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The start of Stage 1. Photo: TSEpic Media Team

The start of Stage 1. Photo: TSEpic Media Team

I’m two days into the five-day Trans-Sylvania Epic! Stage 1 was brutal with around 37 miles and 4,000′ of climbing. To make it even tougher, the weather was hot and humid. I was pinned from the start with my heart rate around 170 for the first hour, ouch! Overall, I was happy with how I rode, but a 7th out of 12 in my category (30+) was a little lower in the standings than I had hoped for.

Stage 2 singlespeed winner Mike Montalbano (Race 4 Rescues) on Tussey Mountain. TSEpic Media Team

Stage 2 singlespeed winner Mike Montalbano (Race 4 Rescues) on Tussey Mountain. Photo: TSEpic Media Team

Stage 2 had nearly the same stats at the first stage in terms of mileage and elevation, but holy shit were there more rocks! Long, as in miles long, rock gardens on trails like Broad Mountain, Thickhead, John Wert, and of course, Tussey Ridge. Tussey is pretty much the crown jewel of the week. It’s a four mile long ridge ride/rock garden. Keeping your momentum up and your focus sharp is what helps here. The weather was also much less steamy today and the pollen count wasn’t as high. I finished the 36-ish miles in 3 hours 24 minutes, good enough for 4th on the day.

Tomorrow is an an enduro day meaning only the descents will count toward overall times. I think after the first two tough stages, everyone is looking forward to an easier day. It’s not exactly easy though, as we’ve still got to make it through about 30 miles and 4,300′ of climbing.

For a full recap of the race at the front of the pack, check out the releases below!

Day 1 Press Release (Excerpt)

Elite men

First-time NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic racer Kerry Werner, Jr. (Rally Cycling) pulled out a dramatic stage win over defending champion Justin Lindine (Apex / NBX / Trek), but only by a tiny margin: three-tenths of a second. However, because Lindine had a few seconds’ edge over Werner in the stage’s four enduro segments, he earned a 30-second time bonus toward the general classification and displaced Werner atop the podium for GC.

Following a fast start on winding singletrack, Werner attacked on the first major climb, and he and Lindine separated from the rest of the group. They kept up their blistering tempo through the entire 37-mile course. The final enduro included the last bit of singletrack all the way to the finish, where Werner just squeaked ahead in the sprint finish.

Two-time Trans-Sylvania Epic winner Lindine was philosophical: “I should have pre-ridden the course.” No doubt his experience with the more familiar parts of the rest of the stages will come into play.

“The enduro time bonus thing is an interesting dynamic,” said Werner, “because the first and second fastest enduro racers were a minute faster than Justin and me in the enduro sections. It means that we’ll have to fight for third in the enduro, which is worth an extra 30 seconds per day. So, we could go hard and try to pummel each other with blows fitness-wise, but then at the same time, we could let up and try to go fast on the downhills. The enduro could decide the GC results, even if we finish close together each day.”

Last year’s enduro runner-up Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team) got a good start on a bid for the win this year. The final enduro segment included a section of a nearby motorcycle trials course, complete with buried truck tires that racers had to roll up and over. “In enduro #3, I dropped my chain and lost some time,” Phillips said. “I think that cost me some points in the competition. So I was super motivated for enduro #4, and I ripped that one. I came into the final tire section so fast that I launched it and landed five feet past the tires on the flat.”

Stage 1 Top 3 Results
Kerry Werner Kerry Werner, Jr.
Justin Lindine
Dan Timmerman

General Classification after Stage 1
Justin Lindine
Kerry Werner
Dan Timmerman

Enduro stage 1 and classification
Cody Phillips

Elite women

Defending champion Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) soloed to victory in the opening stage and proved her status as favorite for this year’s race.

“I knew from past experience in the race that it’s important to establish a lead in the first stage,” said Barclay, who was riding and racing 27.5” wheels for the first time ever. “Once we hit the climbs, I tried to pace it steady and put time on the others, and I felt better than ever on the descents on the new wheel size.”

Barclay was joined by Kaysee Armstrong (Liv) for the first 30 minutes of the race, but the rising young rider knew she couldn’t sustain Barclay’s pace. Eventually Armstrong was also overtaken by strong climber Bryna Blanchard (Windham Mountain Outfitters), who worked her way into second place after a slow start.

By virtue of being the fastest woman in the enduro and getting the corresponding time bonus, Meggie Bichard (Fuji Bikes) ended the day in third place in the GC, ahead of third place stage finisher Armstrong.

Stage 1 Top 3 Results
Vicki Barclay
Bryna Blanchard
Kaysee Armstrong

General Classification after Stage 1
Vicki Barclay
Bryna Blanchard
Meggie Bichard

Enduro stage 1 and classification
Meggie Bichard

Day 2 Press Release (Excerpt)

Elite men

Justin Lindine (APEX / NBX / Trek) and Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling) continued their two-man battle with Lindine sprinting to the stage victory and continuing as overall leader.

