Endurance racing resumed Wednesday at the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic with the “gravel day.” High-speed pack riding and mixed terrain have made this one of my favourite days of the race. Some racers will bring hardtails and/or lighter, less-knobby tires, but most will stick to their reliable tires and full-suspension bikes to ensure they make it through the high speed Jeep trail and four enduro segments.
My approach Wednesday was to attack after the first singletrack. Last year Kona’s Kris Sneddon animated the stage with a very aggressive approach and I was hoping to use this same tactic to try and find the podium again. A further benefit of animating the gravel stage is you get in a lot of photos, and I freely admit, I pretty much race to get into photos!
While I love pushing my limits, the social aspect of cycling is a big reason I race. Days such as Tuesday’s enduro adventure reinforce this but even Wednesday, on a very tactical stage, I was reminded of this by having short conversations and exchanging jokes with the other top men. After my solo attack, I ended up in a small group with Dan Timmerman, Justin Lindine, Payson McElveen and Tristan Uhl.
The best example of sportsmanship came from Tristan, who shared some water with me before the last climb despite the fact that we are battling for third and despite the fact I had been attacking all day. While many pro and age-group racers get too serious about racing, I think it is important to remember that it is just bike racing and it should be fun. Even racers at the highest level, like Geoff Kabush, often refer to the importance of fun and positive bike riding.
As any good race should, Wednesday’s stage ended with a sprint and I did a much better job sticking with the effort to the line, as compared with last year. I gained some time back on Tristan and finished fourth, just behind the three-way photo finish sprint for the stage win, which Dan Timmerman (Riverside Racing) took over Justin Lindine and Payson McElveen.
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The elite women’s race was taken by Vicky Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes), who beat out Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing) and Mical Dyck (Stan’s NoTubes). Mical spent much of the day riding with fellow Canadian Simon Trembley before he was slowed by a flat tire, and she will be gunning for a strong finish to the week as her endurance experience and technical skill will serve her well on the final three stages, especially after a few days getting used to the East Coast Rocks.