The start of the inaugural Trans-Sylvania Epic is finally
upon us. Racers will take the start line Sunday afternoon for the longest
mountain bike stage race in the US. While the start list isn’t huge it is
stacked with top-notch talent.
Taking place just outside State College, Pennsylvania, the
TSE is the first multi-day stage race to take place in America’s northeast. It
is also the earliest stage race to take place in the States starting on May 30th.
How all these factors will affect the racers is part of the
excitement behind this first-year event.
In the men’s race all eyes will be locked on Cannondale
Factory frontman Jeremiah Bishop, and for good reason. Bishop has won every
stage race held in the United States including the American Mountain Classic,
Breck-Epic, and Pisgah Mountain Bike Stage Race.
Bishop rides each stage of these events with the intensity
of a cross country racer and has the fitness to keep the pace ludicrously high
throughout four and five hour stages.
There are plenty of riders capable of knocking Bishop off
the top step though, including his Cannondale teammate Alex Grant and PAvalleys.com’s
Brandon Draugelis. Draugelis is an east coaster with tons of experience in the
slop. Look for him to challenge if the forecast calls for rain.
Grant beat Bishop at the 2009 Ruta De Los Conquistadors and
will be poised to do so again if Bishop shows the slightest weakness. Grant is
originally from Vermont and feels at home in the roots and rocks but the
relative lack of long sustained climbs could hurt his chances of a GC win.
Harlan Price and Christian Tanguy, both of Team CF, will be
vying for stage victories. Tanguy showed flashes of brilliance last season on
the National Ultra Endurance series and he’s proved he can be a factor in the
Another rider with the punch to put up a fight in State
College is Evan Plews (evanplews.com). Plews has not been a factor at the last
few stage races he has done but those all happened late in the season.
Traditionally, Plews tackles a truly herculean race schedule including most of
the longest and hardest endurance races in the west. When he’s fresh, Plews is
as fast as anyone.
The women have a long list of contenders as well starting
with 2009 Leadville champion Rebecca Rusch (Red Bull/Specialized). There’s no
doubt that Rusch has the biggest engine of any of the TSE contenders and it
should be running on all cylinders come May 30th. The Red Bull rider has
already completed several stage races this season while competing in South
America early in the year.
Rusch is a west coast rider and may be slightly out of her
element on the rocks and roots of the east coast. If bad weather sets in it may
help open things up for the rest of the bunch. Rusch knows how to deal with
adversity though having finished the Cape Epic on several occasions and winning
the 24 Hour World Championships in Canada.
Other riders to watch for include Karen Potter (iRide
Adventures/MTBRaceNews.com) and Carolyn Popovic (PAVAlleys.com).
Potter is an east coast native and experienced at cranking
out the miles. The iRide Adventures rider took 2nd in the National
Ultra Endurance series last season and has a couple of local wins under her
belt in the lead up to the TSE. Look for her to excel in the more rooty and
technical stages of the race.
Popovic on the other hand is an accomplished cross country
racer who recently made the move from California to the east coast. She will be
trying her best to put on a good show for her new team PAValleys.com.
With over 200 miles of dirt on tap and some of the biggest
names in US endurance mountain bike racing taking the start, the truth is, no
one really knows what is going to happen at the inaugural Trans-Sylvania Epic –
isn’t that what makes it exciting?
Be sure to check in with MTB Race News throughout the week
for the latest results and reports from the race including race reports from
Karen Potter, Evan Plews, and Alex Grant
Mileage and Description of each stage in the TSE:
Bald Eagle Prologue - 10 miles - Some rocks
and technical bits, no major climbs, about 60% singletrack. A solid mix
of fast rolling road and rocky trail, an excellent introduction to what’s in
store for the week
Rothrock/Greenwood Furnace – 40 miles – Start
at Greenwood Furnace. Significant climbing. Cooper’s Gap has become
the "must ride” area in Rothrock, with long flowing downhills and just enough
rocks to keep you on your toes.
Bald Eagle Coburn Stage - 45 miles - Start
and finish at race headquarters/campground. Flatter, rolling stage, fast.
This stage will cover a lot of ground and lot of history. Roll through
historic train tunnels and Amish countryside along with some amazing views
XC at Raystown Lake - 38 miles - Raystown’s Allegrippis trail
network is unlike most other terrain you’ll find in Pennsylvania. You’ll
find super fast, smooth, roller coaster trails, which feature great views of
the lake and lots of opportunities to get airborne. Average speed for
fastest riders over 12 mph. 36 miles of purpose built trail, designed to
keep you on the gas and off the brakes.
Mini XC’s at R.B. Winter State Park - 30
miles - This unique stage will feature 3-4 mass start XC race segments.
Racers will re-group following each XC segment and continue to the next start
area. XC’s will begin on a dirt road or wide trail to allow racers to
spread out. It is anticipated that each segment will take 10-20 minutes
to complete. The race will employ an enduro motorcycle format, with timed
sections allowing for regrouping in between
Rothrock Whipple Dam - 26 miles - Bigger
climbing day, featuring the best trails. The "Queen Stage”, this one hits
the classic State College trails of Rothrock, including Tussey Mountain trail,
one of the best ridge line trails in the east
Bald Eagle/Little Poe – 25 miles – Fast and
flowy singletrack in Bald Eagle State Forest. One more dose of singletrack to
finish off the race, this day will feature bits of the prologue and a few other
surprises. Course starts and finishes at the race headquarters campground