Coffee Kit Updates!

Maybe you’ve seen our original post about the kit here: Coffee Kit Launch!

We’ve been getting great traction on the coffee kits. I am SO excited and can’t wait to see them out in the wild. Poor Castelli will have to deal with my million check-ins. “Is it ready yet?” “How about now?” “PLEASE?” The good news is that they turn things around pretty quickly.

We’ve also gotten some questions. Here are some answers:

  1. Design: You may have noticed that the for sale design is slightly different than the versions the team is wearing. The team ordered “training” fit jerseys, then voted that we liked the “team” cut jerseys better. Thus, the for-sale version is Castelli’s Podio Jersey, with the coffee print wrapped around the sides instead of the grey panels on the team kits. The long-sleeved jersey is almost identical to the ones we’ve been wearing, but with long sleeves.
  2. Fit: The Podio design is new this year, so we haven’t worn them yet. That said, Castelli generally runs a bit smaller than other brands. I’d say the jerseys are true to size, but fit snug, and the bibs made me question if I got fat but I like my shorts compressive. I wear small bibs and small jerseys. If you know the rest of us, Leslie wears small bibs and jerseys, Julie wears extra small bibs and jerseys, and Lydia wears small bibs, extra small jerseys.
  3. Payment: Folks have been asking about the Castelli store, which requires a login. We promise not to spam you, but totally understand that some people would prefer not to create a login. So, ta-da, I made Paypal checkout options below. If you’re not in New England, please add a few extra bucks for shipping. Prices reflect tax.

USEFUL INFO: Here’s a link to the Castelli Custom site, which tells you all about the Podio jersey, and you can click around to see specs on all the other items. There’s also a handy dandy size chart. http://serviziocorse.castelli-cycling.com/en/products/details/new-podio-jersey/

Long Sleeved Coffee Jersey

L/S Team Jersey. PLEASE SPECIFY MALE/FEMALE AND SIZE

$100.00

Coffee Bibs

Team Bibs. PLEASE SPECIFY MALE/FEMALE AND SIZE.

$110.00

Coffee Jersey!

Podio Jersey. PLEASE SPECIFY MALE/FEMALE AND SIZE

$90.00

Here are some more excellent live photos shot by Daghan Perker.

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Behind the scenes #pro team stuff

Shhh nobody tell Cannondale I took pictures of their secret pro tool.

Okay really though it was Gary who noticed and pointed it out. If I wasn’t allowed to photograph and post about this, blame him.

At Charm City Cross we landed a sweet tent spot in the #prozone next to the Cannondale Cyclocrossworld team. This is a cool spot because you basically get to watch a parade of mechanics wash what seems like one million bicycles, roughly every five minutes for an entire day.

They say necessity is the mother of invention, right? Gary noticed they had a stand able to hold a complete bike for washing, with a plastic arm to grab the chain- and seat-stays so that the bike doesn’t move.

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The regular Feedback sprint stand isn’t long enough for a complete bike, regardless of rear end attachment mechanism, so it’s clear they’ve started with a custom extra-long tray. The rear-end vertical piece looks to be a truing stand bolted into the tray, with some kind of fashioned plastic bit to hold the bike. I didn’t creepily photograph the mechanics washing the bikes, but I did find an action shot on the internets. 

Look, the bike stays upright, without moving, in this jig while the mechanic powerwashes it! My further creeping estimates that the Cannondale operation is responsible for ~20-40 race bikes on a given weekend. Assuming they’re washed after practice laps, before, and after races, we’re probably talking about 4-5 washes/day per A bike, plus a few more for B (or C,D,E bikes as the case may be) bikes.

