Welcome back to my report from 2015 Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic, a seven-day mountain bike stage race in central Pennsylvania. My intent as we go through the week is to go beyond the athlete blog and the results to provide some honest personal experience and also some usable information as both an athlete and a coach, which you can use to take on a similar challenge very soon.
Tuesday was Stage 2, Cooper’s Gap, the longest, at 37.5 miles (60 km), and most technical stage of the week. While the stage was shortened with the removal of a big climb this year, it was still a tough day that included roughly 5,000 feet, or 1,500 m of climbing. My day was full of ups and downs and was largely a re-learning of one of my big rules for myself and for coaching clients: always keep moving forward as best as you can on the section you are on and let the results be the result of that work.
The longer mass-start day allowed the group to stay together for several miles of gravel to the actual race start. This is always nerve-racking for riders hoping to succeed as the funnel effect into the first singletrack always catches a few riders in the wrong spot and the lead riders get a head start. While not imperative to be in or near a group, it is nice to have some riders around the chase or run from and to confirm you are still on the race route. Pack skills definitely help in these events.
The enduro stages on Stage 2 had very high-speed, rocky descents that pushed riders’ willingness to let go of the brakes and also the heat tolerance of braking systems. I found my ‘rock-skills’ about halfway through the day as I put in a couple good enduro segments and caught several riders from the lead group. I often practise, and encourage athletes to practise, an aero position on my mountain bike and it paid off as I closed a few gaps without pedalling on gravel downhills and also increased my speed on flat open sections.
While I am fortunate enough to be on a full-suspension bike—a Trek SuperFly FS—this year, this stage was still a challenge to keep the bike moving smoothly over the uphills and flat rock sections. Despite doing a few more long rides in Pennsylvania and in Collingwood, Ont., this year, I still feel like I could have used more time on this terrain to maximize the fitness I have.
As I write this, I am struck by the fact that these thoughts of doubt, or negative self talk, are what I, and many riders, battle during the course of a three to five hour stage. Staying motivated, fuelled and moving forward as we push to the line often results in catching riders later in the stage. On the second day of racing, I was reminded of this as I moved into third place and my first TS Epic stage podium. For riders out there who struggle with self-doubt in rides and in races, just remember: it is never as bad as you think, unless you let it be.
On the Canadian side of things, Mical Dyck (Stans NoTubes) was top Canadian female and second in the open women, with many other Canadians from Nova Scotia and Ontario completing the day’s stage.
Results are available for Stage 1 and 2 as well as the enduro classification at Trans-Sylvania Epic website and by checking out @transsylvania on Twitter.
Look for Wednesday’s Stage 3 results and stories from the TSE’s “enduro day.”