Dirt Rag Magazine

Trans-Sylvania Epic returns with more enduro stages in the mix


Cody Philips

Cody Phillips is one of the clear favorites for the expanded enduro category. The Ibis Cycles Enduro Team rider won the 2014 East Coast Rocks competition.

At the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic stage race on May 24 to May 30, 2015, near State College, Pennsylvania, mountain bikers will not only have the chance to go for overall cross country glory, but they will also have the option to focus on the enduro competition.

Featuring an average of three to four timed, downhill trending, backcountry enduro segments per day, the seven-day NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic is the longest enduro event in the United States.

Akin to the points leader’s jersey or the sprint leader’s jersey in major road races like the Tour de France, the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic’s week-long enduro competition gives trail specialists a chance to shine in the spotlight. Rather than racing hard both up and down the ridges and valleys of central Pennsylvania, enduro specialists can choose a less taxing trip to the top and then let it all hang out on the way down.

“The Trans-Sylvania Epic’s race format is flexible in that riders may focus solely on enduro segments, stay focused on the overall cross country general classification or go for both.” said Mike Kuhn, of Outdoor Experience Organization which promotes the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic. “Chill out between segments and pull singletrack summer camp’s camaraderie into the stages or go all out all day and leaving the hanging out to the mess hall and campfire. It is all up to you, and you’ll love it either way!”

Men’s favorites

Three of the top five elite men’s enduro finishers will return to battle it out in 2015: Winner Tristan Uhl (Competitive Cyclist), runner-up Aaron Snyder (TSEpic Team) and fourth placed Justin Lindine (Competitive Cyclist).

Tristan Uhl

Uhl, above, had started the 2014 NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic focusing on the cross country, but he switched his attention to enduro after a few days of tough racing for the general classification. Although he again plans to concentrate on the cross country, he’s still one of the best bike handlers on the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic roster. Uhl has finished in the top 10 several times at the Downieville Classic and won a stage of the BC Bike Race last year.

Snyder, too, has his sights set primarily on the cross country, but he still can’t be counted out as an enduro contender.

Perhaps the biggest challenger and favorite is enduro specialist Cody Phillips (Ibis Cycles Enduro Team), who was not competing in the elite category last year, but did win the open enduro category and notably had some of the fastest times among all categories.

“The elite men’s enduro competition is my main focus this year,” said Phillips, who will also be attempting to defend his win the East Coast Rocks competition. He noted that his 2014 NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Experience helped him step onto his first pro enduro podium at the Oregon Enduro Series in Bend, Oregon.

“I am especially looking forward to racing Wildcat on enduro day again. That trail will get your adrenaline pumping,” said Phillips. “I’m excited that there are 20+ enduro stages. This is key for the rest of my season as it helps me find race speed. Then I’m not playing catch up with the Europeans and top Americans who have been racing enduros since early March while I was stuck at school.”

Others to watch are Cody Kaiser (Lange Twins/Specialized), Jason Blodgett (SRAM/Scott) and previous NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic enduro winner Bryan Fawley.

“In my first NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, I’ll be focusing on both the cross country and the enduro,” said Kaiser, who is known for his bike handling skills in cyclocross racing. “The enduro segments are a sort of race within a race and a bit of a mental refresh on each stage. Sometimes with long racing days, you can get pretty smoked. The enduro segments will help me refocus a bit as I tackle them before getting back to business chasing the cross country overall each day.”

Kaiser has also raced events like the two North American rounds of the Enduro World Series in Winter Park, Colorado and Whistler, British Columbia. He’s also regularly done the Oregon Enduro Series. His biggest challenge will be lack of familiarity with the courses, which will mean riding them blind.

Blodgett, who was the 2014 AOA Mayhem Enduro Champion, said, “My focus is on the enduro, but I’ll still put in a good effort in the cross country. Growing up a few hours from State College, I feel that I know the terrain pretty well. The rocks, roots and humidity suit me, and I’m looking forward to racing on the East Coast.”

“It looks like the field will be as strong as ever this year, and I can’t wait to compete against some of the best!” said Blodgett.