The unmodified sprint stand has a fork mount, so the bike goes on with only a rear wheel. Let’s suppose it takes 20 seconds to unscrew a thru axle and remove the front wheel, and another 10 to secure the wheel-off bike in the stand. The custom mod saves ~30 seconds/bike/wash, plus the immeasurable potential annoyance of straightening rotors because the front wheel tipped over while it was off the bike (this can’t only happen to me). Rough math, 25 bikes washed 4x/day at 30 seconds per… that’s 50 minutes of savings just from keeping the front wheel on.

Naturally Gary saw this and wanted one. My poking around tells me there’s no way to get the extra long tray stand. SORRY Gary. But really, something like this would have an even higher per-bike time savings for a team like ours. Gary’s responsible for eight bikes every weekend. Seven of them are thru-axle, one of them is quick release. He has two of these stands from his #pro days with Astellas, so he cannibalized one stand to put an additional fork mount on the second. This way he doesn’t have to change end-caps to wash the QR bike. Even with that added efficiency, he’s still down 30 seconds/bike wash. Assuming he washes our bikes at the same rate – 4 bikes washed 4x/day costs 8 minutes, plus the pit bikes which we’ll estimate at 4 bikes washed 2x/day – another 4 minutes.

Despite our best attempts at cloning or CRISPR-ing (hi Leslie, I made a science reference!), Gary is still only one mechanic responsible for four riders. Time savings and efficiency become exponentially more valuable as the rider:mechanic ratio goes up. Gary has to think about washing each bike, running through the gears, getting pit bikes and wheels to the pit, and us to the start line before every race. A tool like this has tangible value. Here’s hoping it comes available to the rest of the world someday.

New England Worlds, as they say

I don’t know who started calling Gloucester “New England Worlds”, but I’m not complaining about it either. It’s a special race. Gloucester is the one race where everyone wants to have their best performance. It has a magic that draws out a little extra in each of us.

Maybe it’s racing with the sparkling sea as a backdrop. Maybe it’s the sheer number of people who look forward to Gloucester as their one “event of the year”. Maybe it’s the rowdy beer garden, even. But whatever it is, Gloucester creates a contagious energy that few other events can replicate.

It was extra special for us too, as the whole team was back together for the first time since Rochester. The strength of our team has always been the support system; the camaraderie in suffering, in disappointment, victory, and everything in between. So, in the same way, being together draws extra out of each of us. Imagine fighting, knowing you have three other people in your corner?

Except it’s not three, it’s four. Our mechanic Gary is notably absent from the social medias (unless you follow our #garydoesntknow tags), but he’s as much a part of the team as any of us, and he’s really the one that keeps the operation going. Gary takes special pride in our weekly race footprint and he’s always picking up new things to make the setup even better. This week he debuted new fancy tent walls, including the ones that are half translucent so we have windows outside. (Not gonna lie, I’ve always wanted a fancy tent setup with these ones).

Our good friend Jon Nable stopped by the tent to say hi and snap some pics of the new coffee kits. Remember this for later…

Cool kit club #gpgcx

A post shared by Jon (@jonnable) on

We ran through our normal pre-race routines and set out for racing. Saturday there was a big pile-up in the start grid, which is always a terrifying way to start a race. Also, on a personal level, difficult not knowing if it’s one of your good friends sandwiched between pavement and carbon. I had my best Gloucester ever. To be sure, I am one of those New Englanders who most wants to have a breakout race at Gloucester. As a Cat 3 it was the race I really wanted to win. And yet, I was struck by calamity when I had the chance. This year I hoped to finally chase down that elusive UCI point in the elite field. I’d looked at the start list and knew it was possible if I put together a good race. The start crash shook me and I found myself chasing from the back, but never let up. Toward the end of lap 1 I found myself in 10th place and trying not to think too much about it lest I jinx myself into crashing. Shortly thereafter I was joined by Lyne Bessette.

