'Cross racer also enjoying mountain bike stage racing
When the dust settled at the end of the opening prologue stage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic on Sunday, Justin Lindine (Redline/NBX) stood atop the podium. The Massachusetts resident was celebrating his second-ever Trans-Sylvania stage win. He previously won the closing stage two years ago, during his first attempt at the seven-day central Pennsylvania mountain bike stage race.
"This feels awesome. I came into today wanting to get it off on the right foot. It's good," Lindine told Cyclingnews. "I had a bunch of mechanical trouble last year. I was doing good, then fell back in the GC with all that." Lindine finished fourth in 2011 and sixth in 2012.
"The time gaps are not huge after today; it's still a tight race," he said. "Ultimately, I'd like to get some more time and get more of a cushion. Having been in a position where something goes wrong and you lose a few minutes, it's nice to have a few in hand. I'll probably try to see how aggressive other people want to be tomorrow at the start, and I hope that I can gain some time at the end of the stage."
"It's a long race and you need to be consistent."
Sunday's prologue was a 14-mile individual time trial with over 1400 feet of climbing. "The prologue was a lot of fun this year. It went in the opposite direction of previous years, and they added a bit of singletrack at the end, so it was a bit longer than it has been," said Lindine.
"I thought the race flowed nice, and it was cool to do it backwards and have it be a little different. If you do the same thing too many times, it gets kind of predictable. It made it exciting."
"Of course, it's easy to like things when things go right."
Monday's stage 2 is one of the most difficult days of racing at the Trans-Sylvania Epic. "Tomorrow's a pretty hard day. There's a lot of burly singletrack. Staying out of mechanical issues will be key."
"The separations in a day like tomorrow tend to happen naturally. It's not like there is really attacking. You want to push the pace a little harder in the singletrack sections, but the climbing will also take its toll."
Lindine is looking forward to what should be perfect weather - mid 70s and mostly sunny. Last year, racers competed in 95-degree temperatures which took a big toll.
To 'cross or to mountain bike
Lindine is well known on the cyclo-cross circuit, but he also enjoys mountain bike racing, especially stage racing.
"I like the format of stage racing a lot. It seems to suit me ok," he said.
"'Cross is my bigger focus of the year, but I like the way mountain biking ties into it. I can take it seriously enough without having to get beat down by travelling too much. I used to do more road racing, but it got kind of old, always going from here to there."
The only other mountain bike stage race Lindine has done was the Cape Epic in 2012, which he did on a team with Jason Sager.
"Cape Epic was awesome. It's a whole crazy experience going to South Africa and racing the World Cup field."
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic.
Doing the Trans-Sylvania Epic was a last minute decision for Brian Matter (RACC/Trek/ Progold) but it was a race he's been thinking about for a while.
"Ever since I heard about Trans-Sylvania Epic, it's been intriguing, and I made the last minute decision to come out and do it. I'm having a blast so far," he said.
Matter made the journey from Wisconsin, where he is a regular top rider at the Wisconsin Off-Road Series (WORS). The Trans-Sylvania Epic is held in the state forests near State College, Pennsylvania, where Penn State University is located.
"My dad was born in Pittsburgh and went to Penn State," he explained "The only other place I've raced in Pennsylvania is a national at Seven Springs and that was like 1997."
Matter finished second in stage 1 and third in stage 2. Speaking of stage 2, he said: "I was riding well - just had a little bad luck at the wrong time." While riding in the lead group, he flatted and dropped off his two rivals, yet still managed to finish third. So far, the race is going well, and he's enjoying his first-ever seven-day mountain bike stage race.
"It's an awesome area and the trails are good," he said of the central Pennsylvania region. Matter is mixing it up a bit this year after a long, hard cyclo-cross season.
"I did a big 'cross push last year to try to make the Worlds team," he said. "This year, I wanted to try to get back to the roots of the sport a little bit. I did Sea Otter, which I haven't done in 10 years, and I did Whiskey 50, which I've never done. And I'm doing this for the first time. It's some new adventures."
Matter doesn't know whether he will do any more mountain bike stage racing. What's next is heading back to Wisconsin and jumping back into the Wisconsin series and races like Iceman Cometh. Ore to Shore and the Chequamegon 40.
"There's nothing else on the schedule for stage races this year. Somebody else from Wisconsin, Cole House, mentioned maybe doing the Pisgah stage race, but I'll wait and see how this week goes first," he said.
Matter is particularly looking forward to stage 3 on Tuesday, with a significant amount of roads included.
