The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSEpic) is attracting the best elite men's field in its history. A deep and talented field of top riders from all over North America will compete during seven days of mountain bike racing from May 25 to May 31, 2014 near State College, Pennsylvania.
Two past winners, Justin Lindine (Team Redline / NBX) and Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale), are the top favorites. Bishop won the first three editions of the Trans-Sylvania Epic and is undefeated in his appearances; however, he was absent in 2013, when Lindine claimed the yellow winner's jersey.
"My specialty is stage races and 100-mile races and after focusing on the Pro XCT series of cross country races last year, racing the Trans-Sylvania Epic marks a return to my endurance racing," said Bishop, a former World Cup racer and national champion.
"The cool thing about the TSEpic is that it's so dynamic," said Bishop. "There is a different character to each stage. The prologue favors the power rider; the Coburn stage is fast and favors those good at group tactics; and then there are the long, grinding, rocky stages. Some stages are flowy and some are hyper-technical."
Back for the fourth time, Lindine will focus on the general classification. "The Trans-Sylvania Epic has come to be a cornerstone of my summer race season. This year, it kicks off the first of three week-long stage races I will be doing, including also the BC Bike Race and the Breck Epic, so I'm excited to get things off on the right foot!"
"What I'm looking forward to the most for this year's race is being back on the east coast enjoying some awesome trails in good company," said Lindine. "I moved to Utah last summer and while the riding is great there, too, my heart will always be with the rooty, rocky wet trails of back east. More than that, I want to show that my overall win last year was no fluke...so hopefully I can ride well throughout the week. Ultimately though, no matter what it's always a fun week."
Drew Edsall (The Pro's Closet / Stan's NoTubes Pro Mountain Bike Team), fifth in the 2013 race, will return to the Trans-Sylvania Epic for the fifth time - he has competed in every edition.
"I'm going to do my best to make it a good one. This event is very well put on and a blast, which keeps me coming back every year," said Edsall, who is targeting a top placing in the general classification. "I am most looking forward to stage 2, which is reversed this year and has more singletrack added. That will make for a nice long and hard day on Pennsylvania's epic singletrack. Going to bring the big guns out that day!"
A few racers from abroad will be on the start line for the Trans-Sylvania Epic. Among them are Peter Glassford (Trek Canada Mountain Bike Team) from north of the border and German Ben Sonntag (Stan's NoTubes), who now resides in Durango, Colorado.
"I'm excited to be adding a seven-day stage race to my schedule this year," said Glassford, a hopeful podium contender. "As my career evolves, I'm finding success and awesome experiences in multiple types of events. I have done several seven-day and three-day events in Canada and also the Leadville 100, so I hope to use those experiences in my first TSEpic. The racing is looking quite competitive which will make it fast and interesting."
Sonntag has done stages races around the globe, but will be making his first appearance at the TSEpic. "The race has some pressure to fulfill all the hype I've heard. Considering the depth and talent, this could be the deepest field for a stage race in the US in a while. It's no secret that I want to race for a top spot in the stages and the general classification. I hope to arrive in great shape and have a solid, consistent week with no mishaps and lots of smiles, and I'll use the race to build a good foundation for the upcoming cross country races later in June, July and August."
Tristan Uhl (Team 787 Racing) will be making his first-ever appearance at the Trans-Sylvania Epic and is targeting stage victories and a top-five overall placing.
"I'm hoping to beat the Texas heat (no heat waves please!) and get in a good week of racing," said Uhl. "With cross country mountain bike nationals also taking place in Pennsylvania again this year, I figured a week of racing around on similar terrain couldn't hurt my chances."
Rob Spreng (Rare Disease Cycling), best known for his success in 100-miler mountain bike races, is a bit of a wild card, and may surprise the favorites.
"I've been wanting to do the Trans-Sylvania Epic since it began, but all the pieces never fit together until this year," said Spreng. "Having not done the race, it's tough to say what to expect. I hope to race strong every day that I'm there."
Other top contenders include Kris Sneddon (Kona), State College local Aaron Snyder (TSEpic.com/NoTubes), Mike Broderick (Kenda NoTubes), Spencer Paxson (Kona) and Cole Oberman (Rare Disease Cycling).
"The depth of the men's field this year is very exciting. It's undoubtedly the most talented field we've seen in all five years of the event," said Snyder. "My goal for the week is to maintain consistency and stay out of trouble, and feel stronger as we get through the week. For 2014, nearly every stage has been revamped and completely new, so I will be relying on local knowledge a bit more than past years.
Former road racing pro Nick Waite (ProTested Gear), a training buddy and long-time racing rival of Bishop's, will return to his mountain bike roots by lining up at the Trans-Sylvania Epic.
"I didn't decide to do it. Jeremiah Bishop mentioned it, I started thinking about a week on the bike, and the pieces came together," said Waite, who has competed in major road races like the Tour of California. "It'll be the showdown of my career racing Jeremiah. I figure if I can beat him, I've got it covered!"
A few big name riders will be competing either on multi-person teams in the seven-day TSEpic or as solo racers in the three-day version of the race TS3. For example, US cyclo-cross national champion Jeremy Powers and road pro Jeremy Durrin (Optum p/b Kelly Benefit Strategies) will compete as part of an Epic Team; both are unable to participate in the seven-day race due to wedding commitments forcing them to miss the first day, but the Epic Team format allows riders to come and go during the week for just these sorts of reasons. Whether for scheduling reasons, fitness, testing the waters or just for the fun of the week, the Epic Team option opens up many different possibilities for participation in TSEpic.
Five fast, young men will be racing together on another Epic Team and while teams are scored separately from individuals, all riders compete at the same time, and these under 25 riders may well influence the race by mixing it up with the elites. Ranging from as far away as Austin, Texas and Durango, Colorado, Payson McElveen, Cameron Dodge, Mike Sampson, Cody Phillips and Levi Kurlander will represent ColtTrainingSystems.com.
Seasoned veterans Barry Wicks (Kona) and Jeff Lenosky (Giant) will race as an individuals in the TS3, with Lenosky coming in focused on the enduro competition over the three days.
Enduro bragging rights on the line
Several of the top men will also contest the enduro sub-classification, among them, last year's enduro classification winner, Edsall.
"Last year, I fought hard for the enduro classification. That was awesome!" said Edsall. "I plan to defend that position this year."
While defending overall champion Lindine considers the general classification to be his number one priority, he may also participate in the enduros. "We'll see how things play out in the race, because I think I could be competitive in the enduro, too. I can't wait for the enduro day this year though, now that I have full suspension bike for the first time. It should be fun."
Glassford said, "I'm most looking forward to the enduro classification, but I'll compete in anything that I can!"
Tristan Uhl and Jeff Lenosky are two others looking forward to mixing it up in the enduro classification while Aaron Snyder is eagerly anticipating the enduro-specific stage.