Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Trans-Sylvania Course Recon at the MTB Endurance Camp.

I was invited over to State College, PA from my coach to preview some of the stages for the TSE Stage race. Fortunately my company’s diabolical plan to make me (and the rest of us) work on the weekend fell through and I was able to make the trip out to ride the last 2 days of the 4 day camp.
Saturday I loaded up the clown car and hauled it out to Raystown Lake. This is a wooded area around a river, that was damned to make some hydro power (64,102 times more than my LT). Last year the Army Core of Engineers and IMBA teamed up and opened a 30 ish mile network of machine cut trails. It was a riding experience unlike any other, I can say that because there were not a single log over, no rock gardens, and no roots, no extended climbs, no typical South East/ Central PA terrain… Now please don’t mistake the lack of typical trail features for a boring venue. The 1.5 foot wide trail was basically a 30 mile pump track. There was a roller or whoopty do around every switchback or sweeping corner. The efforts you made really snuck up on you too, you would hammer for 15 to 20 seconds to get through a section, but then be able to coast while navigating through the downhill sections. Some of the rollers were quite large and if not taken with the proper form would set you up for a mid morning dirt nap. 'Vegan' Rob gave us some tips on proper suspension setup for days like this one. This is Stage 4 of the race and probably a good idea to have a little later in the week. If they ever decide to have an XC race here, I really think they would be pulling bodies out of the lake. We had a few crashes in the group but all in all everyone got some good practice riding at mach 4 on the edge of all things safe.
I stole this picture from Andrea's blog, since I was photog less on the trip.
We got back to the camp and then a few of us decided to soft pedal around for a little to explore some of the buildings and trails at the camp. 20 minutes turned into an hour and 20 minutes and climbing a ridge as we (mostly Kuhn) kept going ADD and finding trails he wanted to explore.
State College is only 20 or so minutes from the “base” camp so we headed out there for some dinner after the ride/ drive back. We braved the Penn State crowds and had some good Thai food, albeit the restaurant first shunned our party of 9... we adapted, order takeout and made a makeshift dining area outside on a patio adjacent to the restaurant. Never underestimate the innovative ability of tired, hungry cyclists.
Another one stolen from the pink yeti.
Sunday put us out for a 45 mile preview of Stage 3. This stage has some pretty big climbs in it on dirt roads. Now since I am one of the few people around that think 4 miles at 7% up a dirt fire road is fun, I was in heaven. The stage starts with a pretty rugged ATV type climb followed by a really nice dirt decent, then goes flat for a bit before the next series of big climbs and equally big dirt descents. I nearly hit 40 dropping down a few of them. There are some retraces of the Wilderness 100 course, and some good rocky singletrack mixed in between the rail trail and work road sections through the Bald Eagle State Forrest. Eventually you end up back at the camp after a long finishing climb. I really liked this stage. It seemed despite the amount of climbing (which I recognize not everyone loves as much as me) the group was having a good time. The weather was pretty much as perfect as it could be, 65 and sunny. The scenery was awesome, with vistas of farmland and ridgelines. Even had the occasional animal sighting including a porcupine! I did manage to crash going uphill at about 4 mph when an evil tree out of nowhere reached out and grabbed my bars. Here is an artist's rendition.
If this were not bad enough, it also managed to stab my neck, and sully my very pretty (roadie designed) white kit.
Other highlights included spotting a circa 1999 Trek PRO 9.9 with full XTR randomly chained to a guard rail in the middle of nowhere. Looked much like this one Chuck Norris is holding...
My inner roadie was determined to win a town line sprint on this ride (winning a town line sprint on a mountain bike is a very rare occasion) I was pulling the group on one of the short paved sections in a valley. I saw the town line about 400 meters up the road and looked back to taunt the group. and see if anyone was moving up. One of the guys had my wheel (Joe maybe?) and looked like he was going to jump. I launched and got a gap. As I rolled to the sign I threw my arms in victory only to have it ripped away from me by the cheeky bike throw of no other than Vegan Rob. He pipped me at the line with my hands in the air, Tom Boonen Style... dude was like last wheel in a  group of 8 and got me...
The ride ended up back at the camp after a nice long climb. Any chance I get to race a course with a finishing climb I will gladly take. We ended up with about 9 hours of seat time for the 2 day block leaving me very very tired. I'll post some more pictures up from various sources as they trickle in.

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