On Thursday, it was onto Stage 5 at Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic stage race in State College, Penn. This stage was a tough one for me last year because it is a remote one out of R.B. Winter Park. It is a long day away from camp and requires much more organization compared to the other stages.
Proving that the best laid plans can go wrong, last year I screwed up and forgot the post-race food cooler and then I lost all my bottles during the stage and ended up getting quite behind on nutrition and hydration. I did slightly better Thursday as I only forgot to pack my jerseys and was lucky that my girlfriend Molly had a black jersey for me borrow.
After a short neutral rollout, I sat second wheel for the road section then attacked, using my “stealth” jersey for an extra jump, right before a gate that led into the jeep trail. Since I am outnumbered three to one in the lead group against the Competitive Cyclist team, there is not much option other than pulling until attacks start, so I led much of the first half.
The feed zones have been a bit chaotic the past few days, so planning nutrition and hydration is hard. I generally start with all the Hammer gel I need, so fuelling is OK, but hydration is running a bit tight. Thursday went pretty well and I should be good for the final two stages.
After the feed zone, the overall leader Payson McElveen went to the front and put the pressure on through a very long East Coast Rocks section. A small gap opened as he and Justin Lindine went to battle for the stage win, leaving me and Tristan to dual for third on the stage and third overall. Drew Dillman joining us, after an impressive solo effort to bridge.
A fall left me short on wind and back about 30-60 seconds on the other two for a few sections of trail. Fortunately, I was able to stay calm and keep moving forward and was rewarded with both riders in my sight after the “primitive” section of trail. I closed the gap and distanced myself from Tristan on a run-up—I love anytime I can get off my bike—then I caught and duelled with Drew into the finish. Rather than sprinting Drew, I elected to focus on my road-gap whip. Because Drew is in the team competition, I was technically third on the day and have taken over third overall.
The women’s race had great back and forth racing with race overall leader Vicky Barclay getting beat by a charging Crystal Anthony. Barclay was able to hold off her teammate Mical Dyck who was in hot pursuit all day. Barclay said that Mical’s voice alerted her to the closing gap and she was able to use that as motivation to accelerate and stay out of reach, preserving her lead in the overall.
I talked post-stage with Mark Jordan from Burlington, Ont., who is doing TS-Epic for the experience. He is riding in the team category with his partner Tammie Wilson and they are both loving the rocks but finding the “cardio” requirements of the race quite challenging. Mark has Bontrager XR4 on the front and XR3 on the rear and a dropper-post for his the full-suspension bike. Doing this race on a hardtail is tough, so he’s lucky he has a full-suspension, plus a dropper post for the enduros.
Friday brings the queen stage, the stage with the most climbing, as riders take on Tussey Ridge. I have my Superfly in for a checkup with the race mechanics to make sure my fatigue hasn’t caused me to miss or be lazy with anything that might affect the last two days here at TS-Epic. It’s always important to keep an eye on your equipment throughout the week, not just keeping it clean, but making sure everything is still in tune.