Wednesday, June 4

The 2014 Trans-Sylvania Epic: Stages 5-7

Stage Five: R.B. Winter State Park (29 miles)

This is one of my favorite stages... or at least places to ride at the TSEpic.  Plenty of "ill-shaped, fuck-faced rocks" (Peter's words) to contend with all day long.  The start has never been my strong suit though.  Plenty of hammerfest dirt roads that lead to a narrow, rocky trail that clogs with confused riders.  I decided that even if I wanted to have fun, I needed to get closer to the front at the beginning to have a shot at a clear trail.

The start is different than before... like way.  No more hard charge up a paved climb to death descent to open road.  A chance to stay ahead of the pack.  Sweet.  I hammer.  I get in front of The Angry.  I get in front of Matt Ferrari... and then they both come by me in reverse order.  No matter.  I am riding clear trail with a view.

John Merriam, who is back in the game after two days on the sidelines popping pills and getting less ill, slips by me.  I try to hold his wheel but am no match for his super powers.  I'm in the company of some lead women, which is nice because I was nowhere near them the day before.  The course is way easier than previous years, and the stage if over soooooooo fast.  I manage to squeeze out ten more minutes on Scott Smith.  Not a comfortable lead by any means with the Queen Stage to go (I melted here last year).

photo cred: A.E. Landes
So I talked to Scott Smith that night.  He knew about the single speed tradition at TSEpic and would respect long as the race for the podium wasn't tight... which meant I had two options for Stage 6.  Give up and let Scott take the third spot on the box in order to preserve our culture or go for it.

How hard was the single speed racing at R.B. Winter?

Hard enough to knock The Angry on his butt (I fell asleep after taking his picture).

Stage Six: Tussey Mountain Queen Stage (42 miles)

The Queen Stage for all the right reasons.  I know this shit, although some of it is different from years before.  Better for me?  I don't know.  Bear with me on the details... it's all fuzzy noise in my head now.  Some of this is either slightly wrong, just in the wrong order or entirely right.

I go balls-out from the start.  I drop Matt and The Angry... and then they go back by.  Meh.  On the first Enduro™ section, The Angry drops a bottle, and I pass him as he hikes back up to grab it.  I look back and see John and Scott behind me.  Scott ain't giving up.  Every dig I put in, he matches.  The lead women are just ahead of me, and I hike-a-bike by them as fast as I can stomp up the hillside.  I try to put Scott away on the climbs at miles 3.5 and 6, but on the descent to the biggest single climb (5+ miles) of the day at mile 10, he catches right back up... along with John.  I thought John was being nice on the way down by not passing me, but according to him later, he went down twice removing the lenses from his glasses on impact.

Once we hit the big climb, I go back to getting on the rivet.  Sit, attack, stand, attack, sit, attack, stand... John stays with me.  Scott fades.  I stop looking back and start looking forward.  I see a yellow jersey ahead.  It does not sink in.  John says that it must be Matt according to his super-powered brain part.  I dig in a whole bunch more all the way to the top.

A chunky descent followed by smooth road.  Matt's just ahead.  John and I lock and load our droopers.  We catch Matt at the aid station.

Here's where I go ape shit.

I know I need something useful at the aid station.  I'm outta gels, down to a half bottle of some sort of energy juice, and facing nearly eighteen miles of rocks and Tussey Ridge ahead before the next stop.  I reluctantly give up my Twin Six BKB bottle for the first time all week and trade it in for a neutral bottle.  Hoping to get out on the next section of trail before Matt, I totally forget to pick up some more gel.  I realize it seconds later, but fuck all, I'm going for it.

I pass Matt and try to goad him into a race type thing with me... sorta like we woulda enjoyed back in 2006 when I had what was considered decent SS fitness.  He does not respond.  John goes by him as well. 

We hit what I consider the gnar-gnar of the lower rock sections before Tussey, and I pull to the side to let John and Matt by.  John comes past and tells me Matt is not there and wasn't looking too good coming out of the aid station.  I mention that I'm outta gels hoping that John will say, "Hey, I got way too many.  Here you go, little man."

That doesn't happen.

I decide I need to go around John.  The only way to ride these kinda rocks with a rigid fork is to keep it moving.  He lets me by.  I find a gel on the trail.  Some god somewhere loves me.  I share the news of my joyous discovery with John.  A few minutes later, I find an entire flask.  I decide I need to go to some kinda church on the next day of praising of that particular deity.

I no longer see John and then get to the bottom of Tussey Ridge.  I love to ride it, hate to race it.  It does not favor me or my choice of equipment.  Hammer down and do my best to push away the constant stream of negativity flowing through the oxygen starved area where most people keep a brain.

I get to the descent off Tussey and can't believe I'm still away.  I see Selene Yeager and Cheryl Sornson coming up behind me.  No.

I let off the brakes and come around two riders on the way down.  Not quitting...yet.  At the bottom, I get to the aid station.  I want Coke.  I look over as I ride by, don't see it immediately and roll on.


I pull out that bottle from the last aid station that I never touched.  The nozzle goes in my mouth and give it a tug.

Did you know Specialized lids are not compatible with Trek bottles?  Neither did I and neither did the aid station volunteer.  Pretty much the entire contents of the bottle went down my chest.   Super. 

Doesn't matter.  I can win the Queen Stage if I keep my head together.  Not my strongest suit.  If I'm not hurting, I'm not trying hard enough.  I keep the pain level as constant as possible.

And then I won.  Much stokage as I came across the line.  Even as much as I hate to show feels, I could not contain how incredible it felt.  I tried at something and it worked.

And then I was told that Matt had taken a digger... probably breaking his hip, maybe more.  I am sad (but still slightly happy for me).

photo cred: A.E. Landes
Stage Seven: Bald Eagle (26 miles)

Delighted that I managed to preserve the proper riding of the final stage, the start of Stage Seven was a happy occasion.  Beer was drank (off-property, of course).  The promoters decided to SPOT Track all the single speeders so as not to lose us.  After some riding and some drinking, we gave the trackers to a course marshal to throw everyone off our scent.

photo cred: Liz Chabot Allen 
Then there was more drinking and then some riding in between.

photo cred: Liz Chabot Allen
And the next thing you know, the race was done.  The Angry pulled on the leaders jersey, and much fluffery commenced.

photo cred: A.E. Landes
I may look nonplussed on the podium, but it was just a bittersweet moment.  I was awfully torn concerning my decision to make this my "last" TSEpic in a row.  It was just too much fun, and as much as my brain hates to admit it, I'll miss it soooo much if I don't come back.

Thus the single handed reluctant podium salute.

I could do better (podium poses) next year.

1 comment:

Mike Z said...

So that's where you got the Beaver Fever. Mystery gel along trail.