Thursday's stage started at R.B. Winter State Park, after a drive along a pastoral valley road complete with Amish buggies. In past editions of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, this stage has served up arduous singletrack sections and heartbreaking climbs, but this year's course was smoother and more forgiving, thanks to some route changes and lots of trail work.
In past editions of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic, this stage has served up arduous singletrack sections and heartbreaking climbs, but this year's course was smoother and more forgiving, thanks to some route changes and lots of trail work.
Payson McElveen (Competitive Cyclist) and Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing) won the elite men's and women's categories while McElveen and Vicki Barclay (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women's Team) successfully defended their respective leads in the overall elite classifications.
Payson McElveen (Competitive Cyclist) added slightly less than one minute of time to his lead over teammate Justin Lindine.
"It was a solid day," said McElveen. "This stage always makes me nervous because it's more raw than the others, so I first and foremost wanted to come into today and defend the lead and get a bit more time if I could."
Experience at this race helped McElveen's strategy. "I remembered how the race played out last year. There's a steep singletrack bit after a steep dirt road, and I remembered that singletrack being selective last year, so I jumped in and hit it, and got a gap on Justin. I did the following enduro section as fast as I could while still being safe. The hard part was the hard drag of 10-12 minutes on dirt road. Last year, Jeremiah Bishop was the one causing pain and got about 10 seconds on me on that road, and I went deep in the pain cave to bridge back up."
McElveen and Lindine are separated by just under four minutes in the general classification, and the two have 16 minutes on the third-place GC rider, Peter Glassford (Trek Canada). "Justin and I went one-two again, and that's the best scenario," said McElveen.
Glassford's strategy today was part sprinting, part styling. "I just wanted to get my Trek Superfly to the road gap jump as fast as I could," he said. "Since I am outnumbered in the lead group, I have been basically pulling pretty hard and trying to keep myself out of trouble until attacks start, then hoping that one or all of them drop off, and I end up in a decent spot. I was psyched to get some time on Tristan [Uhl] today and even more psyched to hit the road gap with a strong whip this year."
Once again, Vicki Barclay (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women) separated herself from her fellow female racers early and rode with the elite men. Her strategy didn't get her the win today, however.
"I went off pretty hard with the lead men and was hanging on their train," said Barclay. "I led the race until the first piece of singletrack after the aid station, the East Coast Rocks section, and I came out of there and looked behind me and saw [my teammate] Mical [Dyck]."
Barclay got a gap on Dyck, but Crystal Anthony (Riverside Racing) eventually bridged up. Barclay and Anthony rode together for a section until they started to climb.
"She attacked and I thought it was a really long climb [like last year] and I was hurting," said Barclay. "But then we went left into singletrack! I could see her all the way until the last hike-a-bike section, she was right there, but she got back and put in a gap on me on the road."
Barclay said she's not worried about finishing second to Anthony on the day because she has a lot of time on the GC. "But the cyclocross queen we all know and love put some power down today!" said Barclay of her top rival.
Anthony showed that 'cross techniques can translate to longer races as well. "I have now learned my lesson this week and rode my own race at the start, just tried to keep Mical in sight on that first climb but didn't try to chase her down," she said.
"I just rode my own pace and got Mical on the first enduro section, was riding with her for a while and was starting to feel good," said Anthony. "Then, after the East Coast Rocks section, I started seeing Vicki, and caught her and we rode together for a while. On the road, I didn't really mean to attack, I just stood up, realized I was getting a gap, and thought the top of the hill was coming up. I was like, 'What am I doing?!' But I rode as hard as I could to stay away."
Under 25 Men and Women
Emily Shields (Stan's NoTubes Elite Women) had the fastest Under 25 women's time today, good enough for sixth among the elite women. But Shields has a big chunk of time to make up if she wants to catch U25 GC leader Libby White (Colt Training Systems).
White was third on the day, behind Samantha Runnels (Colt Training Systems). "I've been OK, but my bike seems to not be able to be held together, but we've gotten through. I'm having so much fun doing this though. It's my first mountain bike stage race ever."
White and other young riders have been using this week as a fun training camp to get in tune for the rest of the season. "I've been doing a lot of long hours training, but it's about drinking water, having fun, and not taking it too seriously. This is getting me ready for a fun summer of racing!"
While Payson McElveen continues to be counted with the elite men, some of the other Under 25 men are not far behind. Drew Dillman (Colt Training Systems) had a second-place overall time today, just four minutes off McElveen.
Look for a big announcement coming out at the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic on Saturday.