Over the past two days, the No Tubes Trans-Sylvania Epic Mountain Bike Stage race, held in and around State College, Pennsylvania, launched what will be its next edition from May 27 to June 2, 2012. There will be some minor tweaks for the race's third year, but organizers will stick the generally tried and test format of previous years.
"We're refining more than making major changes for this coming year," said Co-Promoter Mike Kuhn to Cyclingnews. "We're happy with the way the courses have worked out and people's responses to them."
The race starts on a Sunday and covers seven stages in seven days. It is headquartered at a Boy Scout Camp just south of State College. All but two of the stages start and finish at headquarters, and it is both remote stages that are getting some tweaking for next year. Both will be a bit shorter.
"The biggest change is that we're going to do something different with the super D / mini XC stage. It's not because we don't like the format, but it ended up being a longer day than what we wanted. This year, it will probably be a cross country stage, held again at RB Winter State Park."
"Raystown will shed just a few miles, too. We want to keep the fun factor as high as possible. Just pulling back four or five miles out of the course seems like the right thing to do based on feedback from riders," said Kuhn. "It will be 34 to 36 miles.
Other changes include the use of more private property. "For the queen stage to Tussey Mountain, we'll have access via a private campground, Kern's Campground, so the stage will finish right across the street from our headquarters."
The prologue may also include some new sections of singletrack on the private property of the race's moto driver, who lives nearby.
Finally, on the Cooper's Gap stage, racers will start enjoying singletrack sooner than in previous years.
"The race has worked very well so far. We want to keep it fresh and fun, so we'll find things to change every year. We'll keep refining it," said Kuhn.
The 2011 edition was won by Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) and Amanda Carey (Kenda/Felt). There is no word yet on whether both champions will return for 2012.
"Everyone was excited about coming back for this year, but for some guys, the Olympic chase may play a role in who can return. The overwhelming response was positive last year. I'm expecting a good turn-out."
What stood out about the 2011 edition of the race was a talented women's field featuring Carey, past winner Selene Yeager (Team CF), Rebecca Rusch (Specialized), Vicki Barclay (Notubes/FTC/Performance Labs), Sue Haywood (SBC) and Sonya Looney (Topeak Ergon).
"It was exciting to have such a strong women's field," said Kuhn, who noted the race has an equal prize payout for men and women. "I loved the support we're getting from the women. The women made a commitment early. I think they appreciate what we're doing in terms of getting exposure for the race. As we grow, we hope to be able to continue to add to the prize list."
Racers primarily compete in the TSE as solo riders. However, there is a team option for up to five riders to sign up together. For that category, one rider from each team must race each day and otherwise the team's racers can do as many stages as they like up to all of them.
What will be new for 2011 is the "experience" category. Riders who choose it will cover the same courses and distances for each stage, but will begin one to 1.5 hours earlier than the main race. They'll still be timed so they can see where they would stack up but will not be eligible for placings; however, experience category racers will be given more time to complete the course without the pressure of chasing the fast riders. In some case, fast riders may catch them and they may get to see firsthand the top racers in action as they go by.
Last but not least, Kuhn promised the three-beer derby will return as an unofficial final stage. Barry Wicks took top honors in 2011 as racers alternated drinking a beer and doing a lap around the lake three times.
Starting in 2012, the TSE picked up a new title sponsor Stan's No Tubes in a newly inked three-year deal.
2012 Trans-Sylvania Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race
May 27 - Stage 1: Bald Eagle Prologue, 16km
May 28 - Stage 2: Rothrock Cooper's Gap, 69km
May 29 - Stage 3: Bald Eagle Coburn, 76km
May 30 - Stage 4: Raystown Lake, 56km
May 31 - Stage 5: Mini XCs at R.B. Winter, 38.4km
June 1 - Stage 6: Rothrock Tussey Mountain, 61km
June 2 - Stage 7: Bald Eagle Little Poe, 42km