"The road stage should be good for me. That's what a lot of the Midwest racing is like - a lot of strategy and going hard," he said.
"I'm going to stick with my overall strategy. I've never done a seven-day mountain bike stage race, and I want to save as much engery as possible. I think it will come down to who is the smartest and most fit at the end. I will save energy and see how it plays out."
Enduro sub-classification mixes things up at Trans-Sylvania Epic
The Trans-Sylvania Epic is a seven-day mountain bike stage race near State College, Pennsylvania. Just like the Tour de France has a sprint and a mountains sub-classification, the Trans-Sylvania Epic has an enduro sub-classification in addition to stages and the general classification.
Six of the stages include approximately two enduro stages embedded within each day's racing. Stage 4, held today, is all about enduro and includes five sub-sections. During stage 4, only the enduro sections will count toward the GC - unlike a regular stage, the uphills in between will not.
In addition to the leader's jersey, an enduro leader's jersey is awarded each day at the Trans-Sylvania Epic for the fastest solo man and woman.
What's made the race a bit more interesting strategically than a regular mountain bike stage race or a regular enduro is that the enduros on all but the stage 4 enduro-only day are optional. Racers can chose whether or not to compete. If they chose to do the enduro segments, they must stop and swipe a card at the beginning and ending of each segment.
Among the elite riders, some have chosen to do the enduros while others have not, and it affects each day's outcome. It's kind of like how Mark Cavendish might chose to focus on the green jersey at the Tour instead of the GC while Cadel Evans might forgo stage wins to go for the GC.
For example, in stage 3 on Tuesday, race leader Justin Lindine, who is not competing in the enduro, got away from GC runner-up Brian Matter, who is competing in the enduro, when Matter had to stop and swipe his card in the second of the day's two enduro segments, just a mile or two from the finish.
"For better or for worse, Brian is going for the enduro. I made a decision going into it that it was of less importance for me to try to win that jersey," said Lindine. "It does cost him a few seconds to swipe in and out. It's a cool competition within the race, but you have to pick and chose your battles."
Matter said, "Justin must have got a 20-second gap during today's final enduro segment. It was a short segment, so to stop twice and lose 10 seconds each time was a lot. He won the stage by 46 seconds. But hopefully it will be worth it to defend the enduro leader's jersey." It didn't quite work out for Matter, who was overtaken in the enduro classification by Drew Edsall after stage 3.
Sam Koerber, who is third in the men's GC said stage 4's enduro results would "depend on who wants to take the most risks. I always get pretty fired up when it comes time to race. I'm going to fight it out until the end," he said.
The enduro competition has also been a factor in the women's race. Race leader Amanda Carey is not going for the enduro, but GC contender Sue Haywood is.
Speaking of stage 3's final enduro section, Haywood said, "I let them go as I stopped, then I had to re-pass them during the enduro, then pulled over to stop and swipe, then had catch back up again. I had to work pretty hard there at the end."
"It's hard to switch in the middle of the race into downhill mode. I want the enduro jersey, but it's still time, and if you get a flat tire, it costs you time overall. I think I'll ride fast and smart tomorrow, but I think I'll just go for it. I don't want to be too conservative," she said.
The Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race included an unusual stage for its type of race on Wednesday. The fourth stage of the seven-day Pennsylvania race was run in an enduro format, with five timed segments linked by untimed transfer sections. Only the timed sections counted toward the stage results and the general classification.
Women's enduro stage winner Sue Haywood (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) told Cyclingnews after finishing, "It was really cool. It was a different format. I've done super Ds and enduros, but not in the middle of this big stage race."
"Today took a change in mindset. Not knowing where you were going made it really exciting. I liked it, but it was hard on the adrenal glands."
The enduro stage came in the middle of seven days of racing. With the uphills generally not timed, it gave racers a sort of break although they were still competing on the downhill sections.
"I thought the segments were good, and the enduro was a good way to break up the race," said Haywood. "It's also a neat way to showcase some different people, and they did a good job of making the transfers easy. They did a lot of work to make this stage way better than two years ago."
Two years ago, the organizers had tried a format of several mini-cross country races, which were more like several mass start enduro segments. The format didn't work nearly as well as the individual timed section format applied on Wednesday.
Haywood was pleased to get in some enduro race time given that she will be doing some more enduros in the future. "I'm kind of switching to enduro for a month or two after this," she said. "When you just get into enduro, there is a lot more specialization. It's good to get some racing in beforehand."
