By Heidi Shilling
My journey to Costa Rica started in early July when I realized I had a chance to win a free entry to La Ruta de los Conquistadores, a three-day mountain bike stage race considered to be one the toughest in the world.
I had been texting with my good friend Annie about the race. She had recently moved back to Ohio and we became fast friends cut from the same cloth. She was a hell of a mountain biker—we would ride for hours talk about everything and nothing at all. She was wise beyond her years, never judgmental and always found a way to make me laugh.
The last text I ever got from her was about La Ruta. The very next day she was killed by a drunk driver. My beautiful, smart, silly, wild Annie was gone. The only thing that made me feel better after her death was riding my bike. Fast forward a few months and had won the Ohio Mountain Bike Championship series for expert women. The next thing I knew I was stepping on a plane headed to Costa Rica.Tweet Print
Think those videos you see of amazing mountain adventures just come easy? Think again. Some aspiring filmmakers from Slovakia got in touch with their story of their adventure in the West Tatras mountains and how their new film “Get High” came to be.
By Zuzana Triebusnikova
One and a half year ago I did not know almost anything about mountain biking. Now I can say that I know more about it and have seen more videos than a regular rider. Peter Lengyel has infected me with his passion and showed me that it is possible to do what you like.
He had this video in mind for a long time. Thus, when he was ready to make it I wanted to take part. Even though it is a short movie, it took a lot of work, effort and planning. It is almost no budget movie. No budget, because we had only family support (borrowed cars and some equipment) and a borrowed bike for 2 weeks which Peter have not ridden before. However, without the priceless help of our friends, the video would be impossible. The biggest thanks goes to Juraj Lovás and Michal (Sakso) Stiksa who filmed the entire video.
So we had two weeks to film it. As you will see from the pictures, the weather was not always pleasing us. Rain, snow, fog, drizzle, wind, sun, we had all kinds of weather…Tweet Print
By Vicki Barclay
Approaching a big race like the Trans-Sylvania Epic, people always ask, “How you are feeling?” and “Are you ready?” I always find it a funny question to answer! The same way as when someone asks how a job interview went, men tend to answer with confidence, I have noticed, whereas females tend to be more coy and careful. I prefer the coy and careful approach.
The truth is, mountain bike stage racing is like no other racing. As Heidi Klum from Project Runway would say (yes, I know, I love crap TV!): “One day your in, the next you’re out” (with a very abrupt tone for out). You can be having the ride of your life, only to be taken out by a mechanical, illness, etc. In other words, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
This spring, with the incredible support from the Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite Team, I have been able to participate in a whole range of races on my journey towards TSE, including the Maryland State Champs at Greenbriar; the Whiskey Off-Road; the Wildcat 100; Mike Kuhn’s universal relay race; a 4 hour endurance race; and a cross country race in the Mid-Atlantic super series. It has been the most enjoyable spring racing to date, mostly because I have loved racing my Cannondale Scalpel 29er! The bike climbs like a cross-country hard tail, but floats over the rocks like an amazing full suspension bike.
But do all those races mean I am ready for TSE? Thoughts start creeping across my mind, like “Should I have done more back-to-back hard days of training instead of racing?” “Why didn’t I make the effort to pre-ride some of the stages that I don’t ride too often?” “Should I be more anal about my bike set-up, positioning etc?”
What I am learning more and more with stage racing, and indeed all other types of racing however, is that you have to quietly accept and be at peace with your preparations, turn up to the start line rested, and not get caught up in what other people are doing in training, eating, drinking, etc. At least that’s how it works for me.
The prologue starts Sunday and I am excited about what the week will bring. Are you ready?
By Stephan Kincaid,
The Tour of the Battenkill is a road race spread over an entire weekend and catering to the beginner to the Pro. Littered with a bunch of dirt road sections it’s becoming a legendary event. This year had over 3,500 racers in attendance on Saturday alone.
So what does this have to do with getting ready for Trans-Sylvania Epic?
First, the Tour of the Battenkill is backed by one of my best sponsors. I’m blessed to have a wonderful company in Stan’s NoTubes, and an excellent team in Stan’s NoTubes p/b Proferrin behind me for a variety of events for 2013. One of these is TSE.
