Seven days of mountain bike stage racing get underway at the Trans-sylvania Epic near State College, Pennsylvania on Sunday afternoon. With defending champions Cheryl Sornson and Jeremiah Bishop absent, the door is open for some new riders to step atop the podium.
However, 2011 race winner Amanda Carey (Stan's NoTubes) is in the house and with her renewed focus on mountain bike stage racing and cyclo-cross this year, and she will be tough to beat. Her teammate Vicki Barclay has the local knowledge to challenge while perennial strong woman and another teammate Sue Haywood has plenty of rock riding and racing experience under her belt. Stage racer Sonya Looney (Topeak Ergon) rounds out the list of women's favorites.
The absent Bishop has won all previous editions of the TSE and is sitting out this year to race the US Pro XCT next weekend in Alabama, but several men are likely contenders to take over the top step of the podium. Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) proved he is on form by recently winning the Syllamo's Revenge while Justin Lindine (Redline/NBX) is another TSE veteran to watch. Aaron Snyder (TSEpic Team) has plenty of local knowledge and will likely mix it up with them. Snyder, Edsall and Lindine were fourth, fifth and sixth respectively last year. Finally, Brian Matter (Racc/Trek/Progold) has more than proven his ability to be among the fastest in major one-day events and may surprise them all over the course of seven days.
The race kicks off with a prologue individual time trial on Sunday afternoon followed by six more stages in the State College area. The area is famous for its lush green, often fern or mountain laurel-lined singletrack and boasts rocks of all shapes and sizes.
Throughout the race, an enduro classification will keep track of the best descenders while the entire stage 4 will be run in an enduro format with several timed sections.
Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for full coverage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic.