By David Nolletti
By mountain bike racing standards I am getting pretty old; my USAC license lists my racing age as something that starts with a “4”, I didn’t start racing my bike until three years ago, I have never ridden my bike for more that five hours at one time, and two stages of this year’s race (#2 and #6) were the longest and second longest mountain bike rides I have ever done. All that said, I finished the 2013 Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic and logged some respectable times in each of the seven stages. Guess what? So can you!
I have been a lifelong athlete playing soccer through high school, joining the military after college, and then progressing on to marathon plus distance running events before getting into bike racing in my late 30s. I usually ride 8-10 hours a week and follow a fairly structured training program geared towards success in typical XC MTB races.
I have earned podiums on the XC circuit and am generally competitive in any Sport Category race I enter and this level of fitness enabled me to finish the TSE without feeling totally wasted each day. Even better, with the addition of the Enduro Competition (think Green Jersey in Tour de France parlance) every day guys and gals can legitimately compete against our pro competitors in a format that, to a certain extent, levels the playing field a bit from a fitness standpoint.
TSE covers some amazing terrain and trails, but what makes it so amazing is what happens before and after each day’s stage. Hanging out with fellow racers, making new friends who share your love for cycling, and generally living the cycling lifestyle is a great change of pace from everyday life. The shared love of cycling and the suffering it entails (you need to have the suffer gene!) creates bonds of friendship that remind me of relationships formed when I was in the military. I made friends last week that I am sure will last a lifetime and that, if for no other reason, is worth the cost, effort, and blood that it takes to race in the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic.
So, my parting message to you is if you are an average Sport Class mountain bike racer who is interested in the TSE, but worried about your ability to finish, don’t be, you can do it! Sure, the race is difficult both mentally and physically, but if you ride your race, take care of yourself and your equipment you can finish and race competitively. Go for it—registration for 2014 will be up soon!