Saturday, May 31, 2014

Transylvania epic Complete!

Okay, so I know I didn't post about yesterday's stage and it wasn't because I died or anything.  It's because it was a long day and by the time I got back to the cabin I was wiped and really didn't feel like moving.  Even to type.  So...this will be a little catch up.

Stage 6 yesterday was the queen stage of the Transylvania Epic Stage race.  42 miles of climbs, descents, and awesome trails with views and oh, just a few rocks, to round out the day.  On day 5 out at R B Winter park I had a pretty good day, pushed it pretty hard, and walked away feeling like I raced my bike.  It's a good thing, because day 6 was not one of those days.

I started out in the usual group that I'd been riding with throughout the week.  Ben Sawyer (riverside racing) was with us and I was hoping to keep pace with him throughout most of the day.  We made our way through the days first enduro stage then started what I had set in my mind as the 'big climb' of the day.  (There was a climb on the elevation profile that looked to be about 7 miles long).  After a short downhill we abruptly turned into singletrack, which turned into a hike a bike.  Huh, this was way steeper than it looked in the profile.  As w neared the top my memory of the map became clearer, we weren't even CLOSE to the big climb of the day.

Through a few more road sections and some trail we finally popped out at the base of the climb.  I settled in for good this time and rode my tempo, knowing what power I could sustain.  After setting the tempo for the group on the lower part of the climb riders started to push it a little and gap me halfway through.  I did what I could, knowing that there was still 3 miles of climbing to come and rode steady.  I wasn't  really paying attention, but afterwards that Mary McConneloug (pro rider and previous Olympian) was having a rough morning and was sitting right on my wheel the majority of the climb.  This only came to realization when she found me after to thank me for dragging her up the hill to rejoin the group (she ended up going on to win the stage in the women's field).  So yeah, having a Olympian thank you for helping them out- pretty cool.

The rest of the day consisted of some of the rockiest terrain I've ever ridden.  The ride up Tussey Ridge was incredible and to ride across a ridge line like that was quite an experience.  As fun as that was, when I got to the enduro downhill section immediately after, I felt like I was moving at half speed.  Weird.  Really weird.  It was one of those days...

Which brings us to the last stage of the event.  A 26 mile Xcode event that had us riding the singletrack I sand mountain in both directions.  We had done portions of this trail in the prologue, so I was encouraged by the fact that I'd be seeing something familiar.  I ran into Ben at the start and he asked me " so are you racing today or are you cruising?"  I answered "yes".

I had no grand plans for the last stage.  Have fun.  If I felt like racing and that's what I was in the mood for, the. Great.  If I felt like chilling, the so be it.  But regardless of how I chose to ride I was determined to enjoy the ride.  It was a perfectly sunny day.  The trails were dry.  There was no 'tomorrow's stage'.  Nothing to do but go enjoy riding my bike.

At the start of stage 7 I rolled out with Ben at a pretty casual pace.  We wound our way through some of the campground roads and into some of the singletrack there.  The second we dove into the trail, however, the switch flipped.  I wanted to go fast on y bike today.  I busted a move through the tight, twisty flowing trail and got out to sand mountain road.  We climbed up the road always and made our way into the single track from the prologue.  I was enjoying myself.

The sand mountain. Singletrack was part of the east coast rocks competition, so when we got there I swiped in and started to absolutely CRUSH myself trying to sprint though every corner and wheelie drop every xobstacle.  I was having fun.

Towards the end of the east coast rocks section I caught up with Chris Cyr, who surprised me at the start line by taking off like a shot himself.  He was sitting 7th in his age group only a few minutes back of the riders ahead of him, so he figured he'd see what he could do today.

As we got to the double track climb at the end of the east coast rocks I realized that I was riding with Chris and probably 3 other guys from his category-  I went into teammate domestique mode.  very climb I sat there and methodically tapped out tempo making sure Chris was in the group.  The we'd take turns ripped down the single track.  Panther run road was a roughly 3 mile section of -2 percent washed out logging road grade that was just miserable to try to ride down.  Half way down I swear I went blind from trying to scan 4 different rideable lines for rocks or washout that would kill me.  So I was happy here when Chris took over for a bit.

