For some, the 25-mile seventh and final stage of the NoTubes’ Trans-Sylvania Epic was a party day. But for race leaders and GC podium contenders, today was the final hours of serious racing before riders crossed the finish line and collapsed with exhaustion. The day also saw a Spectator Spectacle section of the course, complete with a full blow up arch over the rocky singletrack and plenty of hecklers, some in costume, there to cheer on racers throughout the day.
Finally, though, the race was over, and not only were the top finishers for the day awarded, but the final General Classifications for the week were determined at a final, epic awards ceremony, followed by some “Stage 8” hijinks.
For a man who professed that today’s stage would be a bit of a relaxed-pace victory lap, occasional ’crosser and full-time MTBer Jeremiah Bishop (ShoAir-Cannondale) was clearly working hard, first with the lead group, and then attacking on a climb mid-way and soloing to an impressive finish. “It was just one of those things,” he said. “I thought people would have fun, ride quick and maybe sprint to the finish, but Cole [Oberman] attacked from the gun. I was hurting, so bad… I made the lead group, barely.”
After attacks from Nick Waite (Pro Tested Gear) began attacking, Bishop again struggled to stay in the lead group. But after the checkpoint when they hit singletrack, “I just started to feel good.” And on a climb, “the diesel kicked in, and I wanted to put some pressure on these guys and ride my pace. But my pace ended up being faster.” So Bishop went, and was never seen again.
Behind him, the young Rare Disease Cycling racer Cole Oberman battled with NoTube’s Ben Sonntag for second place, and while Oberman’s gap seemed solid six miles from the finish, Sonntag was able to overtake him and snatch second place. Behind Sonntag and Oberman, cyclocrosser and last year’s winner Justin Lindine (Redline) came back from a bad luck streak to take fourth place, leading the chase group containing Waite and MTBer-turned-cyclocross-lover Spencer Paxson (Kona).
Bishop took the overall GC—his 12th consecutive stage race win—after leading for all seven days of the race. “I had good luck,” he said—“It’s unbelievable. It feels great to be done!” Behind him in the GC, second place went to his training partner, Waite, while Paxson took third. Behind him was Ben Sonntag, Cole Oberman, and Peter Glassford (Trek Canada).
Unfortunately, Kris Sneddon (Kona), who was sitting third in the GC, was unable to contend today’s stage due to illness, dropping him out of the GC entirely.
Women racing in the MidAtlantic cyclocross scene may recognize the top three women on the overall TSE podium. Selene Yeager (Rare Disease Cycling) took her first win of the week, coming in with teammate and race leader Cheryl Sornson (Rare Disease Cycling), just nipping past her at the line. The two found themselves together all day, and while Sornson had a comfortable lead in the GC, Yeager wanted to make sure that her third place overall was secure, since she entered the stage with only four minutes on well-known Olympian, MTBer and ’crosser Mary McConneloug (Kenda-NoTubes).
“I was the only one who had anything to lose this morning,” Yeager admitted. “I figured I could hold it, but things happen. I was just going to stay with Mary, but I was feeling really good, so I thought I better just go, in case I flatted or something. Then I saw Cheryl and we stayed together… and that’s all she wrote!”
“It wasn’t really a preplan,” Sornson said. “It just kind of worked out.”
“We knew we had a gap so figured, let’s just go,” Yeager said.
Behind the two, Vicki Barclay (Stan’s NoTubes), featured in Issue 25 of Cyclocross Magazine, finished solo in third, and McConneloug came in for fourth, while NoTubes’ racer Sarah Kaufmann suffered a broken wheel that forced her to run a large chunk of the stage.
Overall, Sornson maintained her GC win, while Barclay stayed comfortably in second and Yeager maintained her lead over McConneloug for third.
“I didn’t come in expecting to win, it wasn’t easy, and I am more than thrilled,” a beaming Sornson said.
Under-25 Men and Women
Cole Oberman (Rare Disease Cycling) exploded from the line, gunning for a stage win this morning. “I couldn’t help it,” he later explained, citing his animal instincts—after all, after six stages of go-go-go, it’s hard to remind your legs to take it easy. He tools second overall in the stage, and took the U25 win over his main competitor, Payson McElveen (Richard’s Rainwater MTB Racing).
“It’s been great, feeling my legs the past three days,” Oberman said. “After that next gravel climb, I tried to be first on the trail, and Sonntag and I just battled the rest of the way in, but he ended up getting me on this last little bit of singletrack.”
Despite Oberman’s steady rise in the ranking in the Solo Men, and his stage win on Thursday, it wasn’t enough to wrest the U25 title from McElveen. And so, in the GC, McElveen’s win was finalized after leading for seven days, while Oberman comfortably took second place. Behind them, Cameron Dodge (Pure Energy Scott Elite Team) and Cory Rimmer finished third and fourth, respectively.
“I’m really happy to be done,” laughed McElveen. “Today was tough, mentally,because I already had a big lead and I and trouble motivating. I actually cramped before the start—I was so done today!” This is McElveen’s longest stage race, and he’s already thinking about next year—and coming back to try for the Solo Men overall title.
Earlier in the week, the GC for the U25 Women’s race was the only GC that had any movement in it, starting with ’cross’s 17-18 Junior National Champion Ellen Noble in the lead, then Kaysee Armstrong, and finally, on Wednesday, a win by roadie-turned-’crosser-turned-MTBer Emily Shields that kept her out front for the rest of the week.
Today’s final race was no different, and Emily Shields (BMC Project Dirt) again took the U25 win. It’s her first stage race, and only her second season of mountain biking, and not only has she taken the U25 win, she finished sixth overall in the women’s classification.
“It was pretty exhausting,” a tired Shields said. “I was just trying to be done!”
Behind her in the race, Kaysee Armstrong (Kona/TBB Race) came in for second, with Ellen Noble (Bear Development Team) in third. The positions for the GC remain unchanged for the young women, with Shields taking the overall title, followed by Armstrong and Noble.
“I thought it would be closer,” Shields said, still surprised at her overall win. “I’ve never done anything like this at all! But this week has been amazing, it’s been a great race and great practice for starts especially, since we start hard with the men every day!”