Who in their right mind would support a 40 year old semi-retired dude with product and incredible amounts of enthusiasm? Stan’s NoTubes, that’s who! I was happy to see Cindy, Bob and Richie working hard for their company and taking care of their riders and their prospective customers. They are truly one of the best in the biz.
Stan’s treats you like family!
How cool is this? Personalized frame stickers!
Second, my teammates are like my brothers and I want to take care of them. During the race I did my best to shepherd Jake, John, Mike and Jacob around the field. It’s especially important to be at the entrance of the dirt sections. Not doing so can put you immediately on the brakes, this then forces you to re-accelerate in order to stay in the field. Those of you not familiar with road racing can relate to a mountain bike race surging to enter the single track. Too far back and you may never see the front again. In addition, once you get dropped in a road race, it’s rare that you get back and there’s fear of being time cut (not being classified as a finisher).
Thankfully, even with my lack of consistent riding (thanks to my full time job, recently moving and yada yada yada), I was able to dutifully perform my domestique role. I was eventually dropped at mile 55. I’d rather be dropped busting my butt for my team than to sit in and be invisible. I finished the race with others in my position to finish the 82 mile day in under four hours. Here’s the Strava info.
Some of the best parts of race/travel is meeting new people, seeing new places and sampling good restaurant fare. Of particular fun was meeting a host family and their dog Copper! Thank you for taking care of us!
How can one not love this face!
Get in my belly! A post race refuel stop at the Gilded Otter in New Paltz, NY.
Keep on Keeping On!
By Michael Wissell
So you decided to do a week- long bike race.
I can’t tell you what you have to do to win the race. I imagine that it involves a lot of “training” and “hard work”. I can, however, tell you about a couple of things that can make your week at the Trans-Sylvania Epic even more awesome (and perhaps take away a bit of the sting of losing 30 minutes a day to Jeremiah Bishop).
First things first: bring a fan. Preferably two fans. It gets hot at night in the bunks, and the last thing you want after a four hour hoof across the soggy wilderness is your thighs sticking together when you are trying to sleep. The second fan is for your gear. The race is hard enough. You can at least start every day with a dry helmet and shoes.
It is important to note that you should not use one fan for both purposes. Wafting the smell of your swampwater-filled foot-terrariums around the cabin will make you significantly less popular.
Your cabin-mates will let you know.
Treats. Last year, my wife secretly packed homemade cookies for me. I also brought some Trader Joes peanut butter cups. You will find that the provided food is no substitute for the morale-repairing experience of sharing candy with other constantly-hungry bike racers. It also works wonders as an icebreaker in a room full of people from different backgrounds and countries. If love is the universal language, cookies are its Rosetta Stone. Bring something good, and good stuff will happen to you all week.
They also make you train harder.
Bring two of everything. You may not need it, but in the back of your mind, you will be thankful that you have it. Crashes, fatigue-induced absent-mindedness, and old-fashioned bad luck can conspire to pull the rug out from under all that hard training and careful planning. I am not suggesting you go out and buy a second bike, but maybe ask a friend or teammate if they can loan you theirs for the week.
Bring that goofy commuter helmet you use for riding around town. That old pair of shoes, those ratty gloves, maybe even those kinda-worn tires from last season. You will likely not need any of it, but I promise—just swapping out a part or replacing a lost item is infinitely easier than running frantically around camp looking for someone that happens to have the same size shoes as you.
Especially if these are your shoes.
Books. Make sure you have something to read that isn’t bike related. You may not believe it, but your brain might actually want a few minutes off from BIKES BIKES BIKES sometime during the week. I don’t suggest any particularly heavy reading (maybe leave Being and Time at home) but a few magazines, an easy-ish novel, or that fancy new e-reader you got last Christmas should do the trick.
Related: Fishing gear.
Because I need something else to feel bad about.
Rope. I cannot overstate the importance of a nice coil of rope. It can be a laundry line, a bike stand, a shelf—pretty much whatever you need. Every year, I have brought some rope down, and every year Rimmey Cabin used almost all of it.