Personally, I’m always astonished when I talk to newer people in the sport who don’t know the legends that came before us. Though this day it would’ve been an advantage, for I found myself racing like I was amazed to be there. Amazed to be racing for a UCI point against Lyne Freaking Bessette! No amount of people asking her if she enjoyed her time in the Faccone Zone could calm my nerves about that one. Let’s take a brief stroll down memory lane for those of you who may not know why this is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in a race. Lyne has WON Gloucester at least three times that I see in crossresults. Look at 2007, she won both days after racing the 2/3 men’s field first. And finishing 7th and 9th. She’s a multiple time Olympian. She had already retired when I started racing, but I heard many stories about the years where she’d pull over before the finish line to avoid getting UCI points, so as not to compromise her paralympic eligibility. She’s a legend.

This is one of the places where my nerdery about the sport interferes with my ability to participate in the sport. Believe me, I suffered hard trying to keep Lyne’s wheel through the start finish every lap. But I never raced like I was expecting to beat her. And the thing is, you can’t beat someone if you don’t really believe you can do it. Because if you don’t believe it, you can’t go all in on executing it. And I didn’t. I raced like a passenger, and I got the results of a passenger. Which is all to say, I didn’t get that final UCI point Saturday.

I mentioned that our team is special because of the support structure. Talking with Julie after the race, she said something small that fully  reframed my thoughts about the race. She asked a simple question about my execution, but in a way that helped me see where I should’ve done things differently. Where I have to do things differently if I want to succeed. But in a way that says “I want you to find that success you’re looking for, let me help!” and not “you messed that up let me tell you”. And that’s true for all of us. Each of us wants the others to succeed as much as ourselves.

I came into Sunday ready to claim points. I knew what I had to do, and I felt ready to execute differently. Ultimately, I just didn’t have the legs on Sunday. It’s disappointing, but that’s bike racing. Every day is a new opportunity. Sometimes you feel great, other times not so much.

Perhaps the most important thing to come out of the weekend is the new slate of team photos. Remember the green tent walls from above? Praise be to artist friend Alex Carlson who pointed out that the tent wall background makes a perfect “green screen” for editing photo backgrounds and turned Jon’s photo into this gem:

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Naturally, once we knew this we took a long series of intentionally green screened photos to do fun things with all season. If you get tired of these, blame Alex.

And, to save the best for last, our good friend Carlo put together sick footie from the weekend for us. We love Carlo and we double love this edit.

Thanks for everything Gloucester. Can’t wait to see what the 20th edition has in store for us next year. And thank you to Paul and everyone behind the operation there. It’s a massive effort to put this race on every year, and I appreciate it so much.

Small Bikes for Small People

Hi! In case you don’t know me in real life, I am a small person. I measure a whopping 62.5 inches tall (no idea what this is in metric), with a 26-27 inch inseam. If you also suffer from below-average height, you may relate to what I’m going to say next.

It can be really hard to find a small bike that fits and handles well. The historical norm was for bike manufacturers to design to an average-sized frame (like a 54!), then shrink and expand the mold to offer a full size run. This would often lead to what I’d call “externalities” in the extreme frame sizes. Bikes would have weird cable routing due to short headtubes and incompatibly placed frame grommets. Toe overlap would be extreme (though I’ll address up-front that it’s almost impossible to eliminate toe overlap entirely).

Certainly for part of the population, “women’s specific” designs have alleviated some issues. For me personally, being a woman with short legs and a long torso (relatively speaking, of course), I don’t fit the prescribed proportions for the adjustments in women’s specific frames. But more importantly, women’s specific designs are more commonly a road-frame thing, not so much a cyclocross frame thing.

