Text and photographs courtesy of the TSE Media Team
The second stage of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic presented by Dirt Rag Magazine was arguably the hardest stage of the week – and obviously the hardest stage thus far – with 41 miles of racing, 25 of which was rocky, technical singletrack. With four SRAM Enduro segments and one Bear Creek East Coast Rocks segments, racers were certainly kept on their toes all day.
Not only was the race long, it also featured nearly 6,000 feet of climbing, the most climbing that riders will see all week. Temperatures stayed mild, in the low 80s, and sun beat down on racers, making grabbing water bottles at both checkpoint stops a necessity for most racers.
Stage 1 winner Jeremiah Bishop (Sho-Air/Cannondale) took the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic stage 2 win with an almost three-minute margin over second place, Nick Waite (ProTested Gear), who took third in the individual time trial the day prior. Payson McElveen (Richard’s Rainwater MTB Racing), who is not ranked with the solo men due to being an under 25 rider, rolled in third spot and therefore Spencer Paxson (Kona) claimed the official third place podium step for the day.
“I was really nervous,” Bishop said of the race start which included eight miles of gravel before entering the long stretch of singletrack. “A lot of people were taking chances – a lot of heroes up there getting their moment of glory. The Kona boys set the pace, made it really difficult. I missed the turn into the singletrack and went into it eighth or ninth. It was really hard, the Kona guys were taking turns at the front, and I was back there in traffic, and little gaps would open up!” Bishop had to stop to get a stick out of his back wheel, but even that brief pause didn’t deter him from taking over the lead as soon as there was a section of road where he could start to pass the other racers.
He and Waite, above, moved to the front as soon as possible – about halfway through the race – and Bishop later said, “Nick and I are good training buddies. Coming up here as training buddies, we know how each other rides, and we’re looking out for each other.” With his second placed finish, Waite moved into second place in the GC, an important leap since according to Bishop, “Today’s the big day for the GC. You’ve got to put down what you’ve got early.”
Bishop extended his overall lead and said that he is happy to begin to work defensively for the rest of the week. Further back in the field, Kris Sneddon (Kona) took fifth place, Ben Sonntag (Stan’s NoTubes) had a good start but a flat took him out of contention and put him into sixth, and Peter Glassford (Trek Canada) rolled in for seventh. 2013 NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic champion Justin Lindine (Redline) again had some bad luck with mechanical problems.
In a brilliant display of sportsmanship, competitors Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes) and current race leader Cheryl Sornson (Rare Disease Cycling) shared the ride across the finish line after working together all day, although Barclay technically edged out Sornson for the stage 2 win. “Soon after aid station one, we were together,” said Sornson, who had been in the lead for the first half of the day. “So we just motivated and pushed each other along.”
“I knew the trails pretty well,” State College local Barclay said. “We just rode together all day. She wasn’t going to lose time, I was going to gain time.” “We didn’t attack each other to be mean, but we worked each other,” Sornson said. “We were riding the same though.” “It was hard,” both said in unison. “People were falling apart,” Barclay added. Selene Yeager (Rare Disease Cycling) took third with Mary McConneloug (Kenda/NoTubes) much farther back in fourth.
“I was cramping from basically two to four hours in,” McConneloug said as she crossed the line. After stage 2, Sornson continues as the overall women’s leader, but Barclay moved into second position, ahead of McConneloug and Kaufmann.
U25 men and women
In the women’s BMC Under 25 category, a grudge match developed during yesterday’s stage between Ellen Noble (Bear Development Team), Kaysee Armstrong (Kona/TBB Race) and Emily Shields (BMC Project Dirt). They went into stage 2 spaced a mere 90 seconds apart. Armstrong took the stage 2 in what is shaping up to be arguably the most exciting field.
“I wasn’t feeling good at the start, so I thought I would do the enduro stages. Then I saw Emily had a flat with six miles to go, and I got first,” said Armstrong, who has been riding for three or four years and is looking forward to tomorrow’s enduro stage since her greatest strength is going downhill fast. However, while Armstrong took the stage win and became the current overall race leader, the three young women are separated by mere minutes, so the race is far from over.
In the men’s BMC Under 25 category, Payson McElveen (Richard’s Rainwater) cemented his lead in the overall classification after his ride to third in the elite men’s field today put him 10 minutes ahead of his second place competitor Cameron Dodge (Pure Energy Scott Elite Team). Madison Matthews (Toasted Head Racing) took third spot almost 20 minutes behind. Combined with his win in the time trial yesterday, McElveen is now in the position to ride a defensive race for the rest of the week.
“I wasn’t surprised, but I’m definitely happy. It was better than I was expecting,” said McElveen, who noted that a broken wrist at a race in California in March had taken him off the bike for several weeks. “The longest stage race I’ve ever done was two days and I’m already there,” he said. However, despite the novelty of stage racing for him, holding the jersey for the week isn’t a far-fetched notion. “That was epic, through and through,” concluded McElveen.
With four SRAM Enduro segments in stage 2, contenders had many opportunities to affect the overall standings. In the men’s competition, Tristan Uhl (787 Racing) overcame a mediocre first segment and recorded the fastest times on the second and fourth segments. However, Michael Broderick recorded one of the top-three fastest times on each of the four segments, resulting in a tie for first place in the stage between him and Uhl.Today’s stage enabled Uhl to surpass yesterday’s winner, Aaron Snyder (TSEpic) in the overall standings to lead the enduro competition by 30 points.