Like sailing flags on the HMS Bedraggled.
A headlamp. Your feet will be sad enough without slamming them into every obstacle between your bed and the toilet. You will also accumulate a fair amount of goodwill by not being the guy who wakes everyone up by turning on the bathroom light (which is wired to a fan that sounds like a small-engine plane trying to take off into the wind). Keep the light on a hook above your head when you sleep.
Also useful if, say, the bottom of your car falls off on Christmas Eve.
See you all in a few weeks!
Check out more dispatches as racers and regular riders alike prepare for the 2013 Trans-Sylvania Epic stage race in central Pennsylvania.
By Stephan "Geronimo" Kincaid.
Over two recent weekends I rode in two different events, the Hell of Hunterdon and the Monkey Knife Fight.
Neither of these are "races", but there are some people that will "race." It’s no bother to me. What matters most is we all are safe and have a great ride. Both of these rides accomplish this handily.
Hell of Hunterdon
The HoH traverses the beautiful roads of Hunterdon County New Jersey. The HoH is a good ride to prepare for the Tour of Battenkill and touted as such. The ride covers 79 miles with 18 sections of gravel/dirt and 5,900 feet of climbing. Here is the Strava map/info.
Photo Credit: Pat Engleman
I traveled to the ride Saturday morning with someone beautiful and whom I recently serendipitously met. She simply wanted to do the ride because she heard it was fun. Her name is Sandie. Sandie is smart.
During HoH I encountered multiple mechanical issues, which cost me approximately 40 minutes of stopped time. I was initially frustrated and these mechanicals brought me down for a bit. It’s tough to have so many people ride by and know I’m not in the "lead" group but the real question was: Why does it bother me at all?
+ Monkey Knife Fight
The Monkey Knife Fight (MKF) is a fundraising ride for the Pennsylvania Perimeter Ride Against Cancer.
The MKF is a tough ride. Riddled with punch climbs at 20 percent, gravel and dirt roads, and it always seems to be windy. I decided to ride up with my good friend Shane Kline. We both know the roads well and knew that this would be a long day. I was worried. My fitness is well below what it usually is AND I’m riding with Shane. He’s uber strong and talented. Here’s the Strava ride data.
Photo Cred: Jimmy Cavalieri
All day I struggled. I struggled to the start. I struggled on the ride. I struggled on the way home. It was like being hollow. Nothing inside. I even skipped a beer stop. Too tired to stay too long.
So two weekends, two less-than-ideal rides and I’m really worried. How am I going to be ready for Trans-Sylvania Epic? How does this equate to fun?
1. I got to see way more of my friends when I slowed down.
2. I thought about my TSE team. Joel, David, their lost Army brother Chris, Chris’s young son Benjamin and the real reason why I’m riding with them. They were a smiling motivation to keep my pedals turning.
3. I’m in a transition. Moving away from bike racer Geronimo to bike rider Geronimo. Cycling is much more about where and who I’m riding with than just being fit. I’m getting older, life is evolving and I am evolving. Cycling has always been important to me but I’m finding new meaning and new purpose with many things. I’m now living with a renewed vitality.
This is bliss.Tweet Print
By Joel Kostelac.
A few weeks ago I celebrated my birthday. It was a great week and day and probably fairly typical as birthdays go. I worked, enjoyed time with my family, and even managed to squeak in a ride at Allegrippis. I am thankful everyday that I can do so.
Ten years ago I celebrated my 28th birthday a bit differently in a small southern Iraqi city named As Samawah. It is a small city straddled over a key supply line to Baghdad and home to an important bridge over the Euphrates River.
Only a week earlier we had fought our way into that city and were systematically clearing it of Iraqi forces, suicide bombers and the like. Only about a week before that, I was sitting in the Kuwait City Airport, with the rest of the 2nd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division, waiting for "shock and awe" to begin and to cross the border into Iraq.
In that time, in the desert to my west, my friend and college roommate, a husband and father to a four-month-old son, was killed. He, like myself, was preparing with his unit, the 101st Airborne Division, to move into Iraq, when a disturbed, disenchanted American soldier, but enemy nonetheless, threw a grenade into the tent where he was sleeping.