To give credit where credit is due, most bicycle manufacturers are making extra small sized frames at this point. Gone are the days of having only two or three reasonable cx bike options. This is my seventh year racing cyclocross and over that time I’ve ridden:

  1. 2011 Specialized Crux Aluminum – 46cm frame
  2. 2013 Bianchi Zurigo – 49cm frame
  3. 2013 Focus Mares AX 1.0 – 48cm frame
  4. 2015 Focus Mares CX 2.0 – 48cm frame
  5. 2016 Specialized Crux Elite – 46cm frame
  6. 2018 Felt F4x – 47cm frame

There are some patterns here, of course. I liked my first crux so much I went back to cruxes two years ago. Specialized has always done a good job designing bikes for the entire population, and the crux is a good aggressive cross bike. Focus made a big jump in geometry between the 2013 and 2015 model years I rode. I enjoyed the geometry of the 2015 Mares and it was a light bike, but it wasn’t made to handle the beating I put my bikes through and I broke it. This year’s bike selection started with talking to my friends at JRA Cycles about which cyclocross bikes they carried and then which frames came small enough for me. Teammate and general rad human Mike Wissell recommended Felt, and I pulled up the handy frame comparison machine.

Note that I’ve used my road bike as a comparison, rather than one of my prior cross bikes. This is because I made significant changes to my fit this spring – I finally found a saddle that allows better forward pelvic tilt, and I moved from 170mm to 165mm cranks. If you’re interested in the relative differences between cyclocross frames, the geometries of the Felt, Crux, and Mares are here.

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bike-comparatorThe Felt (Green) is a bit longer than my road bike, but otherwise offered a spot on fit transfer. Note the handlebars – the Felt frame is a bit longer (as they are known for being), but with a 1cm shorter stem than stock I could get my hoods in the exact same position as my road bike.

I highly encourage this exercise for anyone who has trouble translating frame geometry charts into perceptive differences between bikes. This was enough for me, personally, to commit to the bike. I selected the frame that, for me, offers the best spec to price point ratio – the F4x. Now that I’ve had the bike for a few weeks, with a few races under my belt, here are some notes.

  1. The geometry is on the longer/lower side. There are two headset caps included in the box – the stock one is a taller stack, but there’s also a low stack option. This lets me actually have some amount of saddle-to-bar drop on a cx bike for the first time. By shortening the stem, I was able to replicate my fit without slamming the saddle forward. I can weight the bars for traction in turns, but overall have a balanced position. This is useful for not going over the handlebars, as I am prone to do.
  2. I changed out the bars for Zipp SC SL ones. The stock bars are stated 40cm, but felt a bit wide for me, so I opted for light and narrow ones – this is purely a personal preference thing.
  3. Once I swapped the stock 90mm stem for a 80mm stem, my fit almost perfectly replicated my road fit. This allowed for a really smooth transition from road to cross bike from a physical standpoint.
  4. I changed the stock 40t single chainring to a 38t single ring. I personally find the 40 harder to get on top of, and rarely run out of gears with the 38. I kept the stock 11/32 in the rear.

Once I got my fit dialed, Gary shortened all the cables to fit my low bars/small frame combo and everything is tight. There are no odd cable routing issues to speak of. I actually have quite a bit of saddle height adjustability. I run a saddle height of 620-625mm. This is… a very small number. I’m typically stuck with very little seatpost showing and very little standover. I was pleased to discover that this particular frame has a short seat tube (it is a 47cm frame, after all), which allows for both seatpost adjustability and also standover.

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Which is all to say, it’s hard to find great bikes for small people. I’m really pleased with this one. Bonus – the bike can take a beating. I’ve already crashed it hard a few times and each time it’s gone right back to duty with no issues beyond a replaced derailleur hanger (knock on wood).

Hey, the cyclocross season started!

Just like that, the cyclocross season is underway after a spectacular* kickoff in Rochester this past weekend. It’s remarkable how every year I spend months counting down to cyclocross only to find myself majestically underprepared one week before the first race.

*The race itself is truly spectacular and one of the highest production value events I’ve experienced. I, myself, was a spectacle.

