The countdown is on until the start of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race. The race's best field yet will assemble at the start line at race headquarters at the Seven Mountain Scout Camp near State College, Pennsylvania on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The race will run through Saturday, May 31.
The world-class race - held during seven days at central Pennsylvania venues like Rothrock State Forest, Bald Eagle State Forest and R.B. Winter State Park - draws elite competitors from around the US and the globe.
Past winners Bishop and Lindine are the men to beat
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 (TSEpic) 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 national 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, so I'm excited to get things off on the right foot!"
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.
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.
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 while 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.
Other top contenders include Thomas Turner (Jamis Factory Team), Kris Sneddon (Kona), State College local Aaron Snyder (TSEpic.com/NoTubes), Mike Broderick (Kenda NoTubes), Spencer Paxson (Kona), Cole Oberman (Rare Disease Cycling) and Nick Waite (ProTested Gear).
"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. "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.
A few big name riders will be competing on multi-person teams in the seven-day TSEpic. 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.
McConneloug brings Olympic experience to women's race
Past women's winners Cheryl Sornson and Selene Yeager (both Team Rare Disease Cycling), who hail from Pennsylvania, will face a big challenge from Olympian Mary McConneloug (Kenda/Stan's NoTubes) of California. Sornson won the Trans-Sylvania Epic in 2012 while Yeager topped the general classification in 2010.
"I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again," said Yeager, who will be racing for the third time at Trans-Sylvania Epic. "A big work assignment forced me to miss last year's race, and I was sad to not be able to catch up with all the friends I've made there over the years."
Sornson is perhaps best known for her accomplishments in single-day, 100-mile mountain bike races although she has plenty of stage racing experience, including at races like the Cape Epic mountain bike stage race.
"I'm excited to put my hat in the ring again. I'm not sure how my fitness is for stage racing, but am looking forward to a great couple of days on the trail, and enjoying all the camaraderie after each day's ride."
The three favorites will be challenged by a strong contingent of teammates from the Stan's NoTubes Women's Elite Team, among them Sarah Kaufmann and Vicki Barclay. Both have proven themselves as podium contenders in previous editions of the race.
Of the Stan's NoTubes ladies, Barclay is likely to get the loudest cheers from spectators as she is the most accomplished of the local women competing. She'll enjoy the home court advantage of racing familiar trails and roads.
"In addition to the super fun vibe and atmosphere, I LOVE the rocky, technical riding. It is also a treat to get to hang (and be spoiled by) the NoTubes crew that is headquartered right there in State College," said Kaufmann.
Another woman to watch is Team Rare Disease Cycling's Carolyn Popovic, who will be using the race to hone her fitness ahead of the 2014-2015 cyclo-cross season while Under 25 rider Ellen Noble (Trek Bear Development) may surprise her elders. The 2013 US junior cyclo-cross national champion was 12th overall in the 2014 elite women's cyclo-cross national championship race.
2013 race winner Amanda Carey, who also took the overall victory in 2011, will not be returning for this year's race.
Last year's Under 25 men's winner Madison Matthews (Toasted Head Racing) will have his hands full defending his title. The local Pennsylvania first-year pro is not only a strong rider, but also an incredible bike handler. This year, he'll benefit not only from his local knowledge but also from being one of the few Under 25 riders to have previously done the race.
Payson McElveen (Richard's Rainwater MTB Racing) is perhaps the best known U25 rider on the start list. The 21-year-old pro from Austin, Texas and Durango, Colorado, finished an impressive sixth place among the elites at the US national series opener earlier this season at the Mellow Johnny's Classic and represented the United States at the 2014 Pan-American Championships. With top goals of making the podium at nationals and qualifying for the US world championship team, he is skipping two World Cup rounds held the same week as the Trans-Sylvania Epic because he thinks it will help him better attain his goals.
Levi Kurlander (Ska/Zia/Trek), Cody Phillips (Felt Factory Enduro Team), Mike Sampson (Adigga Racing), Gunnar Bergey (Champion System Cannondale), Cole Oberman (Rare Disease Cycling) and Cameron Dodge (Pure Energy Scott) are other top young men to watch.
Defending Under 25 women's race champion Donna Miller has aged up to the elite category and in her absence, Ellen Noble (Bear Development Team) leads the ranks as top U25 women's favorite. Noble's toughest competition in the Under 25 ranks may come from Emily Shields (BMC Project Enduro), who finished third among the Under 23 racers at the 2013 US mountain bike national championships.
