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Photo: Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team

Photo: Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team

Stage 4 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic had us racing in R.B. Winter State Park, about an hour from the Scout Camp. The drive to the park took us through a beautiful valley full of Mennonite farms.

I was looking for some redemption after my two flats on this stage last year. The race began with a steep road climb that quickly spread the field out. From there it was more climbing on grassy double track. My legs initially felt heavy, but after warming up they were ready to go.

About an hour in it started to sprinkle which eventually turned into a downpour. There was mercifully less rock on the stage than the previous days, but make no mistake, there was still a lot of it. This wreaked havoc on bikes and bodies. Luckily, I thrive in conditions like this, so I had a great time. After letting a few PSI out of my tires to help with wet traction I stayed on the gas.

The author after a wet day of riding. Photo: Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team

The author after a wet day of riding. Photo: Trans-Sylvania Epic Media Team

I covered the 38 miles in 3:38, which put me sixth on the day in the 30+ category. I was within a couple minutes of fourth and fifth places though. Overall, I’m happy with how I rode and I really enjoyed the less taxing trails at R.B. Winter.

More details from the Trans-Sylvania Epic:

Elite men

With its high speeds, smoother trails and wet weather, stage 4 turned into a more tactical battle for the top men. Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling) raced his way into the lead of the general classification by virtue of winning the stage and finishing as the top enduro rider on the day. Previous leader Justin Lindine (Apex / NBX / Trek) dropped to second overall after finishing second in the stage and third in the enduro.

Previous third overall racer Adria Noguera Soldevila (Buff Pro Team) initially led a group of four top favorites, including his teammate Pau Zamora, Werner and Lindine. However, an unfortunate flat after the first enduro section would eventually cost Soldevila more than 30 minutes on the stage.

That left a highly motivated Zamora with Werner and Lindine. “I often was at the front so I could make up time on the other riders and get a top-three today,” said Zamora.

Werner was happy for the extra company up front. “Pau was being a trooper and taking good pulls with us. He wasn’t the best descender although he’d get in front for some of the enduro segments,” said Werner. “I think his motive was to slow us down so we wouldn’t get away from him.”

Zamora’s strategy worked well until a steep climb just before the fourth of five enduro segments when Werner seized an opportunity. “I’d never seen the trail before, but I had scoped it out on Strava and saw that it was wicked steep for 0.1 miles,” said Werner. “Pau swung wide on the right turn into it, and I chopped him inside and took over the lead ahead of him and Justin. I made it three-quarters of the way up the slick rocks before having to run, but the others had to run the whole thing after Pau slipped out. I led into the enduro segment, got a bigger gap and then went full gas to the finish which felt much further away than it had looked on the course map.”

“Kerry’s move was a good one,” said Lindine. “When we popped out on the road after the enduro segment, I could see him, and it became a pursuit match. I closed what was 35-40 seconds down to maybe 20 seconds at the finish.”

“Today was a hard day – a bit of a disaster for me from a GC standpoint,” said Lindine. “Unbeknownst to us, the enduro guys were having a terrible day, so their times on some of the enduro segments were slow. Neither Kerry nor I pushed it on the enduros today, but Kerry ended up first, and I was third in the day’s enduro classification, so due to the enduro time bonuses, I lost even more time to Kerry. Maybe I rode too conservatively today, but when you’re on the rivet, you don’t want to make a move and have someone counterattack it.”

With one minute separating Werner and Lindine, Friday’s final stage 5 will decide the race. Lindine knows well from his own past experience that one minute isn’t a big gap and anything could happen to change the race’s outcome.

Stage 4 Brief Results
Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling)
Justin Lindine (Apex / NBX / Trek)
Pau Zamora (Buff Pro Team)

General Classification After Stage 4
Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling)
Justin Lindine (Apex / NBX / Trek)
Pau Zamora (Buff Pro Team)

Enduro Stage 4 Brief Results
Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling)
Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team)
Justin Lindine (Apex / NBX / Trek)

Enduro Classification After Stage 4
Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team)
Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling)
Justin Lindine (Apex / NBX / Trek)

Elite women

Kaysee Armstrong (Liv) added climbing power to her descending prowess to earn her first stage win of the race. “This morning I wasn’t feeling super motivated, but then when we headed up the road climb, all the ladies were together, so I thought I’d dig a little deeper,” she said. “When I did, I felt really strong. So I thought, ‘Let’s just try to get to the first enduro as fast as possible.’ But then the rain started coming down, and I was like — oh, today’s my day. I loved every bit of it.”

Armstrong is quite familiar with racing in the rain. “I race a lot in Pisgah where it rains a lot like that, so it worked out in my favor.” She now sits solidly in second place in the GC, as well as the enduro classification, and continues to take each stage one at a time.

Overall race leader Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women) did not pull away from the pack as she has on other days, but she still held on to her lead and her good attitude. “I had some mechanical issues today…those slowed me down,” she said. “But it’s good for me to have days like this, because it challenges me to push through. I had to work to get back up into second place. It was rough. I’m actually feeling a little bit grumpy. But Kaysee rode an amazing race and even before I was having problems, she was crushing the climbs.”

Stage racing allows one to wipe the slate clean and start fresh each day. “Tomorrow’s another day… I’m just hoping to hold onto the GC win,” Barclay said.

Bryna Blanchard (Windham Mountain Outfitters) also had a strong day that resulted in third place. “I surprised myself that I could maintain that pace for that amount of time. I did everything I could and am satisfied with my ride. I was proud to be able to ride with Selene Yeager (Emmaus Bad Decisions Club).” Yeager is a past winner of the race who is riding on a team this year.

Blanchard had no illusions about the coming final effort. “Tomorrow’s going to be harder than today, a lot harder. I think I have to just not go to that dark place and try to stay focused on every section.”

Stage 4 Brief Results
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)
Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)
Bryna Blanchard (Windham Mountain Outfitters)

General Classification After Stage 4
Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)
Bryna Blanchard (Windham Mountain Outfitters)

Enduro Stage 4 Brief Results
Meggie Bichard (Fuji)
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)
Kimberly Quinlan (Bicycle Express Racing)

Enduro Classification After Stage 4
Meggie Bichard (Fuji)
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)
Kimberly Quinlan (Bicycle Express Racing)

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