To enduro or not to enduro

The Trans-Sylvania Epic is a seven-day mountain bike stage race near State College, Pennsylvania. Just like the Tour de France has a sprint and a mountains sub-classification, the Trans-Sylvania Epic has an enduro sub-classification in addition to stages and the general classification.

Six of the stages include approximately two enduro stages embedded within each day's racing. Stage 4, held today, is all about enduro and includes five sub-sections. During stage 4, only the enduro sections will count toward the GC - unlike a regular stage, the uphills in between will not.

In addition to the leader's jersey, an enduro leader's jersey is awarded each day at the Trans-Sylvania Epic for the fastest solo man and woman.

What's made the race a bit more interesting strategically than a regular mountain bike stage race or a regular enduro is that the enduros on all but the stage 4 enduro-only day are optional. Racers can chose whether or not to compete. If they chose to do the enduro segments, they must stop and swipe a card at the beginning and ending of each segment.

Among the elite riders, some have chosen to do the enduros while others have not, and it affects each day's outcome.  It's kind of like how Mark Cavendish might chose to focus on the green jersey at the Tour instead of the GC while Cadel Evans might forgo stage wins to go for the GC.

For example, in stage 3 on Tuesday, race leader Justin Lindine, who is not competing in the enduro, got away from GC runner-up Brian Matter, who is competing in the enduro, when Matter had to stop and swipe his card in the second of the day's two enduro segments, just a mile or two from the finish.

"For better or for worse, Brian is going for the enduro. I made a decision going into it that it was of less importance for me to try to win that jersey," said Lindine. "It does cost him a few seconds to swipe in and out. It's a cool competition within the race, but you have to pick and chose your battles."

Matter said, "Justin must have got a 20-second gap during today's final enduro segment. It was a short segment, so to stop twice and lose 10 seconds each time was a lot. He won the stage by 46 seconds. But hopefully it will be worth it to defend the enduro leader's jersey."  It didn't quite work out for Matter, who was overtaken in the enduro classification by Drew Edsall after stage 3.

Sam Koerber, who is third in the men's GC said stage 4's enduro results would "depend on who wants to take the most risks. I always get pretty fired up when it comes time to race. I'm going to fight it out until the end," he said.

The enduro competition has also been a factor in the women's race. Race leader Amanda Carey is not going for the enduro, but GC contender Sue Haywood is.

Speaking of stage 3's final enduro section, Haywood said, "I let them go as I stopped, then I had to re-pass them during the enduro, then pulled over to stop and swipe, then had catch back up again. I had to work pretty hard there at the end."

"It's hard to switch in the middle of the race into downhill mode. I want the enduro jersey, but it's still time, and if you get a flat tire, it costs you time overall. I think I'll ride fast and smart tomorrow, but I think I'll just go for it. I don't want to be too conservative," she said.

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