Remember how we went on that awesome Belgium trip way back in February? Yea, I’d like to hop in a wayback machine right about now to ask past-Erin why she declined to inspect equipment after coming home. You know, in the offseason? Or really at any point between February and September. Long story short, I broke some things, some other things needed adaptery things, and I was rolling with with two sets of stock clincher wheels as my options for the weekend. One got set up tubeless with the siqq** Vittoria file treads and the other remained clinchers with whatever tread came with the bike. Basically regardless of conditions I’d be running files. Pray for not-rain!

**Mikey and Carlo of the scrub zone podcast told me this is how young people say something is really good.

Praise be to #Gary for the saint he is, for we showed up in Rochester at 10pm with bikes and parts that were not in their desired arrangement for racing. Leslie called him our magical fairy because while we’re not looking he does so many things. Friday night this included changing bars and chainrings while we were peacefully*** sleeping.

***The house across the street from us was a revolving door of people, one of whom was locked out in the middle of Friday night and spent an hour banging and screaming on the door. He was replaced by a barking dog that stopped for a mere one-hour nap between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

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Bike is DIALED.

The new Rochester course is fantastic. The dust bowl section from last year morphed into “double trouble” this year with the addition of a rooted tree section immediately before. The course is deceptively technical, with a dusty woods section into a sketchy off-camber, some fun weirdly-cambered hill turns, double trouble, and other down/up/sprinty/turny/generally cyclocross things. The race could be aptly renamed “the Rochester Gran Prix of Forced Dismounts” with five to seven dismounts per lap, depending on your skill level. Two run-ups, the log-step, barriers, a set of stairs, and double trouble which counted for zero to two dismounts.

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(pretty sure this is the feature that ate Mike Morse’s wheel)

I was feeling confident about my fitness after diligently preparing for cyclocross season by riding my road bike all year, most recently at GMSR. It’s almost like while I was riding road bikes, all the other racers were practicing for high-speed dirt turns! Jerks. So while they were both pedaling and turning fast, I tried desperately to hold onto groups while turning as if it were my first ever time on a bicycle. I owe a particular apology to Brittlee, whom I ducked ahead of on the double-trouble descent, then promptly crashed on my face in her way. SORRY.

I recovered from that crash by pitting, crashing again, pitting again, crashing once more for good measure, and limping my way back to the start. But not without seeing old Boston friend, and current Rochester resident, Nate!

On the plus side, skills come back with practice, and everything else about the weekend was great. The first race is like an actually-fun class reunion, where you get to see all your old friends. It was our first race back together as a team, the new bikes are amazing, Gary somehow gets more dialed in his setup every year, and we all remembered how much we love this crazy sport of ours. Rochester is a ride-able city with a surprisingly good coffee scene and some cool street art we were fortunate to explore on our morning spin.

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The only real negative is that racing the elite race makes it hard to superfan the elite race. So I didn’t get to see Ellen claim victory in the C1, but best believe I watched the replay. No amount of racing will ever make me less stoked to see good people pull off great results.

If you like tech things: I ran this tire tubeless at 22 and 22.5 psi.

If you like Strava nerd things they are here.

If you like supporting bike racing, go check out these folks who live-streamed the race for all to see!

And if you only care about results, look no further. Day 1 & Day 2.

Nutmeg Games: Fool Me Twice

Before I get started on what happened yesterday, let’s take a step back a year. Last year, for the CT State games, promoter Rick Comshaw posted what I felt was an unfair and inequitable race flyer. The Women’s elite field was offered a percentage of rider registrations as payout for a State Championship race. For the sake of brevity, let’s assume you already understand the reasons that approach unfairly penalizes already smaller minority populations and offers a disincentive to race. I wasn’t alone in my outrage.

There were mixed approaches to the situation last year, with some of the men trying to organize a boycott in solidarity with the women, some people reaching out to the promoter directly, and some reaching out to NEBRA, our local governing body. It had an impact, with the men’s elite field size taking a hit in numbers.

 

Some of our peers in the elite women’s field showed force by showing up and racing hard, to prove something that shouldn’t have to be proven at this point: that women’s racing is compelling, competitive, and deserving. Unfortunately, they left disappointed.

