Raw Pennyslvania trails built by 19th century loggers and CCC workers in times long past were the theme for day five of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic. RB Winter which played host for the race is one of PA’s beautiful State Parks – a spring-fed lake surrounded by lush green foliage and dark pine forest in an elevated valley and served as the start location for a 25 mile course of "old school" mountain biking.
“This is the place where Ray (race co-promoter) and I cut our teeth on mountain biking.” said promoter Mike Kuhn. “RB is a place we love to ride and we’re always excited to introduce people to these trails. It is beautiful here and the trails go on forever.”
The loop they introduced this year included the steepest continuous descent of the entire week, the hair-raising Grosses Gap, the deep woods beauty of Old Tram Trail, and a four-mile long ridge top ride called Top Mountain Trail that features numerous challenging chunky rock gardens along it’s length.
Men’s contender, Kona’s Barry Wicks, stated emphatically, “Win, or die trying” when asked about his strategy for the day. Wicks even brought out a “secret weapon” for the day, a 5.5-inch travel Kona Satori with which he planned to punish the competition. Unfortunately for Wicks, Cannondale team mates Tim Johnson, above, and Jeremiah Bishop, the GC leader, had their own plan.
Within three miles of the start the race was ripped apart as Wicks stretched Bishop with Johnson, racing for the Volkswagen/People for Bikes/NoTubes Epic Team, marking the move. Bishop quickly regained contact on the gradual climb of Sand Mountain Road and it was groupo compacto as the lead trio passed from Old Tram to Round Knob Trail. The early action dropped Matthy Buekes (unattached), Aaron Snyder (SCOTT), Cary Smith (Team CF), Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) and Chris Michaels who came through that same Old Tram to Round Knob intersection together.
By the time the race hit the bottom of the one-mile long/1,000 foot drop of Grosses Gap the entire situation had changed. Bishop, above, and Johnson were away by 40 seconds over Wicks who they had shed before the steep descent. Buekes, Edsall, and Snyder came through more than three minutes behind with no one else in sight.
Buekes, above, happy to be through the descent, was quick to showcase his climbing ability on the ensuing ascent of Running Gap road and closed the gap to Wicks quickly. Ahead Bishop and Johnson raced away for a two up sprint with Johnson winning the stage. “The best defense today was a good offense. It was time to put the race to bed.” Bishop continued, “Today we [Tim and I] went with the right bike, the Scalpel 29, and didn’t take unnecessary risks. It paid off."
Wicks was, in his words, "Having too much fun. I’d flatted once and was ripping the last descent on Top Mountain. I hit a water bar way too fast, flew 30 feet and landed in a pile of rocks. The rear tire exploded!" That left Buekes alone in third overall and second in the Open Men’s category while an attack from Snyder just as he and Edsall entered the last section of trail opening up a gap.
The women’s race started fast and furious as well with Cheryl Sornson (Team CF, above) taking the initiative off the line to put the GC away. With the mass start and all riders together Jeremiah Bishop was in a prime spot to watch Cheryl’s early effort and noted, "I was in eighth up the first climb and Cheryl was in fifth and we weren’t going the least bit easy. She was killing it." Soon Sornson left second place GC rider Sue Haywood (NoTubes) behind.
Sornson stated, "I wanted this stage. I focused on being smooth in the technical sections and every time I felt like I was in a spot where the others could go fast I made myself go faster." A native of Pennsylvania who calls the Michaux State Forest near Carlisle her home turf, Sornson continued, "It felt like home. I loved this course. The trails were fantastic!"
Jonathan Davis (Trek Bike Store Boulder Racing, above) grabbed the win on the stage with Kenny Wehn (Stan’s NoTubes) in second and an ailing Zeke Hersh (Honey Stinger/Breck Epic) gutting out the stage to finish third. Davis took over the GC lead with the stage win.
The Breck Epic Duo of Dax Masey and Jake Wells showed they can crush the Pennsylvania rocks with the stage win. Tim and Troy Zimmerman (First Place Racing) took second and the Philly Ciclismo Duo of Jake Wade and Steve Ordons rolled in third. The GC looked the same as the stage only with Ciclismos Mike Festa and Craig Lebair replacing the team mates on the podium.
Juan Garcia and Trish Grajczyk (JCTracing/Deadgoat) continued their dominance in Duo Coed with another stage win as did State College’s Jim Matthews in the 50+ category.
Chip Meek of Team CF put in a valiant effort in an attempt to defend the lead in the Epic Team category but Tim Johnson’s spectacular finish time pulled back just enough to put Volkswagen/People for Bikes/NoTubes into the lead. Team CF has vowed this will not be the end of things however.