The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSEpic) is drawing a top notch field of women to race its seven-day mountain bike stage race from May 25 to May 31, 2014. Some of the fastest female endurance mountain bike racers will converge near State College, Pennsylvania for a race many affectionately call "Singletrack Summer Camp".
Two past winners, Cheryl Sornson and Selene Yeager (both Team Rare Disease Cycling), are expected to face each other for another shot at the overall title. 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."
When asked about her goals for the 2014 edition, Yeager said, "I'm still working on that honestly! The field is so formidable and the week so unpredictable that it's hard to know what to expect. Obviously, I would like to climb up on one of those boxes during the week; but mostly I want to race smart and consistently. I've worked to improve some of the trouble spots I've had with stage racing in the past, so I'm optimistic that I'll have a decent week. But I can't control the competition, so we'll just see!"
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. My goals for this year are to do my best to enjoy the vibe a bit more," said Sornson. "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. I was a bit of a hermit the last time I did the race in 2012. So the long, short of it is I have no huge expectations other than enjoying myself."
"I most look forward to the enduro stage," said Sornson. "I've never participated in a race of this format and am excited to try it. It will also be a great break in the week to change things up."
The two 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.
"My goals for this year are to race a strong race from start to finish," said Barclay, who is heading into her third NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic. "So far, I haven't had the best of luck at this race: the first year I competed, I broke/bruised my rib on the first day and last year I raced with a cold."
"Another goal for for this year is to make it through the race without crying," joked Barclay, who noted that she doesn't cry often, but when she does, it's usually at the TSEpic. "I look forward to Cooper's Gap stage, as it has some of the best trails in the State College area, and each year the course changes slightly to keep it interesting."
Kaufmann said, "I think the Trans-Sylvania Epic is the event I look forward to the most each year. Last year it was a big milestone for me in coming back from mono and getting hit by a car, and I was happy with how it went."
"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. "My goal this year is to race smart, have fun, suffer and race as hard as I can, finishing the week thoroughly cooked and satisfied."
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.
"This will be my first year doing TSEpic, and I can't wait. Well, I can, because hopefully I'll be even better prepared by then, but I am very excited," said Popovic. "Since I haven't raced this before, I am most looking forward to the overall experience. It will be challenging to race others for so many days in a row when we will be facing so many personal challenges along the way. I've heard reports of how everyone feels like a kid at camp again and I want to be part of that! I can't wait to see how racers strengths shape the week-long race."
Popovic has fond memories of racing in the area. "My first-ever mountain bike race included Tussey Ridge. 1996 maybe? I was on a rigid blue mountain bike with V-brakes that doubled as my campus cruiser by day. I raced that thing along Tussey ridge and my goal for TSEpic is to ride that segment about 10 times faster than I did that day as a Penn State student in sneakers and a T-shirt. I remember walking a downhill and thinking that I wanted to be able to ride it someday."
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, is not expected to return for this year's race.
To enduro or not to enduro
At least a few of the top women are likely to contest the enduro sub-classification, but most have not yet decided if they will do so.
Yeager is mulling it over. "I ride the rocks well and can hold my own on technical terrain, but I'm not a monstrous descender. But it does sound like a fun additional challenge, so 'maybe'"
Barclay said, "I didn't race in the enduro classification last year, but I have definitely been considering it this year as an added challenge."
Popovic, on the other hand, is all for it. "As for the enduro subclassification, heck yes I'm in! Why not?"