The 2022 running of the Trans-Sylvania Epic 3 or 5 day stage race saw 260 riders rolling the rough mountains of Central Pennsylvania in style. In its third year after being reinvigorated by the current promotion team the TSE showed that its back and better than ever. The format remains a 3 or 5 day stage race leaving 7 Mountains Scout Camp near Spring Mills PA to tackle middle distance days in the Rothrock and Bald Eagle State Forests with one day’s excursion off-site to R.B. Winter park for a “break” in the technicality.
Originally known for their mining and natural resource extraction the rugged Appalachian Mountains of Central Pennsylvania serve as a perfect test for riders and bikes. While the winning week times are relatively short the format makes for a perfect first stage race or a test event for longer distance weeks elsewhere. TSE provides the standard 5 day experience ending on Saturday of the US Memorial Day Holiday weekend or an abbreviated and separately scored 3 day version beginning Thursday. Solo men and women, masters, singlespeed, and duo categories are all run concurrently in mass start stages.
Riders this year were treated to some updates to now classic courses. Strengthened and lengthened the week provided ample opportunity for the most well rounded riders to shine with new enduro time bonuses of a minute, 30 seconds, and 10 seconds for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. The race within the race allows the fastest descenders to gain or lose substantial margins in the rowdiest trail segments of the week. In the Open Men’s category the field was a unique mix of talent but leaned heavy into the pro cyclocross ranks enjoying some off-season fun. Returning champion Kerry Werner (Kona Adventure Team) was sure to have a deeper press this year with Missoula MT’s Caleb Swartz (Neff Cycle/Giant) and Carson Beckett (Dirt Camp Pro) pushing his lines and limits. Both Beckett and Swartz are no stranger to the wheel of the Pan-American Cross champion having competed closely with each other in the past on the cyclocross course in the past. Beckett most recently finished a very close second to Werner at the Pisgah Stage Race only weeks prior. Rounding out the Open Men would be several past contenders including SS champion Gordon Wadsworth (Revel Racing/ Blue Ridge Cyclery), Ryan Johnson (Cannondale/ProBike+Run) Nicky “The Whale” Lando and US U23 cross hero Andrew Strohmeyer (CXHairs).
The Women’s racing would also prove to be exceptionally deep. Returning champion Taylor Kuyk-White (Philly Bike Expo/ Industry Nine) would face off against close rival from the 2021 race Libbey Sheldon (CXHairs) as well as Emily Werner (The Black Bibs/ Ken’s Bikes) and a field of other challengers. The Women’s race showcased several riders with substantial experience but unknown fitness for the season as well, proving that it could be anyone’s race.
Stages and race recap
Quick Stage Details
Stage 1: 31.9 Miles 3,100 ft of vertical
Stage 2: 35.4 miles, 4,438 ft
Stage 3: 31.8 miles, 3,055 ft
Stage 4: 35.9 miles, 3,218 ft
Stage 5: 17.6 miles, 2,045 ft
The opening day of TSE 2022 saw big fields in both Open Men and Women push the pace to arrive at the start line faster than in past years. It was tight racing in the men’s race with Swartz’s enduro time bonus putting a 30 second lead over the others to don the yellow leaders jersey with Werner and Becket seconds behind. Wadsworth and others tailed by moments; establishing a trend which would play out nearly every day. Taylor Kuyk-White leveraged a little snap near the finish to edge Emily Werner out by less than 30 seconds. Sheldon and others were close on the gravel heavy stage.
Into the Queen Stage, Coopers gap and the longest day of the week. A hard early pace into the woods and out on course put a quintet of Werner, Swartz, Becket, Wadsworth, and Johnson out front. A hard push by Swartz on a crucial downhill put Werner quickly booting a tire and then chasing with everything he had. His own admission was that he was pushing extremely hard to overcome the time lost. Just before Werner reconnected Swartz laid a hard attack on the final climb to put Becket on the back foot, and retain the lead; Werner less than three minutes back. Kuyk-White planned to attack hard on the technical queen stage. Her consistent pace put her in a good position and she triumphed again to retain yellow though an ill-timed flat on Werner’s Top Fuel Trek allowed Libbey Sheldon to arrive silver on the day.