Chris Seifert believed in his profession, he believed in his unit, and was proud to serve our country. In my year there, I lost other friends and members of my unit. Many others were wounded. Many more brave Americans were killed or wounded in the years of combat that followed. Many suffer still with the memory of the events they have faced. What Chris and all these others have in common is they all volunteered to serve our nation and took the fight to those that would seek to destroy our way of life.
I have been riding mountain bikes and participating in other endurance sports since I was in high school. I’m not the fastest guy around. In fact, I’ve never, ever, stood on the podium of a race. I am solidly average or "middle of the pack" as they say. I participate, though for many of the same reasons the elite riders do: for fitness, for fun, for competition. But in the last 10 years it has meant more than that to me. It has given me an opportunity to reflect on my time serving in two wars and with the loss of Chris and several other close friends and fellow paratroopers.
This year, in the 10th year, my goal is to ask others to reflect as well, by reminding us of just what their sacrifice means, and I can think of no better way than by competing in one of the toughest, most challenging events around. With the help of Mike Kuhn and the team at Trans-Sylvania Epic, I will be competing as part of an Epic Team in this year’s event in honor of my friend Chris and in support of his son Benjamin’s scholarship fund and to remind us all of the sacrifice young men and women make every day when they put on the uniform.
It is only fitting that this event kicks off on Memorial Day weekend. I am humbled and honored by the men that have stood up to join me in this effort: David Nolletti, a mentor to both Chris and I, veteran, and accomplished cyclist, Stehpan Kincaid, a seasoned racer, pro, and TSE vet; Gunner Bergey, a TSE vet racer and former staffer and member of the Lees-McRae cycling team; and Mike Cushionberry, pro rider, Dirt Rag editor and current Stan’s NoTubes Transylvania Epic Team member.
I look forward to sharing my training and efforts leading up to TSE right here, and meeting everyone at the Seven Mountains Scout Camp May!Tweet Print
The author, lugging the ever-present load of camera gear, with Adam Craig looking on.
By Adam Newman. Photos by Adam Newman A. E. Landes Photography.
Being able to ride a bike is certainly a prerequisite to working at Dirt Rag, but not everyone here is on the same level, and let’s just say that on the staff rides, I’m not the one setting the pace. After a handful of years on the dirt, I’m pretty comfortable with the local trails, but I’ve been searching for something to take my riding to the next level.
Well, son, if you want to get smart, you better go to school. So off I went to the Michaux Mountain Bike School, held each spring in Michaux State Forest in central Pennsylvania. Fast Forward Racing Productions, specifically head honcho Zach Adams, invites some of the best talent on the East Coast and beyond for both beginner and experienced riders to get the season started right with fundamentals and some new skills. Among the big names showing us a thing or two this year were Adam Craig, Harlan Price and Matt Miller, and leading the ladies, Sue Haywood and Cheryl Sorenson.
Adams took a risk this year, revamping what was originally a camp aimed at juniors that covered everything from bike mechanics to physiology.
“The opportunity came up this year to change it up,” Adams said. “I rebranded it, totally stripped down the curriculum, and brought in the current group of all-star coaches. It was a big risk, but everything lined up and it was successful.”
Zach Adams, at right, welcomes campers and introduces some of the instructors.
Now in its sixth year, the camp begins Friday evening as riders arrive at the Camp Thompson YMCA site, settle in to their bunkhouse cabins and get the campfire started. Bring a warm sleeping bag, because late March is still not quite spring in the mountains of Pennsylvania!
The YMCA camp has bunkhouse cabins and hot showers in the bath house.
Saturday morning breakfast is provided and riders had time to stash some of their extra clothes back in their cabins as a surprisingly beautiful day warmed quickly. The 75 assembled riders divided into four groups: three groups of men and a group of about a dozen ladies.
Riders break up into groups of about a dozen.
I joined my cabin-mates with Matt Miller’s group and we got started. I was surprised by the number of riders who had been to the camp multiple times before and return year after year to dust off the cobwebs of winter and ride some of the best trails around.
