Assault on the Trans-Sylvania Epic, with a Cannondale Scalpel

by Karen Brooks

The Trans-Sylvania Epic stage race was so much fun last year—in that wonderful suffering kind of way—that I couldn’t wait to sign up again for 2012. Fortunately, Dirt Rag is now a presenting sponsor, so this event counts as “work.” Both Eric and I will be racing the Solo category, and various other staff may also drop by to check things out, particularly on Monday for the Ride for the Trails happening during Stage Two.

My preparations are off to a good start. I boosted my endurance by riding to and from the National Bike Summit in March, plus some commuting in D.C.—a total of 781 miles in ten days. I also got to race the Massanutten Yee-Ha downhill race again this year. Good practice for steep rocks and roots.

Next, I scored a sweet test bike, a Cannondale Scalpel 29’er Carbon 2, in plenty of time to dial it in.

I’ve had plenty of time on Cannondales some years ago, but never on a Lefty. I was a big fan of Headshoks back in the day so I’m excited to try this shock out. Yes, the view from the cockpit was weird at first, but I got used to it quickly. It’s amazing how the hub and spindle assembly supports the whole front of the bike.

The rear shock is a RockShox Monarch RT3, which has been butter-smooth so far. I love that RockShox prints a little sag chart on their shocks — set-up was so easy. I’ve been experimenting with the Floodgate switch; most likely for TSE, it will be off all the time, but for some of those long dirt road climbs, I may turn it on. It will depend on how harsh it feels if I forget to turn it back off once the racecourse points back downhill.

A sweet-looking pivot. That “seatstay bridge” under the shock is supposed to help keep the rear end in line, along with a thru-axle out back.

One thing that has already become apparent is that I’ll definitely need to put the tires in tubeless mode — changing a flat with a thru-axle adds precious seconds. It could mean the difference between 8th and 9th place! I’ll also have to take the reflectors off, or risk being mocked at the start line (if not before). Love the Schwalbe Racing Ralph tire spec, by the way — I used a Racing Ralph/Nobby Nic combo last year, and will most likely do that again. So I only need to swap the front.

Believe it or not, I was an early adopter of two-by drivetrains, back when Cannondale spec’d a 2×9 on my ’99 F3000. I dug it then, and continue to dig it now. Of course it’s way easier with the 26t front/36t rear low gear combo. I only had 29t/32t back in the day.

Naturally I’ll be going with an Awesome Strap again. This time with flames! That will boost me to 7th place at least. Why is Viva the hound looking at me so skeptically?

As is her dad, Ivan. He doesn’t like photo shoots very much — too boring. But the hounds do like how fast this bike was at the Roaring Run trails in Apollo, Pa.

There were some pretty spring flowers out next to the trails. Here is some Phlox maculata, AKA wild sweet William.

And what about my nutrition? Thanks to a post-Easter sale, I’m all set on that front:

Wish us luck!




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