Source: Trans-Sylvania Epic
With humid temperatures hitting the 96-degree mark, the Coopers Gap Stage of the Trans-Sylvania Epic melted apart in a long train of cooked riders. A stage that, according to last year’s overall winner Jeremiah Bishop was “Juicy and rooty. It was awesome in this old retro way,” he said post finish. “Like in the old days when you went way back in the jungle for some swampy ride to do some stuff no one else does. Today was a backcountry ride.”
Action started quickly thanks to a long, rocky descent as soon as the neutral start ended. Adam Snyder was the first to be severed from the bunch with a flat tire at the bottom before Alex Grant experienced a smorgasbord of disaster. “I felt great, unfortunately I was off my bike for about 30 minutes of the first hour of racing,” he said. “First I dropped my chain so I put it back on, but a link was bent. I took it out but that made my chain too short so when I bottomed my suspension it tweaked the derailleur and it eventually shifted into my spokes and broke one. Then that spoke pushed through my tubeless rim tape and I flatted so I ran my bike to the next check point.”
The lead men’s group consisted of Bishop, Barry Wicks, Kris Sneddon, Justin Lindine, Drew Edsall, Jason Sager and Chris Beck. A bit into the race, however, Wicks upped the pace and Sneddon fell off. Eventually the group slowed and Sneddon caught back just before Wicks suffered a flat front tire. Race leader Jeremiah Bishop was the next to suffer a mechanical. “I broke my chain due to my own stupid cross-chaining,” he said. “I tried to do a BMX style pass on Lindine as we jumped into the singletrack but I severed my chain off when I accelerated.”
In men’s action Sneddon began to gap a fading Sager as Lindine, Edsall and Bishop (racing a prototype Scalpel 29’er for the first time) charged forward. As the fractured top five raced to the finish down the eight mile fireroad to the finish, an overheated Sager started sliding backwards leaving just Lindine and Edsall between a furiously charging Bishop and leader Sneddon. First to get caught was Edsall who temporarily held Bishop’s wheel before popping, then it was Lindine’s turn as Bishop blew by. But it was Sneddon’s day. He held on to take a long solo victory by about a minute and a half. Ultimately, though, it wasn’t a big enough gap to topple Bishop from his top spot heading into day 3 (Stage 2).
The women’s class was no less exciting. A moment of inattentiveness by Vicki Barclay sent her to the ground on the initial descent and Karen Potter briefly stopped to make sure she was uninjured. Potter then worked with Amanda Carey and Sue Haywood to catch up to Selene Yeager who had already opened a small lead. Soon thereafter Barclay chased back to join the group on the next fireroad climb. At this point each open class had its leaders grouped together.
In the same singletrack section Yeager caught a stick in her rear wheel and had to stop while Barclay, Carey and Potter rode away. “I just rode my own pace after that,” she said. “I was kind of glad to be alone for a while and not have to respond to surges.” Her consistency paid off. She reeled in both Barclay and Potter and came close to catching winner Carey by the finish. So close that Yeager now trails Carey by a mere 46 seconds overall.
Most if not all riders agreed that today was an extremely hard day in the saddle, but tomorrows Bald Eagle Coburn stage is the longest of the week at 79 kilometers and temperatures are expected to be even hotter.