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Interview with Trans-Sylvania Epic Race Directors

Posted by: Shannon Boffeli |May 10, 2011 1:45 AM
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Believe it or not, the second running of the Trans-Sylvania Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race is right around the corner. The widely well-received event, held just outside State College, Pennsylvania, runs May 29th - June 4th. 

Our own Karen Potter finished second in the inaugural event, now she connects with race directors Ray Adams and Mike Kuhn for a preview of what’s on tap for 2011. Read her full interview below.

MTB Race News - After a successful launching of the Transylvania Epic Stage Race last year, are you both ready for year two?   TSE was my first stage race and I must say, I had a blast and thought it was very well run, as did the majority of the racers I spoke with.  So what could you possible improve, and still keep a balance of appealing to elite riders and average ordinary riders?  

Trans-Sylvania Epic - We were completely psyched about a lot of year one.  There were a few things we wanted to address and see if we could improve.

Camp TSE is a huge plus for the event and one of the things that makes us unique - stay in one place every night and bring as much stuff as you need plus have a really fun week getting to know people in your lodge.  Because of the set up, as a couple people remarked, 'It is like a summer camp for mountain bike loving adults.'  

So what can we do better?  We're tweaking the daily schedule so there is a little more time to chill after the stages each day and enjoy the camp and camaraderie even more than last year.  We're also starting two more of the stages than last year from the camp.  That means 5 of the 7 stages start and finish at Camp TSE and we use a few different ways to get in out of there to keep it fresh all week long.  That's just going to make it easier and more fun for everyone. The Coopers Gap Stage on Monday actually starts off with an absolutely rippin' descent after a very short climb in the first mile from camp so that will be interesting to watch for sure.

And speaking of "watching" the stages, that is an aspect we're really focused on this year too.  We'll be continuing to push daily Facebook and Twitter updates out from the lead vehicle as we roll through the stage and CyclingDirt will be there all week long to provide their fun brand of post-race coverage, but we're working on some ways to get CyclingDirt out on the course during the event on the motos so that we can provide more with-in race coverage than last year.  It looks like Giant Mid-Atlantic's Matt Miller will be supporting the CyclingDirt effort during the race with helmet cam footage and our incredible photographer Abram Landes has been experimenting with video as well.  Abe will likely be sharing that coverage with CyclingDirt but also putting it to use in the daily post-stage wrap-ups each evening.

 A goal of ours is to provide some live evening coverage on CyclingDirt during the awards and next-day previews.  We're not there yet, but we're pretty sure we can make it work.  Stay tuned to the site and social media and we'll let you know as it happens.

The website received some major revamping this year and we're really happy with the results.  We're working with Abe and Mike Cushionberry to keep providing fresh and interesting content too about more than just the race but about some of the riders who will be taking part and other things going on in the TSE world.

And - we're getting close to the end of this I think! - we revamped the "Epic Team" category a bit to try to make it easier and more accommodating and through the Epic Team offer a really special value as a way to take on or try out TSE.  Basically, you put a team together with up to 4 other people (teams of 2-5), enter the race and as long as at least 1 person finishes each stage the team stays in the running for the week.  Anyone on the team can ride whichever and as many stages as they want through the week.  There are all sorts of possibilities - Can't get the week off work?  Not sure you can make it through 7 days?  Don't want to race 7 days, but pick some to do and other days to chill?  Looking for way to test yourself for a future go at the full week?  Just looking for a couple days of awesome training?  The Epic Team option opens the door for anyone in these situations to take part.  We figure that most people in this category probably won't do every day and the entry fee reflects this (though it should be noted that Epic Team racers don't go home with quite the same swag as the racers that commit to solo or duo).

 MTB Race News - Any major changes to the stages?  

Trans-Sylvania Epic - The big change is really the two stages starting from camp as I mentioned above and all the great stuff doing so brings to the overall experience.  We've added a bit of distance to a number of the stages, but not a big amount to any one stage.  The total for the week is about 25-30 miles more than last year.  While we've made these changes we've stuck with our goal of creating stages that are super fun and definitely not the death-march-a-day approach that many stage events seem to take.

We want stages that feel and ride differently every day and offer a variety challenges and experiences.  We want to reward great all-around riders and also offer opportunities for riders with different skills to excel on different days.  Again, like the Tour de France - where some days are for sprinters, others for climbers, and others for just strong guys or time trialists - we're mixing it up.  TSE is designed purposefully with this idea in mind -- we want different racers at the front on different days.  And if you look at last year's results it pretty much played out like that.  We think it is more fun for the participants and for spectators if the racing is a bit unpredictable.  In fields with a little depth this isn't a stage race where you can just photocopy the top 10 after stage 1 and hand that out as the results for the rest of the week.  