Fawley intends to contest both the enduro and the cross country, but expects to sacrifice one to the other. “I’ll make the call a couple of days into it,” said Fawley, who won the enduro classification in 2011, when the classification was still run in a more super D-like format. He has won a round of the Arkansas Enduro Series and has finished third twice as as a pro at the US Super D National Championships.

“I look forward to a wide variety of enduro segments. To me, it’s a rider who can adjust under varied conditions who will prevail,” said Fawley.

Women’s favorites

Young, Under 25 racer Ellen Noble (Competitive Cyclist) is the top returning female enduro racer. Last year, she leveraged her NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic enduro experience to win the US Super D National Championships for 19-29 year olds, with a time that would have placed her fifth and on the podium among the elite women.

Ellen Noble

“This year at the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, I will be focusing on both the overall cross country as well as the enduro,” said Noble, above. “Which means I need to go as fast as possible in the enduro segments, so it’s a win-win to contest both.”

“The enduro segments are the favorite part of my day because they’re wicked gnarly,” said Noble. “Downhills used to scare me a lot, but now not so much.”

Noble will be challenged by former World Cup-level racer Sue Haywood (NoTubes Elite Women’s Team).

“I’ll contest both the enduro and the cross country. It will be fun to do both, but I know how difficult the cross country alone is, so I know it’s a bit crazy to go for both,” said Haywood, who won the enduro stage at the 2013 NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic.

“I like the different mindset that enduro requires,” said Haywood. “It’s all about sprinting. Cross country is all about endurance. I’ll race my enduro bike on the enduro stage and my cross country bike for the rest of the stages. For me it can be tricky to go as fast as I want on the lighter bike with less travel, but I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

Haywood said she thinks the Under 25 women will be the ones to watch. “When you get on a bike a such young age, you have high skills and you don’t have the baggage of so many crashes over so many years. Plus these young women aren’t diesels, they’re rice burners. I think it’d be cool if everyone does the enduro – then you’d get an idea of who is truly the fastest over the East Coast Rocks.”

Another woman to watch is Kaarin Tae, who was leading the enduro in 2014 until she crashed out of the race with a broken ankle. Tae will return for a chance at a better outcome this time around.

Previous overall race winner Selene Yeager (Rare Disease Cycling) will be at the race, but she expects to focus on the cross country portion of the event.

More info

The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic’s East Coast descents are famous for their gnar. The trails are rocky, but not so rocky that a hardtail can’t take part – the challenge of Pennsylvania’s backcountry enduro is figuring out how to make sense of the ancient Appalachian rocks that greet racers during high speed descents. There are no manufactured jumps and berms, but those with superlative technical skills, elite-level fitness and quick decision-making skills will come out on top.

The enduro competition isn’t just for the week-long participants: the three-day “TS3” version of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic will also feature multiple enduro runs and will award prizes to the overall male and female enduro champs across all TS3 categories. Just like with the seven-day version, riders can focus solely on the enduro or jump in to both the cross country and enduro classifications based on the adventure they choose.

2015 marks the fifth time in six years that the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic has featured uniquely timed, downhill-oriented special segments. Originally, the race featured super-D styled runs in the R.B. Winter State Park stage, but in 2013, enduro racing was integrated through the event.

Those who seek the thrill of enduro racing will especially enjoy the Galbraith Gap enduro stage on the third day, with the entire stage devoted to the enduro format. Five separate timed sections with more than 3,000 feet of descending and some of the most technical descents of the week feature in this thrilling stage. This stage is often a rider favorite as the relaxed atmosphere, social aspects and pace between segments during this stage offers welcome respite from the xc pace most target the rest of the week.

The men’s and women’s enduro classification winners will again take home a cool $1,000 each. The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic will also again offer the “Everyone Else’s Enduro” with awards going to top enduro rider across the duo, Epic Team, singlespeed, and age-group categories.

The NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic presented is made possible with the generous support of great partners like Pactimo, Lupine, Purple Lizard, Klean Kanteen, Dirt Rag, SRAM, Kona, BMC, ProGold, NUUN, Freeze Thaw Cycles and more.

For more information, visit OutdoorExperience.org or TSEpic.com and follow along on Facebook or Twitter.

There’s also still time to register.

 

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