So let’s jump to this year. NEBRA held a line that they wouldn’t permit the CT State Championships to a race with unequal elite men/women payouts. We got a flyer for the Nutmeg Games that appeared equitable. I was skeptical, but part of the thing about being an outspoken loudmouth demanding change, is that you kind of have to back it up with a willingness to support change when it happens. This includes rallying my fellow outspoken peers. Positive changes should be positively reinforced, right?

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On Friday I noticed that not many people were registered for the race, which I was bummed about because I like racing and big fields are fun.

The 5pm start time on a Sunday near Hartford was definitely sub-optimal, but I figured we’d get a few last minute additions. Knowing we had the NEBRA permit-stand going into this race, it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be any outcome other than whoever showed up racing hard and being paid out as per the flyer.

In the car on the way down my inner skeptic started speaking up. The radar was showing rain and I wasn’t so sure anymore that we’d get many day-of registrations. I bet Leslie one fancy-coffee drink that we’d get to the race and Comshaw would cut the prize list. She took the other side, believing that promoters must hold to what’s on the flyer.

We picked up numbers, got pinned, hid out from the rain, made small talk with our fellow racers, and ultimately lined up at the start. By this point it had started raining and the forecast only called for more rain. At the line, the promoter and an official asked us what our preference was for race time. The flyer stated we’d have a 60 minute race, and we stated that we’d all be happy to race 60 minutes, unless the weather conditions became unsafe. We were repeatedly asked if we would be willing to do 20-30 minutes because of the rain. We declined. We were pushed to agree to 45 minutes, which we agreed to only if the weather became too unsafe to continue racing.

After we declined to agree to a shortened race, we were met with a “ha, you know you’re racing for medals only, right? not money!” from the promoter. On the start line. Honestly, I think we were all too stunned to react. There were some groans, some WHAT?!s, and a brief discussion of whether to just walk away. He followed up with, “it’s in the flyer! Minimum of 30 racers!”

Quick, get your magnifying glasses, I think this is what we’re relying upon:

2017 Nutmeg Crit Flyer - FINAL

“Minimum field f is 15”.  Of course, I couldn’t see this until after the race, when I was out of the pouring rain and could inspect the flyer more closely.

Ultimately, I decided to race, and I did so for a couple reasons.

  1. It was a state championship race for the 4/8 racers that were from CT. It wouldn’t be fair to them to walk away and make an already small field smaller. It wouldn’t be fair to any of my peers who wanted to race.
  2. It was 5pm on a Sunday night and I still needed to do a workout, which I was unlikely to do if I left that venue.
  3. I paid $40 US Dollars to participate in this event.
  4. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness
  5. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness
  6. Field size is not a proxy for competiveness

The field was small by numbers, but loaded with talent. We made a good race of it. But that’s not the point here. What the promoter did was disgraceful. It’s a poor representation of the Nutmeg Games, who fund this event. It’s clearly in defiance of an agreement with NEBRA, and NEBRA was quick to reply:

 

More than anything, it put us in an impossible situation. It feels like “fool me twice” for me, believing that there could be a different outcome this year and showing up to be proved wrong. It undermines my trust that there’s actually any governing-body power to stop this kind of inequality. I’m not clear if that’s an acceptable line in a flyer, if it’s binding, or if it’s the version NEBRA approved. I’d argue that even if it is valid, there’s a burden on the promoter to make this known to racers in advance. Promoters have the ability to message all riders through BikeReg, where we all dutifully submitted our $40 to race. I’d argue that it’s disingenuous at best to accept our money fully knowing there was no intention to pay out the prize list. At worst, it’s fraud.

In a show of grand generosity, the promoter did say he’d still pay out the primes he’d planned for the race. There were two primes, each for $10. Yes, you read that right, $10. Leslie won them both. She used her $20 to buy me dinner, actually. Take a second and look back at that flyer for me – see something notable? A minimum of three (3) $100 primes for the men’s elite race.