Central PA—Michaux especially—is known for its unforgiving, boulder-strewn trails. Seriously, it’s like someone took a truckload of washing machines and just dumped them in the woods. In many spots there is no “trail,” just a preferred line through metavolcanic and quartzite rocks at the northern tip of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Luckily the day starts in an open field with some simple, man-made obstacles to gauge your skill level and practice the basics. A handful of skinnies, teeter-totters, and a two-foot drop were constructed for newer riders to practice keeping their mass centered, their elbows out, and their eyes up.
Like all skills, the fundamentals are what’s most important. It’s much easier to practice here than on the trail.
After an hour of basics we hit the trail, stopping occasionally to session a particular feature or corner that Miller felt aptly utilized the skills we had focused on that morning. In particular I concentrated on leaning my bike further in corners while keeping my mass centered over the bottom bracket.
Instructor Matt Miller coaches a rider over a log…
…and demonstratesthe preferred line through a rocky section.
After about two and half hours, we stopped for a much-needed lunch out on the trail, then each group of about 20 men rotated to a new instructor. Next up was Adam Craig, who is best known for contributing stories to Dirt Rag, but I guess races his bike a lot or something, too? (I kid, I kid.)
Whenever an interesting obstacle presented itself, the group would stop and discuss the best line.
Craig took a similar approach, though I couldn’t help but feel like no amount of practice could get me even close to his skill at riding certain sections so effortlessly. To see the gap between us normal people and the pros, up close and in person, was worth the price of admission.
Adam Craig showed us how to be light on the bike over rough terrain and heavy during cornering and braking.
In the afternoon we rolled back into camp a little behind schedule and missed the yoga session, but we still had plenty of time to grab dinner (salmon!) and enjoy a presentation by Miller on his sports physiology research and a Q&A session with the instructors. After a few libations around the campfire, I had no trouble falling straight to sleep.
All the instructors were friendly and approachable, and even sat down for a Q&A session after dinner.
Sunday greeted us with cloudy skies but we gathered again, this time to select from optional rides ranging from the 5-hour “pro” ride to an additional round of skills practice with Harlan Price. I chose the latter. While getting out on the trail certainly seemed more fun, I knew this was an opportunity to learn that I didn’t want to pass up. We practiced clearing obstacles, first by lifting our front wheel, then the rear, then putting the two together in one (sort of) seamless motion. Once our group felt like we had it down, we hit the trail again for one more blast up and down the ridge before the rain set in.
By the end of the weekend I was exhausted and sore—surely the sign of a good time.
“We all know what it’s like to get back into the technical terrain after being away from it for awhile,” Adams said. “It takes a little bit for the skills and muscle memory to kick back in again. It’s a great way to build a foundation for a strong season of racing or hard riding.”
Haywood echoed the sentiment that a skills camp isn’t just for beginner riders. “Drop the attitude that you are an expert because there is always an opportunity to improve,” she said. “Don’t be stubborn and say that because you are a racer you don’t need to know how to do a drop. And especially don’t settle for where your skills are—imagine where they could be.”
Attendee Brian Ruane is one rider who keeps coming back. This was his fifth visit to the camp and he has learned something new every year, he said. He uses the experience to fine-tune his skills for the summer mountain bike race season, and the highlight from this year was working with Adam Craig.
“Adam was talking to us about what he thinks about when he is coming up on this on his bike, and how he positions his body and center of gravity, what line he is thinking about taking, etc. He also talked about the physics (force, weight, gravity, speed) behind extra braking power you can experience right when your tires hit the ground after floating over these small rocks and your shock is still compressed.”
While it’s tempting to spend your tax refund each spring on another shiny piece of bike bling, there’s really no better investment than improving your own skills on the bike you already have. For $250 you get a great weekend with incredible riding, some new friends, and some skills to last you a lifetime.
Hurry to register for the 2014 camp before 5 p.m. Wednesday to get the early-bird rate!Tweet Print
By Stephan Kincaid
I don’t like to let people down. It’s a weakness disguised as a strength that sometimes wears lycra. For those of you that don’t know me, that would be 99% of you reading this, my name is Stephan Kincaid. Most people call me Geronimo.