We rode together for the rest of the day, I kept the pace just high enough for him on the roads and kept him motivated - he was thankful for the help afterwards.  Of course, when we looked at the results he ended up 4th in the stage, 32 seconds off of the podium.  Whoops.  Other than that we just had fun ripping down the trails.  Enjoying being on our bikes, and savoring the last few dusty breathes of single track summer camp.

So to get back to the original question on the day of " so Greg are you racing or chilling today?"  Somehow I managed to keep the answer "yes".

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 5 Recap- R. B. Winter Park

32 miles of primitive east coast style single track- that's what today's stage was hailed as.  I wasn't  really sure what 'primitive' meant heading into it.  I was kind of expecting trails that were overgrown, poorly built, and that went straight up and down the mountains.  After all, that's what east coast riding used to be.  To everyone's pleasant surprise, the trails were actually in great condition and rideable.  There was a mix of road, single track on old logging roads, and some actual rough rocky PA single track throughout the day.

After a neutral rollout to get us across the highway, we lined up at the bottom of a dirt road and on the whistle the field was in a dead sprint up the hill.  We gradually made our way into the day's first single track descent, and I instantly found myself in similar company from yesterday's ride.  Having rained overnight, and starting the stage in the mist and cool damp weather, one by one the riders in front of me started to stumble and fall away on the greasy rocks.  Knowing the conditions, I knew I just needed to keep the bike loose underneath me, let it slide on the rocks, and ride a little conservatively.  Keeping it upright has been the goal throughout the week, and today in particular I think that made the difference in keeping the bike working, staying healthy, and keeping a good attitude towards the stage.

Overall I had a good day on the bike.  For the first time this week I actually felt like I was racing my bike.  I was finally riding away from people I'd been with all week and was able to actually add some intensity.  I wish I had been able to push the singletrack a little harder, but oh well, I'll save that for a day with better conditions.

Friday will already be day 6 of the Transylvania Epic.  This, from what everyone is telling me, is the best stage of the event.  It looks to have everything, great singletrack, long climbs, and some amazing views.  It will also be the last long day of the event covering just over 40 miles and should be a heck of a way to start to wrap up singletrack summer camp.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 4 recap

Day 4 Coburn Stage Recap

Day 4 of the Transylvania Epic brought yet another completely different day of racing.  First day a 1 hour time trial, day 2 was an endurance cross country grind, day 3 was the enduro, and day 4 ended up being the "road stage".  While we did hit some trail, most of the day was spent primarily on the countless dirt roads that weave their way through the state forests.

I tried to be just a little more aggressive at the start, recognizing that this was not a day to be left riding alone on the road sections.  I figured start closer to the front and drop back to groups behind as needed.  By the time we jumped into the first single track section I was in the third major group in the race and ended up riding with that groups for most of the rest of the day.  Chris Cyr put in a great ride during the stage and joined our group at the first checkpoint.  

Our group road together until we started to approach the town of Coburn, where the Wilderness 101 mile race is based out of.  I knew from that event that we'd be going on a section called the "fishermans trail".  On a good day, if it's dry, and your fresh, maybe you can ride 80% of it.  This was not one of those days.  The rain from the night before left the rocks super slippery making it hard just to walk over them.

Regardless of trail conditions, I had a plan coming into this section.  I didn't want to just sit in the same group all day long and wanted to challenge myself a little more.  So it worked out perfect that I was second in line going over the foot bridge that brought us to the start of the single track.  At that point I jumped the group to be the first into the trail.  My plan thinking was to push hard through the technical sections, gap the group, and maybe bridge up to riders that got separated from a group up the road.  It worked, except there weren't many people to catch.  By the end of the railroad tunnel I caught single-speeder Matthew Ferrari on the road and pulled him through town to the base of the climb.  Here I settled into my tempo for the 20 minute climb while he powered away (only one gear, he had no choice, and I wasn't about to go into the red zone just to stay with him).

So I didn't end up bridging up to anyone, but did regroup with three other riders from earlier and we worked together for the rest of the event.  Once I got to the last downhill and knew we were turning into the start/finish venue I shut it down and cruised home.

Day 5 will be more trail out at R.B. winter park.  It's going to be cool and drizzling all morning, so who knows just how the trails will ride.  I'm sure the rock sections will make for another epic day.