So where do we go from here? Well, I’m going to write a letter to the Nutmeg State Games directly. I’d love if you would be willing to do the same. Tell them that it’s disheartening to see them supporting a promoter that doesn’t believe in equity, and who thinks changing the rules on the start line is an acceptable way to run a race. Tell them that CT deserves better for their state championship, and that there are other deserving races in the state and other promoters who take an active stand. I’ve already been in touch with NEBRA. And here’s where it gets tricky: men, I’m going to ask you to take a stand. Situations like this can persist indefinitely as long as there are powerful people standing by to allow it. And men, particularly elite men, you are the empowered group. Unfortunately, saying nothing here IS saying something. I know we all want to race, and we want racing to be a relief from an outside world that seems to be raining politics on us full-time. That’s exactly why we need bike racing to remain a safe space for all of us, and a refuge from the injustice everywhere else. Men, we need you to take a stand against races like this, and against Rick Comshaw personally. Men, particularly prominent elite men, refusing to participate sends a message that this matters.

Thank you for hearing me.

Erin

UPDATE: After communications with NEBRA, the Nutmeg State Games are stepping in to reverse Sunday’s decision and pay out both the Women’s elite and Men’s 30+ fields in accordance with the posted flyer. The official statement is here.

I appreciate the quick response from the Nutmeg Games. Personally, I’m going to donate my winnings to NEBRA. They do great work for us here in New England and work tirelessly to improve our racing community. They also provide resources, financial and otherwise, to promoters and racers. It’s my most sincere hope that we will not all be in this position again, that the race in New Britain returns in the future, and that we can all race there and have a good time.

Trans-Sylvania Epic! So epic mannnnnnn

Listen, I KNOW “epic” is so played out as a descriptor. Like, epically played out. The word is practically retired from our lexicon. BUT REALLY, TSE is epic AF. In my mind it was going to be 3-4 hours of mountain biking a day with some hangouts in between and lots of burritos and everything would be ultra rad, no big deal. I was like 25% right. Let me attempt to tell you about it in a number of words that will hopefully not add up to “epic” length.

As background, it’s worth noting that I ended up at this wild event on a one-way TSE hype train driven by conductor Mike Wissell (choo choo!). If you’re unfamiliar with Mike’s um, fondness, for this event, start here.

The race this year was five stages, down from the historical seven. Some of the stages were similar to years past, some stuff was new. That’s what they told me, anyway. It was all new to me. There are probably a hundred people on the old internets that have already described the stages in detail, so here’s the TL;DR version:

  1. Stage 1: “The road stage”. Probably 50% dirt road/paved. Fast.
  2. Stage 2: Tussey! Beautiful exposed riding, ultra fun trails. Many rocks. Wrestling the bicycle for hours!
  3. Stage 3: ENDURO DAY! WILDCAT! HYPE!
  4. Stage 4: RB Winter. Pouring rain. Cyclocross practice! Note: don’t play gas tank chicken in the middle of nowhere.
  5. Stage 5: Get dropped off 20 miles away and ride back to camp. Start with an hour climb. End with a long climb. Wonder if you’re in one of those endless stair paintings as you crack from 20 hours of riding in five days.

I obtained a GoPro to document this adventure, but I’ll go ahead and spoil the surprise. It wasn’t on for my one epic crash of the week. I’m sorry. But I did get this really critical footage of NECX favorite and ultimate ray of sunshine Vicki helping me with a bike wash. I earned a coveted title at TSE – somehow I managed to be the actual muddiest person on course every day. Shocking I’m sure.

Also the time I aggressively rode the wheel of a stranger downhill (because he refused to let me enter the enduro section first). He finally let me pass and then followed me directly into the bushes when the trail turned and I did not. Oops.