For a few weeks I’ll be guest blogging my adventures (a.k.a. daily life as a working stiff trying to ride bikes trying to achieve life balance) leading up to the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic.
A quick background: I’m a school counselor. I currently ride for Stan’s NoTubes p/b Proferrin. Raced "Pro" for a number of years with a primary focus on road racing. I’m 40 years old. I really like dogs. Post ride beers are tasty. My friends mean much to me. I am thankful for my life.
For years I’ve been racing my bike to score results, in an effort to be on a "good" team, to be a "pro", and to see how far I could go. I’ve been blessed and had some memorable results (to me at least).
Those days have passed and these days I sometimes moan and groan about how fit I used to be. How the weather sucks. How I wish I didn’t have to work so much. Man, I can’t get motivated!
Last year I raced TSE as a solo rider, had a good base of training and had a blast. However, due to other upcoming commitments I had to re-focus my plan for TSE this year and was really bummed. (Insert negative self-talk and boo hoo-ness here.) I emailed the promoter Mike Kuhn and asked to keep me in mind for an "Epic Team." Within a few weeks I hear back and voila, I have a team.
The backbone of the team will be two Iraq War Veterans, Joel Kostelac and David Noletti, that lost a dear friend in the war, Chris Seifert. David and Joel are riding TSE to raise money for Chris’s young son to use toward college.
When I learned about my teammates, read their emails telling of their goals and brotherhood with their lost friend Chris I was emotionally moved.
If it wasn’t for the men and women that fight for our country’s freedoms I may not be able to ride my bike when I like and where I like with nary a care in the world. To think, I was moaning about my fitness level or daily job. These men have given me a whole new reason to ride: Chris’s son Benjamin.
All they ask is that I ride my bike. I will do my best. I don’t want to let these people down.
In the coming weeks I’ll share my rides and thoughts going into TSE. Grab a beer and check back in from time to time. Cheers!Tweet Print
By Vicki Barclay. Photo courtesy of Dave MacElwaine.
One of the things I love about mountain biking is the way that people refer to trails as if they are living entities. I often hear local people here in State College talking about how the harsh winters in Pennsylvania allow the trails to “get a rest” under the blankets of snow, like a sleeping beast waiting for spring.
There are certain trails that are named after people whom I have never met, but I always end up judging the personality of the actual person based on the features of the trail (grumpy, relaxed, fun, etc.)
I reckon Mike Kuhn made a good choice using the trails around State College to host the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic. The local community—especially Nittany Mountain Bike Association—is so deeply connected and proud of its trails that it works hard to ensure that visitors get to experience all the personalities that the trails will throw at them across the week.
The new enduro stage at the 2013 edition of TSE will be sure to challenge even the local racers like myself, as we will be forced to race down some of those trails best known for having particularly unforgiving personalities. I often ride past Wildcat Trail with eerie avoidance, opting for a gentler ride down the mountain on the next trail.
Watching motocross racing last night, and checking out their training regimes, got me thinking as to whether I should continue with my upper body workouts right up until TSE to try and preserve some strength for the middle of the week enduro stage. It’s cool to think there will be a day that might involve more arms and guts than legs and lungs.
Regardless, the Stan’s NoTubes Women’s Elite Team will be in good shape for the enduro stage with our Cannondale full suspension bikes, full face Uvex helmets, variety of choice in Kenda tires that we can run at ridiculously low pressures, and feathery Magura brakes. My money is on my teammate Sue Haywood—be afraid be very afraid.
With the snow gone, and the race trails clear, it’s really time to start stepping it up a gear in preparation for May. I always find it so hard to judge whether I am fitter coming off a milder winter when I have been able to ride outside, but have been less structured, or one where I have been forced to kill myself in the basement on the trainer.
Sure there are watts and numbers and bells and whistles, but if you can’t put it all together on race day it means nothing. So far this year, I feel like the winter conditions have held me back from putting things together on race day, so I am looking forward to this journey through spring on the way to TSE. I hope you can join me.Tweet Print