In the women’s competition, yesterday’s leader, Mary McConneloug, suffered an issue in the first enduro segment that caused her to lose significant time. The result dropped McConneloug to fifth in the overall standings. Kaarin Tae (Bike Monkey Cycling) clocked top-three finishes for all four segments, thus moving her to first place in the overall standings with a lead of 35 points over second place Kaysee Armstrong (Kona/TBB Race). Scott Smith and Cody Phillips (Felt Factory Enduro Team) traded first and second place times for all four of the enduro segments for today’s open men SRAM Enduro competition. The two riders tied each other for points on stage 2, but Phillips’ enduro win from stage 1 allowed him to retain first place in the overall standings.
East Coast Rocks
In the Bear Creek East Coast Rocks men’s competition, stage 1 leader Payson McElveen did not compete in stage 2, instead focusing on his third place finish overall for the stage. His absence allowed Cody Phillips (Felt Factory Enduro Team) to take over the leader’s jersey, adding about 40 seconds to his gap over second place Michael Broderick (Kenda/NoTubes).
Mary McConneloug (Kenda/NoTubes)continues her domination of the women’s competition after completing today’s segment almost a minute faster than second place Cheryl Sornson (Rare Diseases Cycling). Carolyn Popovic (Rare Disease Cycling) rounds out the top three, but did not gain enough time over Kaarin Tae (Bike Monkey Cycling) to move up in the GC standings.
Early in the singlespeed race, Matt Ferrari (FreezeThaw/Hubcap Cycles) pulled away from the competition to develop a strong lead entering the first checkpoint. By the end of the stage, Ferrari grew his lead to over eight minutes ahead of second place finisher Kurt Gensheimer (Ibis). John Merriam (Crosshairs Cycling), finishing second in stage 1, removed himself from the race at one of the checkpoints. Merriam’s absence enabled Rich Dillen to move up to third place in both the stage and overall GC results.
After the race, Dillen — traditionally a rigid fork kind of bike rider — said he would switch to a suspension fork for tomorrow’s enduro stage. “I made it 30 Trans-Sylvania Epic stages on my rigid fork before having to give it up,” said a slightly dejected and beat up Rich Dillen after finishing stage 2. “I guess I’ll go switch out my set-up now – the dropper post is going back on, too.” In the GC standings after stage 2, Ferrari leads the singlespeed race with a 14-minute lead on Gensheimer in second and a 23-minute lead over Dillen in third.
In the BikeFlights.com Masters 40+ competition, Nathan Ruch (Pure Energy Scott Elite Team) displayed the strong riding that led him to his 2013 victory and succeeded in winning stage 2 by a slim margin of seven seconds over Steve Mee. Third place finisher Mike Hebe (Team Novo Nordisk) crossed the finish line just four minutes after Ruch. The tight grouping reflects strongly in the GC standings, as Ruch, Mee, and Hebe are separated by a mere three minutes in the overall competition.
In the Masters 50+ category, Jim Matthews (Toasted Head Racing) proved local knowledge to be advantageous with a first place in today’s stage, finishing over 16 minutes ahead of yesterday’s stage winner Alex Hawkins. Matthews’ strong finish showed he is ready to redeem his unfortunate DNF from 2013. Rick Landry fought to maintain his position on the podium, finishing five minutes behind Hawkins for a third place on the day. Matthews leads the Master men’s 50+ GC standings after stage 2 with a 16-minute gap on Hawkins. Landry trails Hawkins by just eight minutes.
TS3 – Three-day Trans-Sylvania Epic
The three-day (TSE) men’s field produced no surprises, as Barry Wicks (Kona Bikes) rode to a commanding first place, increasing his already strong lead over the field. Second and third placed finishes remained unchanged from yesterday with John Burns and Aaron Albright (Swashbuckler Brewing Company) filling the final two steps on the podium. Starting the day 12 minutes down from race leader Mireille Montminy (Lambert), Jess Kutz put in an amazing ride to take first place in the women’s TS3 stage and take the leader’s jersey in GC results. In addition to Montminy, Kutz faces close competition from Melissa Nas Mertz (Toasted Head Racing), who finished just three minutes behind the race leader in today’s stage and holds third place in the GC standings.
Stage 3 Preview – Gailbraith Enduro
The third day of the Trans-Sylvania Epic is all about enduro racing. In the SRAM/GEAX stage 3, racers can expect five separate enduro segments over a total of 22 miles with no timed racing in between segments — simply pedal on to the next downhill segment and let it roll. The timed segments count toward both the overall general classification and to the enduro points sub-classification.
See all our coverage of the 2014 Trans-Sylvania Epic here.
Daily video coverage
Click here to view a video of stage 2 race coverage.
Track top riders
The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic mountain bike stage race, partnered with event tracking provider Trackleaders.com, device maker SPOT LLC and Stan’s NoTubes, is the first stage race in North America to be testing the use of tracking devices for top racers. Visit TSEpic.com to follow racers via SPOT tracking during each stage.
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The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic presented by Dirt Rag Magazine is made possible with the generous support of BMC, Pactimo, Hammer Nutrition, Red Bull, Purple Lizard and Freeze Thaw Cycles. For more information, visit OutdoorExperience.org or TSEpic.com; follow on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.