the top woman and man in the 100-mile race and total at least $5,000 total.

For the first running of the True Grit Gravel Epic, organizers kept it in the spirit of many gravel races across the country with no payouts. However, that may change in the future.

“I can see adding a pro purse in the future as we grow,” Chacon said. “I expect to more than double in 2020.”

On Saturday, Eleise Hinton (Zone Five Racing) took the Women’s overall win. Breanne Nadler (Plan 7 DS) finished second and Hannah Dhonou third.

The Men’s race was won by Eric Chizum. David Tinker Juarez (Cannondale) took second and Christoph Heinrich third.

Full results are below.

Women's Results: 2019 True Grit Gravel Epic

1Eleise HintonZone Five Racing6:44:15
2Breanne NalderPlan 7 DS6:46:00
3Hannah Dhonau7:57:00
4Amy Heaton8:14:57
5Sara Koenig8:56:51

Men's Results: 2019 True Grit Gravel Epic

1Eric Chizum5:17:21
2David Tinker JuarezCannondale5:17:26
3Christoph Heinrich5:33:26
4Dan HoopesZone Five Racing5:37:44
5Jason Judy5:37:53
6Neil ShirleyENVE5:37:54
7Nathan ManwaringJohnson Elite Orthodontics5:41:16
8Aaron JordinHanger 155:41:31
9Chad ChenowethJohnson Elite Orthodontics5:52:14
10Jed ChristensenRed Rock Bicycle5:59:18
11Lance BaileyThe Bike Shoppe Racing6:00:44
12Dave HarrisLW Coaching6:01:48
13Adam JonesSpry Cycles6:04:53
14Mike Cabigon6:11:33
15Andrew JudkinsJohnson Elite Orthodontics6:11:41
16Drew Van BoerumTeam TOSH6:24:00
17Ray ThomPlan 7 DS6:24:11
18Scott BoylesGravel Stoke6:24:12
19Alec ErorTeam Redrock6:27:24
20Mark LarsenTeam Redrock6:27:25
21Joseph BrubakerKuhl Cycling Team6:29:47
22Aaron PhillipsBingham Cyclery - Peak Fasteners6:32:01
23Rob BeardTeam Eastside Cycles6:36:31
24Bergur BenediktssonLauf6:40:41
25Watts DixonRevolting Cogs/Bikerumor6:40:57
26Drew Shetrone6:41:05
27Matt Snyder6:43:15
28Michael Kern6:49:42
29Jose javier Gonzalez6:51:10
30Reed Abbott6:52:05
31Shane HortonUtahMountainBiking.com6:53:43
32James HowtonIntermountian Livewell Pb Harristone6:56:08
33Bruce HillIntermountian Livewell Pb Harristone6:56:10
34Wayne ButlerZanconato Racing6:56:28
35Jonathan OslandNone6:59:42
36Matt TennisonPlan 7 DS7:00:16
37Chris PetersonMi Duole7:01:28
38Michael Turner7:08:39
39Scott SugimotoIntermountian Livewell Pb Harristone7:15:24
40Greg Peterson7:23:47
41Perry HallTeam TOSH7:23:52
42Troy GormanTeam TOSH7:23:52
43Zach TerryTeam TOSH7:23:55
44Miguel Payan7:33:46
45Jason GoodfellowNone7:36:02
46Zach ButterfieldHanger 157:36:03
47Mark Duncan7:41:55
48Keith Edmiston7:46:55
49Matt WidhalmSaltCycle-Kestrel Wellness7:49:07
50Eric IveyUS Military Endurance Sports7:51:35
51Jared PurdyTeam Redrock8:03:51
52Ken Johnson8:17:31
53Ray Landry III.8:20:03
54Dustin England8:20:05
55Ryan MoneyBountiful Bicycle Racing p/b Nate Wade Subaru8:20:08
56Chad McWilliamsRapid Cycling8:31:41
57Damien Gusmerotti8:42:37
58Bradley Belnap8:44:58
59Steven Berry8:45:03
60Richard Hart8:45:10
61Matt Scott8:45:12
62Nicholas Lumby8:57:00
63Eric Broussard9:00:56
64Jonathan Albanese9:01:02
65Tim Butler9:06:36
66Veldon Moser9:11:46
67Brian Oliver9:11:53
68Victor Sternberg Jr9:31:23
69Greg Sironen----
70Craig WilliamsBingham Cyclery - Peak Fasteners----
71Erik HarringtonRMCC----
72Layne LawsonAmerica First Credit Union Cycling Team----
DNSAaron SmithTeam Hammersaw
DNFS VerhaarenMi Duole
DNFRick MorrisBingham Cyclery - Peak Fasteners
DNFDemetrius LeachHanger 15
DNFDonald LeachHanger 15
DNFBrandon PierceIntermountian Livewell Pb Harristone
DNFRay CrowderMoonstomper