We’re almost done with a long, hard week at Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic—it’s been a great week, but my legs are definitely starting to feel the miles. Stage 6, Tussey Ridge, is the queen stage, which challenges riders with two climbs more than 1,200 feet and many demanding singletrack segments interspersed between long gravel climbs. The stage features several enduros and two very long East Coast Rocks sections—one of which is two miles of rock garden.
Six stages into the race, fatigue is visible around camp. Riders move slower, speak quieter off-bike. In the race, the starts become more conservative and the gaps tend to be bigger at the finish. As fatigue sets in, it is easy to forget why you came to the event and lose focus. Quitting or doing less work than we can is never a good way to leave a race.
I find two things help keep motivation through a long race. First, sticking to your own routine is critical as fatigue sets in. I have a list of things I must do when I finish before I can do anything else. Wash bike, drink Recoverite, shower, sit and eat for at least 30 minutes. These steps push me to take care of my recovery. The second thing needed to maintain motivation through long races is perspective. Get yourself to the finish line first, the results will sort themselves out. Too often, we forget why we came and get too serious or hung up on a certain result or beating a certain person. Enjoy your ride each day, fight for the result in the moment, but don’t freak out, it often is better than you think.
Friday, my battle for third with Tristan Uhl continued after I reclaimed third by 30 seconds on Thursday’s stage. The Competitive Cyclist team opted to let Tristan try for the stage win and he got away after a separation on the steep section of singletrack that most riders would run. The race leaders, Payson McElveen and Justin Lindine, waited for me once Tristan had his gap. Their tactic was to give Tristan the win while letting them save energy riding behind me and then claim second and third with late attacks as I fatigued. Since I don’t really play tactics, I was pleased to have company to observe my jumps and skids.
I put in a big push before Tussey (a rocky singletrack section) on a long road climb and dropped the gap down to under 30 seconds. The gap held through the technical ascent and descent of beautiful-yet-hellish Tussey Ridge and unfortunately, the race leader Payson was taken out of the lead spot by a challenging flat repair. I stopped in the final feed zone as I had gotten only one bottle in Feed 1 and unfortunately the gap went up to around one minute as my bottle got filled and held there until the finish. I was psyched to roll in for my best TS-Epic finish, second on the stage.
For the women, Selene Yeager had a huge ride besting several of the top general cladies and just losing out by only a few seconds to local and race leader, Vicki Barclay. The ladies duelled and shared work throughout the stage’s variable terrain.
There’s only one stage left and it’s a shorter one, just more than two hours for the typical win time, and it’s going to be a deciding one as Tristan and I duke it out one last time for third podium spot. Stay tuned to see how it plays out!