We’re almost at the halfway mark of the seven-day Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic in Emmaus, Penn. Stage 3 provided a break from endurance racing as it was an enduro stage: the stage time was the cumulative time from five mostly downhill segments. Those who love getting wild on fast, technical descents were able to test their abilities and gain time in the overall and enduro competitions. While many riders come to TS-Epic for the enduro category, the majority of participants use the day as a chance to recover after the very demanding Stage 2 and save up energy for the last four challenging stages.
I rode with the Competitive Cyclist guys, who, after this stage, made up the top three in the general classification. This year, the pace at the front was fairly relaxed between stages. We even found time to “play” with three snakes along the way! That mental break, taking time to relax and actually enjoy spending time racing with and against friends, is always really important during a race, whether it happens in a stage or even before or after.
Most riders in an enduro end up with other riders with similar abilities and settle in with them between stages. This chance to go on a big ride at a conversational pace is one of the attractive elements of enduro. One of the downsides for those not at the front of the ride is wait times to start the downhills and traffic during segments. Enduro purists will generally ride and hike very easy between stages and wait long enough to leave sufficient gaps between riders. Waiting until later in the ride to do segments can allow line choices become more obvious. My strategy at TS-Epic is generally to get out of the saddle as soon as I can while expending as little energy as possible on the climbs to set me up for a strong final four days. It’s a bit of a balancing act.
If you are thinking of racing enduro, in a stage race or for a one-day event, most riders can try it out on their normal mountain bike. A full-suspension rig is a big help in most areas, but any bike can be made more “enduro” by dropping the seat a bit, getting big tires appropriate for the area and possibly purchasing some knee and elbow pads. I rode my race bike but added bigger Bontrager XR3 tires and burlier rims. I also carried a lens cloth to keep my sunglasses clean and, more important, to force me to stop before each stage start to focus and recover before starting the segment.
Stages were similar to last year, so I had more of an idea of what to be ready for as we blazed downhill. I had a clean day with only one minor crash on the last stage as I found my front wheel on the wrong side of a tree. I wasn’t as far off the leader this year, so I was happy with my day. Justin Lindine and Tristan Uhl put in very solid times besting the enduro overall leader, Cody Phillips. For the women, it was Stan’s No-Tubes team going one-two with mountain bike legend Sue Haywood taking the stage win over Canada’s Mical Dyck.
With the gravel stage coming up Wednesday, riders are bracing to get dirty. Those coming from road and shorter racing disciplines can often stay in lead groups for much of the stage and even use tactical abilities to gain time on opponents who rely more on technical proficiency. We will see if I can muster another podium and start chipping away at that top three.