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."