Moving on…

On day 1 I hit the first trail section with all the enthusiasm of a person who doesn’t understand stage racing and thought I’d “make up spots” by “pedaling as hard as I could” over “rocks”. Obviously I flatted spectacularly after I smashed my rim into a boulder. Stans shot out of the tire. It was spectacular.. And then I blew a CO2 trying to fix it. So I waited for friends. First Vicki stopped for me. Then Alex. It held enough air to slow-pedal to the rest-stop where the fine Stan’s folks sealed me up and I was on my way. In my mind I lost approximately three hours in this endeavor and all hopes of reasonable performance were gone. In reality it was probably like 15 minutes. And way less than Ian, who exploded his fork and freehub yet somehow finished with a positive attitude.

Day 2 I was all “I’m going to get some time back!”. Which I was TOTALLY DOING when I pinned it on one of the enduro segments, right up until the trail took a sharp turn over some rocks and I promptly ejected into a mud bog. I did have an awesome interaction with Mr. Dirtwire himself up on Tussey Ridge, where he somehow made my inability to negotiate the rattlesnake pit of a trail actually fun. There’s even video of it here.

Enduro day is the crown jewel of the event, if you ask me. I was super stoked to share on-bike footage of the segments, but did you know that on-board cameras do a really crappy job of showing how EPIC the descents are? They do a really crappy job. EPICALLY crappy, amirite?? Note: this blog is actually only possible because Mike and Selene warned me a million times that Wildcat is genuinely hard and not to go full huccone on the way into the rocks. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave enough time before starting the segment and caught someone in the super steep chute before the rock section of death. The result is a weird stop/start video that culminates with a H-I-I-I-I-I-I T-H-O-M-M-M-M-M as I praised my dropper post and momentum for facilitating my survival. Wildcat was the last warmup for the final enduro segment, a long descent over a dagger field of rocks with completely shot arms. All I could think was how much it would hurt to crash, but my arms were too tired to brake. 10/10 would recommend as a mechanism for learning how to descend faster: I actually made up some time on enduro day.

Stages 4 and 5 were cool too. There was pizza at the end of stage 4! And I almost ran out of gas in the middle of actual nowhere. Literal gas. Like, for my car. We passed a half-dozen buggies with Amish kids in hats and I thought I’d have to ask one of them for a gas can. They should really warn us city-folk about how there can’t be a gas station on every corner, because there aren’t even corners in the country. And there are no gas stations in the middle of corn fields.

Every insane climb in the last two stages made me question what series of bad decisions brought me to the race. I was a shattered cracked shell of a human by day 5, saved only by riding with great humans and a copious amount of coke and pb&j at the rest stops. By the way, the rest stops. The humans who volunteered their time to feed shattered bike racers in the pouring rain deserve praise beyond anything I could provide. Now that some time has passed, all those negative feelings about climbing, rocks, and EPICNESS had faded and all that remains is my advance ticket to next year’s hype train.

Damn. I’ve reached “epic” post length and haven’t hit the most important part yet. Rimmey. The best part of the race was staying in this big boy scout cabin with a dozen bunk beds populated by some of the raddest humans I’ve had the luxury of spending time with. I was saved by their knowledge and advice at least once on every stage, and they were the biggest part of what makes this such a great event. It really is a summer camp vibe. We really dropped the ball on not making friendship bracelets. The promoters pour so much into this event too. They make it feel like they’re sharing their favorite trails with you and they really want you to experience the best of what their local trails offer. Their excitement shows through in so many ways.

Lastly, thanks to Thom for capturing all my last-day feels in this muddy wideo. I think. I was cracked. And I don’t like watching myself on video.

That was at least 500 words more than race report need ever be, and yet I haven’t even scratched the surface on this event. Until next time.

TL;DR:

  • TSE is actually epic
  • The people make this race amazing
  • There are a lot of rocks
  • I still don’t know how to ride rocks
  • My heart is full but my legs are empty