Last time I checked in I was busy preparing for the Trans-Sylvania Epic, a seven-day mountain bike stage race held in State College, PA. As one of my first target races of the year I went into the race with high expectations for myself. I was hoping to finish on the overall podium as well as win the Under 25 young rider competition.
While I just missed the U25 jersey, my week at TSE went even better than expected. I finished up in 5th place overall, took 3rd place on stage 7 and managed to sneak away for a solo victory on stage 5! It was unreal to take a win on the national stage and it took days before the reality of what I had done truly sunk in.
When I look back on my stage victory now, I’m still amazed that I succeeded. Besides the fact that I was racing in a top notch field which containing multiple Olympic long team members, multi-time national champions and a Pan-Am Games gold medalist, the odds were stacked against me nearly from the beginning of the day. Shortly after the start my front brake failed catastrophically, meaning that I had to negotiate the day’s technical and wet course with only my rear brake. To make matters worse, I missed my bottle hand up at the halfway point.
By the time I attacked on a rolling stone road section, I had already been out of water for half an hour. Over the course of the next hour I kept my head down and powered onward sure that I would fall apart due to dehydration before the finish line. With two miles to go, I was told by a support moto that my one-minute gap on the chase group was holding. At this point I knew I could make it and gave it everything I had to finish out the last remaining climb. I descended to the finish line terrified and completely out of control thanks to my lack of stopping power.
I crossed the line completely stoked and while I always imagined I would pump my fists in the air and scream when I finally won a huge race, I didn’t. I had been so focused on not crashing on the final descent that I hadn’t given a victory salute a thought. Instead I sat quietly in the rain enjoying the satisfaction of having years of hard work finally pay off (nothing wrong with a little shameless self promotion, right?).
Then things got even better, the race organizers had 48 pizza’s delivered to the finish line. And I ate it. And it was good. Life was good.
Transylvania was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to return next year to hunt for the overall victory. Beyond the top-notch racing, I had a fantastic week hanging out with my Rare Disease Cycling teammates. I also made so many new friends from all over North America and ate a shameful amount of ice-cream each night at the awards ceremony.
Unfortunately, immediately after the final awards ceremony I was hit by an extremely serious stomach virus. I was out of commission for over a week and thanks to the totally involuntary rapid detox diet plan from hell, I lost over six pounds in the first three days alone.
Coming back from the virus was a long road as I suffered from near constant fatigue, lack of appetite and GI distress. It wasn’t until days before I left for the Missoula and Colorado Springs US Cup races that I felt like I was getting back to normal. With that said, I made the most of the trip and had a great time hanging out with my friends in the Rockies and racing myself back into shape.
I struggled a bit racing at altitude in Colorado and Montana. However, now that I’m back at sea level, breathing real oxygen (albeit with that lovely Philly smog additive) I feel like an absolute monster. I just completed a huge week of training, capping it off by sneaking in for the win at the Mid Atlantic Super Series Summer Sizzler held just across the river in Gloucester County, NJ.
Now I’m tapering off the training and focusing on quality rest to make sure I’m race ready for the USA Cycling Pro MTB National Championships. The race is held just up the road in the Lehigh Valley at Bear Creek Resort. Come join the Lone Wolf Cycling heckle pit on Saturday, July 19th and cheer me on. I’ll be fighting for a podium place against every pro mountain bike racer in the country and I’ll need all the help I can get.
Thanks for reading!
All photos by Cole Oberman.