“Today was a lot like yesterday with Kerry and me getting away early and racing each other in the hopes of snagging time bonuses by also doing well in the enduros,” said Lindine. “We’d stay together on the gravel and whoever felt better would surge to get ahead in the singletrack – each of us led different singletrack sections. Kerry even got a slight gap on me at one point up on Tussey Mountain, but I knew the trail so well that I was pretty sure I could bring him back.”

First-time NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic racer Werner doesn’t have the advantage of familiarity with the trails, but he’s still loving them. “I’ve never ridden up here, but I grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania. We have rocks there, but not as gnarly,” said Werner. “The John Wert trail and Tussey Mountain ridge trail were amazing today!”

Going into the final off-road section in the last mile, Werner attacked on a steep section, but Lindine reacted quickly. The stage was set for a sprint.

“Justin and I are well matched fitness-wise,” said Werner. “Maybe toward the end of the week, we’ll start to see some chinks in each other’s armor.”

The surprise of the day came from Spanish rider Adria Noguera Soldevila (Buff Pro Team), who rode his way into third place for the stage and GC. “I’m on a hardtail – unlike the other top riders – so the technical parts have been hard, and I try to make up time on the gravel roads.” His teammate Pau Zamora said, “We’ve never ridden singletrack like this before. This is different – it’s hard to keep your momentum through the technical sections, especially on our hardtails.

Tomorrow’s stage 3 enduro format could shake up the standings as the top three riders will get time bonuses applied to the general classification.

Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team), who overcame mechanical issues to win the enduro category for the stage as well as defend his overall lead in the enduro classification, was clearly having fun. “The second segment was super pedally, and I time trialled it and was going so hard that I got cross-eyed. I came into that last rock pile so fast that I literally couldn’t crash because I had so much momentum. I hit something and caught air and got sideways but was up there for so long that I had time to turn myself back around. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s enduro stage – I want to finally get a Trans-Sylvania Epic stage win!”

Stage 2 Brief Results
Justin Lindine (APEX / NBX / Trek)
Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling)
Adria Noguera Soldevila (Buff Pro Team)

General Classification After Stage 2
Justin Lindine (APEX / NBX / Trek)
Kerry Werner (Rally Cycling)
Adria Noguera Soldevila

Enduro Stage 2 Brief Results
Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team)
Cory Rimmer (Kona / Nox Composite)
Edward Kerly (Fuji Bikes)

Enduro Classification After Stage 2
Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team)
Cory Rimmer (Kona / Nox Composite)
Justin Lindine (APEX / NBX / Trek)

Elite women

Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women) used her local expertise on the technical course to pull out a win, despite not feeling her best. “As soon as I started today, I could tell I was heavy in the legs,” she said. “Kaysee Armstrong [Liv] was with me for the first 6-7 miles, and then I got away on one of the big climbs and I rode by myself all day. Bryna [Blanchard, Windham Mountain Outfitters] was not too far behind today.”

For tomorrow’s enduro stage, Barclay said she’s not going to push it. “I’m not going to try to win the enduro stage… there’s some fast downhill girls here, Kaysee and Meggie [Bichard, Fuji Bikes],” she said. “I just want to get down and have a good time… just let my legs spin and recover as much as possible.”

Blanchard had a fantastic day, and it showed in her result, just 2:28 behind Barclay. “I had so much fun today. It was like magic… probably one of the best days I’ve had on the bike this year,” she said. She also plans to ride conservatively in the enduro stage. “Tomorrow I just want to ride clean, minimize the damage, and recover on the climbs. Hopefully I can build on how I felt today and keep it smooth. I have no illusions about trying to do anything on enduro day other than just enjoying it and not killing myself.”

Armstrong, who nabbed second in the 2014 NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic in the Under 25 category, is enjoying her solid third place spot. “We started off well,” she said. “Vicki and I were together for a little bit at the beginning, but then we hit the gravel road and she was gone. Bryna caught me not long afterward, so I just tried to maintain third and saved energy for Tussey Ridge, because two years ago when I did it I died, and today it was perfect.”

Armstrong is a good descender and earned a 60-second time bonus for finishing second overall in today’s enduro sections, so she could be a threat to gain GC time tomorrow with a good performance. However, the New Zealander Bichard continues to dominate the overall women’s enduro competition.

Stage 2 Brief Results
Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women)
Bryna Blanchard (Windham Mountain Outfitters)
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)

General Classification After Stage 2
Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women)
Bryna Blanchard (Windham Mountain Outfitters)
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)

Enduro Stage 2 Brief Results
Meggie Bichard (Fuji Bikes)
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)
Karen Talley Mead (Two Wheel Fixation)

Enduro Classification after Stage 2
Meggie Bichard (Fuji Bikes)
Kaysee Armstrong (Liv)
Karen Talley Mead (Two Wheel Fixation)

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