The 3rd stage takes riders off campus to R.B. Winter state part for a sample of a slightly more flowy and rolling course. The production team however threw in a last minute challenge with a miles long drag up an extremely rocky narrow gauge rail path used for timber extraction in days gone by. The stage also welcomed a group of nearly 100 3 day racers. The 3 day group stayed clear of the 5 day racers either by the sheer fitness of the full pull riders or the deference of the 3 day racers to the drama already at play. The faster smoother RB Winter stage started hard with groups readily forming. Off the front early broke Nick Lando who would remain at a distance until nearly half way through the stage. The chase group of 5 stuck until the enduro segment which racers suspected would be the biggest time bonus opportunity for the day. In the men’s race the lead 5 remained together until Caleb Swartz went full throttle into the pedaling intensive enduro. That exploded the group and put Carson Beckett fixing a flat which caused him to hemorrhage time, ceding nearly 6 minutes on the day. Werner would lead the day with an attack late in the stage. The Women’s race was similarly characterized by an inopportune flat under Emily Werner. After a close fight on and off throughout the day Werner would cede roughly 5 minutes on the day to keep Kuyk-White in yellow.
Back to the Bald Eagle forest and with heavy rain in the forecast Stage 4 was shaping up to be the best and perhaps final opportunity to make substantial gains during the 5 day week. The stage has a heavy gravel in/out as racers traverse around Tussey Ridge and then ascend the rock strewn crux for the day. Kerry Werner in particular had expressed his eagerness to put the technicality to his advantage. Werner and Beckett were able to gap Swartz just as the rain began to pour in earnest on the rocks of Tussey Ridge. Werner would land in yellow at the very end of the day with a bare 30.5 seconds to Swartz in second. In the women’s GC Taylor Kuyk-White once again was off like a rocket. At the top of the flowy enduro at the end of Tussey Ridge however Kuyk-White overcooked a corner and exposed her valve to a rock which left her running down the days enduro. Emily Werner then caught in the aid station and put in substantial time on the Philly Bike Expo rider. Werner made up 8 minutes on the day to be within 2 minutes of Yellow.
In the 5th and Final stage none of the leaders were safe. The shortest stage of the week was sure to bring tremendous speed to finish off the week. And judging by the leaders metrics that was indeed the case. The Enduro in particular was the prize of the day and all riders wanted a clean shot to it. With a minute time bonus for first and a 30 second for second there was no question in the minds of the leaders the enduro was the day’s target. And rounds were fired at that target. A quick group of 5 established once again in the men’s race. This group held until the very top of the enduro where Werner had to simply not lose more than one position to Swartz. The safest option was to capture the enduro time bonus. Swartz made gigantic effort to lead into the enduro and put Werner on his limit into the enduro but the effort was not sufficient and Werner held the gap and by closing a small gap within the confines of the enduro segment came away with the time bonus as well. There would be very little to differentiate the day however and the remaining 3 of Beckett, Wadsworth, and Johnson coming across the line in very short succession to close the day. The Womens GC was a continuation of the week’s playbook with Kuyk-White making conservative pushes to try and distance to Emily Werner.
The Race in Review
The Trans-Sylvania Epic truly showed its stuff in this third year of new ownership. The relative short stages mean that the racing efforts and trail experience both need to be top notch. And not only do these two categories live up to expectation they in fact exceed it. The week ran without any practical flaws and showcased some of the East Coast’s best singletrack riding. Seamlessly on-time (a frequent issue with multi-day events) and with exceptional support the race should be proud of its presentation and also its tremendous value in the stage race world.
For travelers the Trans-Sylvania Epic may be one of the best events going. The host venue is a Boy Scouts of America summer camp with dining hall, shower facilities, lodges and more than ample camping space. Couple that with the weeknight games and festivities and the moniker of #SingleTrackSummerCamp is truly earned. Riders of any skill level would be challenged by the rocky terrain but never punished beyond what they can handle thanks to relatively manageable daily output and more than generous time cuts.
In reviewing TSE 2022 it’s a 5 star experience all in all; customizable to any rider’s goals or objectives as long as the distance and time fits within the expectations. Riders who missed this years MTB event but would like a taste of the region can experience the Gravel version of the 5 day stage race slated for late summer.
Kerry Werner’s YouTube VLOG set can be found on his channel here.
The Dirtwire.tv coverage with daily interviews and stage recaps can be viewed here.
For more questions or to keep an eye on the 2023 edition Trans-Sylvania Stage Races can be found at their website.