Three-day version added
Held on Sunday, May 25 through Tuesday, May 27, the TS3 will overlap with the first three days of the seven-day Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSEpic). It also overlaps with the US Memorial Day holiday weekend.
TS3 racers will have a blast on the same initial three courses as their TSEpic-contending peers but will spend more time on the Bald Eagle course on the first day. Instead of an individual time trial around a single 15-mile lap, three-day racers will compete in a mass start event for two laps and 30 total miles on a wide mix of almost every kind of terrain that the TSEpic throws at participants through the week. Days 2 and 3 will be the same for both versions of the race.
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.
Races within the race: Enduro and East Coast Rocks classifications
Just like the Tour de France recognizes not only the overall race leader, but also the best climber, best sprinter and best young rider, the Trans-Sylvania Epic will award two special sub-classifications: the SRAM Enduro classification and the Bear Creek Resort East Coast Rocks classification.
More frequent segments and cash prizes are what's on tap for the SRAM Enduro. Starting with the individual time trial stage on day 1, week-long competitors will enjoy nearly 25 timed enduro segments against which to test their descending mettle - double the number of segments in the 2013 edition of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic.
The enduro competition isn't just for the week-long participants: the three-day, TS3 version of the Trans-Sylvania Epic will also feature 12 different enduro runs through its three days and will award prizes to the overall male and female enduro champs across all TS3 categories.
Those who seek the thrill of enduro racing will especially enjoy the Galbraith Gap enduro stage on the third day, with the entire stage devoted to the enduro format and five separate timed sections with more than 3,000 feet of often technical descending.
New for the 2014 seven-day race, the men's and women's enduro classification winners will take home a cool $1,000.00 each. The TSEpic will also again offer the "Everyone Else's Enduro" with awards going to top enduro rider across the duo, Epic Team, singlespeed, and masters categories.
Some of the top riders to watch in the enduro classification are defending enduro champion Drew Edsall, last year's overall winner Justine Lindine, Peter Glassford, Tristan Uhl and Jeff Lenosky.
The Bear Creek Resort East Coast Rocks Singletrack competition will honor the top male and female riders of central Pennsylvania's classic, rocky singletrack. Racers will find one timed singletrack section on four of the seven stages and two East Coast Rocks segments on the TSEpic Queen Stage. These sections will be all about celebrating what makes mountain bike riding in Pennsylvania the awesome experience it is: the rocks!
Although both involve lovely singletrack, the Bear Creek Resort East Coast Rocks classification is a bit different than the SRAM Enduro classification, which was added in 2013. Both are open to riders of all ages, but the East Coast Rocks classification will feature flat to rolling segments and may be best exemplified by the renowned Tussey Mountain Trail, a beautiful rolling ridgetop just outside of State College, Pennsylvania which is punctuated with rocky stretches that challenge even the most experienced riders. This Tussey Mountain Trail - a jewel in the collection of the area's amazing network of singletrack - is one of the highlights of the week.
Keep track of top riders with SPOT tracking
Also new for 2014, Trans-Sylvania Epic has partnered with event tracking provider Trackleaders.com and device maker SPOT LLC in conjunction with Stan's NoTubes to become the first stage race in North America to equip top racers with tracking devices.
Fifteen to 20 athletes will be outfitted per day with SPOT's smallest production satellite tracking device to date in a test of the technology ahead of full implementation in 2015. The top five men and women will be equipped with SPOT tracking devices, and additional racers in the Under 25 category will also be tagged.
The remaining tracking devices will go to racers chosen by a combination of situational factors and online voting - the audience will help choose who is tracked. Visit TSEpic.com to follow racers via SPOT tracking during each stage.
2014 Trans-Sylvania Epic
May 25: Stage 1 – Individual time trial (for the seven-day race) and three-lap circuit race (for the three-day race), 15 miles and 30 miles
May 26: Stage 2 – Coopers Gap, 42 miles
May 26: Stage 3 – Enduro stage in Galbraith Gap, 25 miles
May 27: Stage 4 – Coburn stage, 43 miles
May 28: Stage 5 – Escape to R.B. Winter State Park, 29 miles
May 29: Stage 6 – Tussey Mountain Queen Stage, 42 miles
May 30: Stage 7 – Final Showdown in Bald Eagle, 26 miles