It was a tough day on equipment. Race leader Justin Lindine (Redline) faced a few mechanical issues including a crank that fell off before the start, a flat during an enduro segment and a chain issue.
"You don't do seven days of racing without having some adversity," said Lindine. "I got a flat at the end of one section, but luckily it was just seconds before the end of the section, so I rolled out of it without losing any time."
Women's runner-up Andrea Wilson (Brickhouse Racing) broke her bike, probably in a crash during one of the segments.
"I broke my frame today. I don't know if it was a result of wrecking. I did have one wreck, and it seemed like my bike hit the ground harder than me," she said. "I guess I'm riding my hardtail the rest of the race."
"The enduro stage format was a lot of fun. It seems like it was hard on everyone's body and equipment in a different way than the other stages the rest of this week."
Although a majority of the racers were new to the enduro format, most seemed to catch on quickly. Racers had to swipe a timing card at the beginning and end of each segment. They could start each segment any time in any order and results were tallied at the end of the day.
"I think people were good about allowing enough time in between riders so no one was bearing down on each other," said Lindine. Racers queued up at the top of each timed section, patiently waiting to give each rider ahead of them plenty of room.
Men's runner-up Derek Bissett was pleased with the quality of each segment. "The enduro segments today were more enduro-like than those embedded in the rest of the race. It was good for big bikes and big tires."
Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt), who is leading the men's enduro classification and who finished third on the enduro-specific stage shared his strategy for the enduro stage, "It's about getting the balls to go as fast as you can. Normally the bike will follow where you look, and so I went with that and it worked out today."
Fifth place men's enduro stage finisher and third overall in the GC, Sam Koerber (ProGold), who is the brother of former World Cup racer Willow Koerber, said, "It was fun. Those were some good, hard downhills."
"I had no idea of what was coming, but I think that's something you get used to. But every stage has been like that and I enjoy that," said Koerber.
Racers at the Trans-Sylvania Epic will continue to compete in the enduro classification for the remaining three stages.
After a rough 2012 season, Sarah Kaufmann (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) is just happy to be back on her bike. The Utah rider is back to racing at the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race, her first major race since contracting mono and getting hit by a car.
Kaufmann raced the Trans-Sylvania Epic in 2012, but the race did not going according to plan. Little did she know at the time that it would be the begining of a rough streak of luck.
"After this race last year, where I had three flats, I was bummed," said Kaufmann to Cyclingnews. "Then I went home and got mono. I had mono for July and and August. I started to feel better in September and got on my bike a little."
"At the end of October, I got hit by a car and broke my pelvis and broke my hand. I shattered my elbow - it will never be the same."
Kaufmann was out of commission for about eight months of the year and only got back onto a bike for some easy cruises in January of this year. "I did my first race a couple of weeks ago at Mesa Verde. I knew I wanted to do something before I came here. I'm so glad I'm able to come back here. This is my first big race after injury."
In some ways, getting hit by a car after having mono may have been a blessing in disguise. "It's easy to come back too soon from mono and then get something else, so maybe I was fortunate in a way," she said.
Unfortunately for Kaufmann, she is not done dealing with the fall out from the accident. "The person who hit me stopped and got out of the car and said he was sorry. He had turned in front of me, and I hit the car," she said. "I've had to hire a lawyer to deal with the insurance companies, which sucks because I never wanted to sue anyone, but as a regular person, you can't deal with this stuff or negotiate it on your own. I'm still kind of waiting for everything."
"Going through this, it's so bizarre because you can't put a dollar value on that stuff, but that's what it all comes down to when you look at it through the eyes of the insurance companies."
Kaufmann still has to have a surgery to take the hardware out of her elbow. "I have like eight pins and some cables in my elbow," she said. "I didn't even know it at first. It's going to cost more to have it out."
Kaufmann spoke thoughtfully about her experience and dealing with the ongoing aftermath.
"I feel myself getting emotional just talking about it. It's traumatic to think about your body being totally destroyed. And really, I was lucky - I didn't hit my head or my back."
She came to the Trans-Sylvania with low expectations and a positive attitude.
"The silver lining is that now I look at things as I'm just happy to be healthy and riding and everything else is a bonus, like any results. I'm lucky Stan's took me back after a rough year."
Kaufmann said she doesn't notice her physical injuries when she races, but she does feel really sore after each stage and the next day.
"My pelvis and hand are fine generally. My hand strength is still a little lower, and I have some imbalances. I feel my elbow on drops or when I weight the bike into a corner."
The mental effects of the accident are still there. "I think I'm a little more cautious and more protective of my body."
Clearly happy to be back racing, Kaufmann is looking forward to a bunch of other races this summer.
"I have a pretty full schedule now," she said. "I'm not following the Pro XCT series because I missed so much of the series already, but I'm planning to go to Mont-Sainte-Anne World Cup because my parents live in Massachusetts. I'll also do the Vermont Pro XCT."
Also on the list for the fall are the Park City Point-2-Point where she lives and the Pisgah stage race.
Andrea Wilson (Brickhouse Racing) won stage 5 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic on Thursday. The Memphis, Tennessee-based rider took top honors after four of the race favorites - leader Amanda Carey, Sarah Kaufmann, Sue Haywood and Vicki Barclay - made a wrong turn that cost them more than 25 minutes.
"It's amazing to win. It's crazy," said Wilson, who didn't know the others had gone off course and therefore had no idea she had won the stage after she crossed the line with fellow racer Sonya Looney (Topeak Ergon).
"I hate that some people went off course, but at the same time, I passed the same spot and didn't go more than 20 feet off course. That's bike racing."
Wilson's only other career major race win came during stage 5 of the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race last season. She primarily races events in her region, but occasionally gets out on the national circuit.
None of the top men went off course, but most riders - elite and amateur - knew of the place where Carey and her teammates took a wrong turn.
"I know where they went off course because I started to go that wrong way, but I saw no arrows after going that way, so I went back," said Wilson.
Carey said it took her 22 minutes to climb back uphill to get back onto the course after her group realized their mistake and turned around. She had enough of a lead going into the stage to continue as race leader despite the mistake; however, Wilson jumped up the GC into second place overall. Haywood follows her in third place.
"I think that they will be angry and the gloves will come off - tomorrow will bring a whole new level of hurt," said the woman who has been chasing the Stan's NoTubes riders all week.
"Sue is two and a half minutes behind me. I'm going to fight to stay in the top 3," she said.
Wilson came to the Trans-Sylvania Epic looking for a challenge. "The race looked like fun." She is doing well on the technical rocky Pennsylvania singletrack, having learned to ride rocks in Arkansas, where she does most of her riding.
Also leading the enduro sub-classification despite crashing and cracking her frame during yesterday's enduro formatted stage, Wilson has proven her descending and technical skills all week.
After the Trans-Sylvania Epic, she will also race the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race and mountain bike marathon nationals.
"I'm going to try to keep doing what I've been doing. It's been working out well for me. It's probably the best I've done at a larger race with such a strong field," she said.
"It's exciting to be racing these ladies who have always beaten me. This is the first time I've hung with them. I've worked really hard to get to where I can do that. I hope to keep improving."
After launching more than a decade ago, Trek's Project One customization program has finally added mountain bikes to its range. Just three models are included for now, but it's a move that's long overdue and a sign of more options to come in the future.
Initially, only the Superfly 9.9 SL hardtail, Superfly FS 9.9 SL cross-country full-suspension bike, and Fuel EX 29 9.9 trail bikes will be covered. Interestingly, Project One will be the only way any customer can purchase the top-end Fuel EX 29 9.9, as there's no inline model in the range. Either way, the list of options is impressive and costs vary accordingly.
"Customization is what the consumer is getting used," said Trek senior product manager John Riley, "and it's what they're expecting when they're making that kind of purchase."
Project One might not be fully custom in terms of paint colors and graphic schemes (you can only select from nine graphics options and a discrete – though generous – selection of hues) but there's more than enough flexibility to keep most buyers satisfied. This includes nine rather bold new options: Viper Red, Dnister Black, Hot Grape, Liquid Green, Liquid Red, Lucky Green, Nysa Blue, Powder Blue, Fastback Orange, and Flamingo Pink.
As on the road and time trial/triathlon side of Project One, the breadth of component options is also impressively generous, including drivetrain, brakes, bottom bracket, rear shock remotes, fork, headset, saddle, wheels, handlebar, grips, tires, seatpost, and stem. Several of those parts have additional sizing options as well.
While Trek's Project One mountain bike options are rather limited for now, we wouldn't be surprised to see other high-end options such as the Remedy 9.9 and Session 9.9 added shortly. Riley suggested that the range of models is certainly poised to grow: "This is just the beginning," he said.
One of the most enjoyable parts of every day at the Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race happens after each dinner and subsequent awards ceremony. Racers and support staff are treated to a daily slideshow and video capturing the day's action.
Below, Cyclingnews shares with you the slideshows and videos from the first three stages. All slideshows and videos are courtesy of A.E. Landes Photography.