Trans-Sylvania Epic Stage 5: Mix-Up At The Front

Race Coverage

Sam Koerber blasts through rocks during the first enduro segment.

Editor’s Note: Race report by Tim Darwick. Photos courtesy A.E. Landes Photography and Harris Dunlap.

Sam Koerber (Progold) edged out Justin Lindine (Redline) for stage victory, while Andrea Wilson (Brickhouse Racing) took her first win of the week on Stage 5 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic. The day’s stage featured a substantial amount of climbing condensed into only 26 miles. Lindine described the stage as having, “almost as much climbing as the longer days, but all in a two hour package.”

Though some riders experience confusion with course markings, most racers thoroughly enjoyed the challenge presented by R.B. Winter State Park. Sonya Looney (Topeak/Ergon) described the trails as “a good combination of flow, rocky stuff, and everything else.” The tough stage resulted in numerous changes in both anticipated stage results and overall GC standings.

Open Men

After enjoying yesterday’s enduro specific format, riders came into the stage 5 well rested for the aggressive 26-mile course featuring over 4400 feet of elevation gain. Redline’s Lindine seemed comfortable at the beginning of the stage, riding in second position through the first segment of single track behind Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt).

Lindine developed the strategy early on to “play it cautious and not take too many chances” due to the numerous rocky stretches that presented a high probability of flat tires. Brian Matter (RACC/Trek/Progold) would succumb to this fate early in the race, causing him to chase the leaders for almost the entire stage and finish in fourth place behind Edsall in third.

Early in the race, Koerber and Lindine broke away from the main pack and grew a substantial lead that persisted to the finish line. Koerber and Lindine raced tactically, with each making numerous attempts to break down their opponent. “I didn’t want to bury it too hard,” said Lindine. “I have a pretty good time cushion, so I don’t need to kill myself to get a little bit more.”

Justin Lindine racing through the first enduro section.

Lindine pushed the pace leading into the aid station “hoping [Koerber] would pop.” But Keorber kept on Lindine’s wheel despite the aggressive speed. Of Lindine’s efforts, Koerber says, “He just maxes me out every time we hit a climb, puts me right on the edge.” According to Lindine, each had their own strengths. “I was a little faster when it was smoother and a little up hill and he was faster in the rough stuff.” The two riders went back and forth in the stage and crossed the finish line on each other’s wheel, with Koerber taking the stage win.

Koerber’s strong finish boosted him into second in the GC competition, with Matter dropping to third place. Lindine retains the NoTubes leader’s jersey with a 12-minute gap over second place.

Open Women

In a surprise upset, Andrea Wilson took first place in a key stage while Sonya Looney (Topeak/Ergon) rode strong into second.

Wilson initially planned to stay with NoTube’s rider Sarah Kaufmann, who remains 10 minutes ahead of her in the GC. Wilson said, “I wanted to stay near her and if she had a bad day just be able to capitalize on it.” In the early stages of the race, Wilson was unable to stick to her plan and would watch Kaufmann ride away to a growing gap.

Andrea Wilson focuses on her line during a steep descent.

Looney caught Wilson about half-way through the course and the two would ride together for the remainder of the race. “Andrea and I were riding about the same pace all day, so we just rode together and had a lot of fun,” said Looney.

Due to some confusion on a tricky section of trail that caused the Stan’s NoTubes riders—including race leader Amanda Carey—to take a wrong turn, stage leaders Wilson and Looney were unaware of their strong finishes at the end of the day. “I had no clue!” exclaimed Wilson, her face gleaming with a shocked smile as she learned of her first place finish.

Wilson’s fortunate result rockets her from fifth to second in the GC competition, only 10 minutes behind race leader Carey. Sue Haywood takes over the third place spot, while Kaufmann remains in fourth.

Single Speed

With a fourteen-minute lead in the GC, Matt Ferrari (FreezeThaw/Hubcap Cycles) went into Stage 5 in a strong position to defend his leader’s jersey. However, for second place Dax Massey (Breck Epic/Honey Stinger/Light and Motion) time was limited to close the gap and unseat the lead single speed rider.

“I tried to get into the single track first and put the pressure on him,” Massey said. Coming into the race in substantially better form than last year, Massey successfully opened up a small gap between himself and Ferrari coming into the aid station halfway through the course.

Ferrari remained close enough to Massey to keep him in his sights. “I could just barely see him on the longer climb sections leading up to the aid station,” Ferrari commented. The pair would rejoin shortly after the aid station and would remain together through the end of the race. In the second half of the race, Massey dropped his chain but was able to chase back to Ferrari quickly.

Matt Ferrari picks his way through the leaf-covered rocks of an early descent.

Coming into the final section of the course, Ferrari mentions he “wasn’t sure whether we had a ‘gentleman’s agreement’” for ending the race without a full-on sprint. Massey cleared the confusion by reminding Ferrari of the road gap jump at the end of the trail segment, thus commencing a long sprint finish. “We started going into it like a BMX race,” Ferrari commented.

Massey crossed the line just ahead of Ferrari to take the stage win. David Yacobelli (Corning/NoTubes) placed third. Today’s finishes did not result in any changes to the GC, with Ferrari still leading Massey by fourteen minutes and Yacobelli sitting comfortably in third.


