Stage 4 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic is unlike any other stage
in the week-long event and unlike any stage in any other endurance oriented
stage race. Rather than racing in the typical cross-country format used on
other stages, the SRAM/Bear Creek sponsored stage uses a full-on enduro format.
The 22-mile course contained five separate enduro segments that required riders
to push their technical skills on some of the best descents in Rothrock State
Riders passed between the enduro segments at their own pace,
a luxury after three days of hard racing. Though many riders used the untimed
segments to rest their legs and limit their efforts, the roads between the
timed enduro segments were marked by long, sustained climbs through the
forest’s gravel and dirt roads, thus making the stage far from easy.
The first enduro segment – Green Shoot Trail – gave riders
an appropriate sampling of Rothrock’s diverse trail system. Green Shoot begins
with a swoopy, flowing descent sure to please riders from all areas. As riders
descend the trail from Bald Knob Ridge, they find themselves challenged by an
increasing density of rocks until the bottom, where the trail turns upward for
a short, punchy climb to the end of the segment.
After climbing away from Green Shoot to the top of Laurel
Run Road, riders are treated with the second enduro segment, a combination of
Little Shingletown Trail and Sand Spring. Little Shingletown’s gorgeous ribbon
of trail cutting through an overgrown fireroad forces riders to charge forward
in a full sprint to reach the entrance of Sand Spring, where short, steep
chutes and rocks lead riders to a cold spring-fed creek crossing before
clocking their time for the second segment.
Another long climb, and riders reach segment 3 on Croyle Run
Trail. A favorite for many locals, Croyle Run lets riders build up tons of
speed on a long, clean stretch of singletrack with few corners. But, the
intermittent chunks of granite littering the trail force riders to be attentive
in order to save their speed through the top section. Coming into the bottom
portion of the segment, riders face more rocks and fast, sharp corners leading
to the finish.
On the fourth segment, riders descend the famed Wildcat Gap
Trail. What was once "wild cat” log run, where early foresters
rode massive tree trunks down the side of the mountains, often risking their
lives, is now a mountain bike descender’s dream. The primary features of this
test are harsh, steep trails and a large, complex rock garden to test even the
most competent technical riders. Wildcat’s steepness forces riders to be
judicious with their braking in order to avoid skidding off the trail and
landing on an unforgiving piece of Pennsylvania rock.
After one more climb, riders reach the fifth and final
segment of the day, combining Old Laurel Run with Three Bridges. Though Three
Bridges gets its name from its distinctive series of water crossings, Old
Laurel Run gives little indication of its technical descent in its name. Old
Laurel sends riders down a straight, rocky chute that will rattle riders
regardless of their suspension choices. The unrelenting descent flattens out
only in the last quarter of trail, where more pockets of large rocks interrupt
a deceptively flowing trail. Turning into Three Bridges, riders face a short
uphill rock garden before crossing the narrow, namesake bridges and a short
uphill burst to clock their time and end the day’s competition.
Madison Matthews (The Bicycle Shop/MBR/Maxxis) dominated the
stage with a winning time of 20:11, over twenty seconds faster on the enduro
stage than second place finisher Derek Bissett (NoTubes/Trans-Sylvania
Epic/BMC). Forgoing his standard cross country race bike, Bissett instead chose
a bike more focused on descending, noting, "It was a lot better for those of us
who brought big bikes to this race; bike bikes and big tires actually helped a
lot today.” Proud of his performance, Bissett felt that he was "ripping” the
enduro segments and that "it always feels good whenever you stomp a trail.”
Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) took third place with a thirty-second deficit to
Though Madison had the fastest overall time for the day, and
took the stage win, the Enduro competition, which is based on points rather
that time, for the day went to Derek Bissett, who scored him two more points
than Matthews. In the overall Enduro competition, Drew Edsall retains the
Enduro Leader’s jersey, but holds only a three-point margin over Bissett.
Sue Haywood (Stan’s NoTubes Elite Women’s Team) had a
masterful performance today, taking first place in the Open Women’s stage
result by over a minute to second place finisher Andrea Wilson (Brickhouse
Racing). Though initially Haywood found it "hard to get in the rhythm” of the
day’s enduro format, her strong technical skills made her one of the fastest
riders of the day. Local Vicki Barclay (Stan NoTubes Elite Women’s Team)
finished third in the day.
In the overall Enduro competition, Wilson edged out Haywood
in points to take first place in the day. After today’s finish, Wilson and
Haywood are tied for the overall enduro competition leader’s jersey.
In the Single Speed competition, race leader Matt Ferrari
(FreezeThaw/Hubcap Cycles) adopted a more safe approach, holding back on some
of the more aggressive descents to finish third in the stage. Dax Massey (Breck
Epic/HoneyStinger/Light and Motion) pushed hard through the five enduro
segments to finish first, over one and a half minutes ahead of second place
Dejay Birtch (Ride for Reading/Stan’s NoTubes/Maxxis/Pivot).
The strong duo of Jon Firth and Drew Simson
(TransRockies/HoneyStinger/Planet Foods) continued their control of the Duo Men
field with another strong victory in Stage 4. The pair added another three and
a half minutes to their lead over Philadelphia Ciclismo riders Mike Festa and
Craig Lebair, who finished second in today’s stage. Christian Baks and Paul
Wojciak (Pawling Cycle and Sport) mixed up the top three with their third place
finish in the stage.
The Duo Coed competition retained their status quo after
Stage 4, with Lawrence Plug and Kaarin Tae (Java Blend) once again taking first
place over Libbey Sheldon and Chris Mariam (Crosshairs Cycling). Griggs
Orthopedics riders Elizabeth Shaner and Sean Riley took third place, resulting
in no changes to the overall GC standings.
With Alex Hawkins taking a strong win in Stage 4, he
successfully unseated Nathan Ruch (Evolution) from the top position in GC and
claimed the NoTube’s Leader’s Jersey. Jon Stang, with a second place finish in
the stage, remains in third for the GC. The 40+ category is one of the tightest competitions in the event and is
far from over as Ruch calls tomorrows stage, "one of my favorites.”
For the first time this week, Jim Matthews relinquished his
hold on the top podium position after a second place finish in Stage 4. John
Williams surpassed Matthews for the day, putting almost two minutes into the GC
leader’s time. However, his finish was not enough to unseat Matthews from the
overall GC lead, as Matthews still leads by over an hour over second place.
The U25 men's race was dominated today by Madison Matthews
who not only won the U25 race, but the Open Men's stage overall. For Matthews this was sweet vindication after
mechanicals on stages two and three took him almost 11 minutes out of the
lead. Gunnar Bergey (Cannondale/Champion
Systems) still holds second overall in U25 GC as Cory Rimmer defended his lead
sensibly and sits 5+ minutes ahead of Bergey in the overall.