Favorite gets a run for his money
With Alex Grant in the lineup, the Wasatch Back 50 looked like a race for second place. Then the South Africans showed up.
Grant, 31, is one of the country’s top endurance mountain-bike racers. The Salt Lake City resident, who races for Cannondale, has won the Park City Point 2 Point race for the last three years. So his presence among the mostly Utah racers enrolled in Saturday’s 50-mile mountain-bike race near Midway made him the one to watch.
But at the last minute, Matthys Beukes and Gert Heyns, two strong South African riders who had raced the previous weekend in Montana, heard about the event and signed up.
"That ended up making for an exciting race," said Bob Saffell, a partner in MTB Race Productions, which organized the event. "Grant was a prohibitive favorite going into the race and they ended up pushing him a little bit."
Grant ultimately won the race in 3 hours, 41 minutes and 2 seconds. But the two South Africans weren’t far behind. Beukes was second in 3:45:25 and Heyns was fourth in 3:52:25. Sandwiched between Beukes and Heyns was Ben Aufderheide of Wilson, Wyo., in 3:50:13.
The course included about 7,700 feet of elevation gain, mostly at Soldier Hollow and in the higher reaches of Wasatch Mountain State Park. Much of the course outside Soldier Hollow was on improved dirt roads and ATV trails which, Saffell said, the racers seemed to enjoy.
The race took the place of last year’s Park City 50-mile race. Saffell said he’d like to return to Wasatch County next year, depending on the state of the county’s trails.
"Wasatch County is in the middle of building a lot of new trails, and we would like to make use of those trails," he said.
Saffell said about 220 riders showed up for the WB 50, the third race in the four-race Utah State Championship Series that also included the Round Valley XC on June 23. The series is scheduled to wrap up with the Draper Fall Classic 50 on Sept. 15.
Among the local competitors, Sam Sweetser of Park City had the fastest time, finishing eighth in the pro men’s division (and eighth overall) with a time of 4:06:07.
In the pro women’s division, Evelyn Dong, who divides her time between Park City and Bend, Ore., finished first in a time of 4:34:34. Another Parkite, Meghan Sheridan, finished second behind Dong in 4:41:11.
Among the expert men ages 30-39, Drew Medlock was seventh in 4:33:29 and Scott Morrison was eighth in 4:35:21.
Among the expert men 40 and older, Geno Smith of Park City was seventh in 4:38:03, Thom Morton of Midway was eighth in 4:38:26 and Jack Dainton of Park City was ninth in 4:43:03
Other local finishers included:
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The Park City Council on Thursday declared June as Pride Month, indicating it fits well with City Hall’s social equity efforts and acknowledging the proclamation was at least partially inspired by a recent controversy in Heber City regarding the flying of rainbow flags.