MTB Race News - Your sponsors got some great publicity last year, any new or noteworthy ones for this year? Returning sponsors?

Trans-Sylvania Epic - For sure.  We're really lucky to have some fantastic sponsors and Stan's NoTubes has stepped in a big way to support the event.  NoTubes has a local office in State College and several of their sponsored riders are taking part in TSE as well.  NoTubes also stepped up to the plate for the Team which is basically Ray and I and a few of the other guys who make TSE happen and while some of the team will be at the front of races banging bars really the idea is to be out at races and events like DirtFest at the Allegrippis Trails (site of TSE's day 4) and the RCST Bash at Lykens to talk to people about the event.  There is a lot to talk about and it really is tough to get everything we're doing out there so we're hoping people will see us and feel free to chat us up about TSE because we know it is something that everyone who rides a mountain bike will love.  I mean, how many other races let you sleep in a bunk above Mark Weir?  What more could you want??

TSE and the team also have some great support from Pactimo and Club Ride apparel - the combination gives us the best technical wear going for the races and some killer casual-technical threads that just look and perform awesome, respectively.  Hammer Nutrition is back - they were another huge supporter in year one and will be really taking care of racers again in 2011.  WTB continues with us again and the triplets - Weir, Moeschler and Cruz - are all coming back aboard their new Cannondale Jekyls this year.  Those guys were super fun to have around and I hear they are really stoked about the Super-D Jersey presented by flaik.  Of course flaik deserves another mention and we really can't wait to put what they are providing into action.

Local companies Purple Lizard maps and Freeze Thaw Cycles have been incredible to work with from the time we started talking about this thing.  Freeze Thaw will be back to support the racers with daily mechanical support at Justin's pavilion at Camp TSE.  Those guys busted their asses last year and were certainly appreciative of any good beer delivered with a bike drop off.  They will again be offering full shop support for any repairs for a customary service fee.

Bicycling came aboard as our official media partner this year and we've been able to do some sweet posters that went out to about 1000 shops and eblasts to 100,000 subscribers through that partnership. Hopefully they'll be a great source for event coverage during race week too.

The list keeps going and much like in the Oscar acceptance speech I'll never give I'm afraid I'm going to forget someone!  Misfit Psycles is back and Peter will be putting up another stellar SS frame for a mid-race award.  We can only hope the method for awarding it will be at least as amusing as last year's "Why I should win this frame" write in competition emceed by Colt and won by Mike Festa's, "Because I'm a roadie POS and I need to HTFU!!"

MTB Race News - You have quite an impressive list of entrants this year with many new elite riders and many repeats - does this surprise you?  Do you anticipate the podiums changing up after each stage?

Trans-Sylvania Epic - Are we surprised?  We're super happy about it.  Certainly we've been focused on providing a great event.  We want TSE to be a ton of fun - a vacation on your mountain bike on awesome trails with great support that happens to be around a well run race and at a great price.  From the start its been about creating something really enjoyable for the average mountain biker.  That's why we mix it up - why stages aren't death marches and aren't daunting distances day after day.  That's why we base it out of one camp rather than moving around every night.  That's why we even offer day care services!  We feel that with the sort of hours a typical sport racer puts into riding a person can be prepared for the challenges of TSE.  Ray and I have loved racing our bikes over the past 20 years or so, but we're less motivated by xc performance and love doing really awesome trips with our bikes.  Our vision has been to create something that appeals to people looking for an awesome experience whether they're all about racing or not.  Our goal hasn't been to necessarily go after the elite racer though we certainly love having them attend and appreciate their support.  What we've heard is that word has been spreading amongst the elite racers that TSE is well run and a lot of fun - which is exactly the idea.  I guess it shouldn't really be a surprise that those are things the elite racers are after too.  We all got into this sport because we love riding in the woods and that's what TSE is all about whether you're a national contender or are just all about the ride.

 Do we anticipate the podiums changing - that is the goal.

 MTB Race News - Any other last minute elite riders on the radar screen?

 Trans-Sylvania Epic - There are a few more we’re talking to, we’ll see what happens.

MTB Race News - What do you envision for TSE over the next few years?  

Trans-Sylvania Epic - We're hoping for steady growth, and adjusting our formula for success as we continue to to develop the event.

Click Here to read MTB Race News' full coverage from every stage of the 2010 Trans-Sylvania Epic

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