In Stage 5 of the Trans-Sylvania Epic, U25 race leader Cory Rimmer ceded over 20 minutes to his top contenders after suffering from multiple flats and the misfortune of turning off course.

Madison Matthews (The Bicycle Shop/MBR/Maxxis), sitting third in the GC after the previous stage, took control early on in the race. “I broke away from the start and really just wanted to get as much time out of today as possible,” said Matthews. Matthews would go on to take the stage win, with Logan Taylor and Gunnar Bergey following in second and third, respectively.

Throughout the race, Rimmer battled with a frustrating trio of flats that allowed Matthews, as well as other contenders, to build their lead over the GC leader. Compounding his bad luck, Rimmer went off course in a tricky section of trail, losing even more time to his competition.

With the time lost in today’s race, Rimmer relinquished his command of the U25 leader’s jersey to Gunnar Bergey, who now sits only two minutes ahead of second-place Matthews in the GC.

After the race, Rimmer appeared frustrated but prepared to tackle the next day. Commenting on his chances of regaining the leader’s jersey, Rimmer acknowledged that “it’d take a big effort” due to his competitions’ strong riding and Matthew’s local knowledge of the trails.

Duo Men

The Duo Men results appeared a bit different for Stage 5, as Mike Festa and Craig Lebair (Philadelphia Ciclismo) ended the winning streak of Jon Firth and Drew Simson (TransRockies/Honey Stinger/Planet Foods) with their first place finish. The TransRockies team placed second, losing two minutes to the Philadelphia Ciclismo duo.

Mike Festa handles a wooded corner.

The powerhouse team of Firth and Simson experienced major setbacks in the stage as Firth broke his derailleur in the first half of the race. After developing a sizeable gap, Festa and Lebair worked hard to sustain their lead. Despite an impressive chase, Simson and Firth were unable to close the gap to the stage winners.

“It was fantastic and we still almost got beat, so we’re very happy to be in first tonight,” noted Festa.

Duo Coed

In another exciting upset, Chris Merriam and Libbey Sheldon (Crosshairs Cycling) developed a small lead over GC leaders Kaarin Tae and Lawrence Plug (Java Blend) to take their first stage win of the week. However, the win would gain the Crosshairs Cycling team only fifteen seconds over second place, leaving Tae and Plug comfortably in first for GC. Elizabeth Shaner and Sean Riley (Griggs Orthopedics) rack up another third place finish, leaving the overall GC unaffected.

Masters 40+

In the back-and-forth competition of the Masters 40+ race, Nathan Ruch (Evolution) raced aggressively to finish first. The impressive ride put almost thirteen minutes into second place stage finisher Alex Hawkins, who previously led the GC by only three minutes. Rob Campbell finished third.

In the GC, Ruch moved to first place, holding a nine-minute gap over Hawkins. Jon Stang (Crosstown Velo/Industry Nine) retains his third place standing in GC despite losing significant time and finishing tenth in today’s stage.

Masters 50+

After dominating the race in the first few stages, race leader Jim Matthews DNF’d Stage 5, thereby yielding the first place finish to John Williams.

Matthews received external assistance on the course, thereby making him ineligible for the day’s stage win or an overall GC finish. Matthews will be able to ride the remaining stages of the Trans-Sylvania Epic, but will not be scored for stage or GC results.

With his first stage win, Williams becomes the current Masters 50+ race leader, holding a gap of almost an hour over second place GC contender Joe McCarthy. Finishing third for the day, Jack Dalzell (Team CF-Ohio) moves to third place in the overall standings.


In the Men’s competition, the Stage 5 Enduro competition resulted in a three-way tie between Derek Bissett (NoTubes/Trans-Sylvania), Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt), and Zachary Adams (Toasted Head Racing). The tie was resolved based on aggregate times—the competition is typically scored on a points basis—that left Bissett in first, followed by Edsall, then Adams.

Derek Bissett displays necessary control to bomb the difficult descents of RB Winter State Park.

With the three-way tie in stage results, Drew Edsall keeps the SRAM/Bear Creek Leader’s jersey. Bissett keeps his second place standing, only three points behind. Adams’ finish moves him up to third in the overall standings while Brian Matter (RACC/Trek/Progold) drops to fourth.

Andrea Wilson added to her successful day with a first place finish in the Women’s Stage 5 Enduro competition. Rhonda Pearce finished second, with Laura Gleason (TotalCyclist Mountain Bike Race Team) taking third on the stage. In the GC competition, Andrea Wilson broke her tie with competitor Sue Haywood to earn the leader’s jersey. Rhonda Pearce and Jordan Salman (Pisgah Tavern) move up one spot each to finish second and third in the overall standings.

Epic Team

Unique to the Trans-Sylvania Epic, the Epic Team category enables riders to construct teams of two to five riders to focus on fun and camaraderie while competing in a GC event. While any and all team members may start any combination of stages, the Epic Team category requires at just one team member to finish a stage each day to compete in the GC competition.

In the Epic Team category, team Cycle-Smart, with Alec Donahue and David Thompson racing on Stage 5, took first place and retained their lead in the GC. Kelpius Cycling & Logan Taylor placed second in today’s stage, but remain in third in the GC behind Team Seifert.

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