This is the inaugural year for the TSE Gravel Epic. Having done the TSE MTB Epic 6 times I was looking forward to ripping the gravel roads we had been using to connect single track. Stage 1 was looking on paper like the hardest day and Eddie made it so. This stage had the longest climbs and he took advantage of that. I skipped the aid thinking I would be fine but paid the price and ended up losing 6min on GC on day 1. I was cramping the last 14 miles and not looking forward to more punishment over the next 3 days. Regardless, we got out guitars out and had a blast hanging out with everyone around the fire post stage. TSE Gravel is a vibe!
After my end of stage 1 melt down I was a little hesitant about what was going to go down on Stage 2, mostly just fearful of cramping again. The pace was high off the start and we rolled into aid 1, just under 22mph. We had a nice gentlemen’s agreement, filled our bottles, and slammed some cokes. There were some rolling climbs after aid 1 where a small gap opened and Nate got to the front and really forced it. That created space for Nathan, Eddie, and I to roll the rest of the stage together. We ripped down from aid 1 then climbed back up to aid 2, stopped, and got after the final 27 miles, which was a mostly down hill/ flat. The final climb came 5 miles before the finish and Eddie wasted no time in going for it. Gapping Nathan and I by about 30-40 seconds over the top. Nathan and I came into the Mid State Airport together and I couldn’t come around him in the sprint.
Due to some turbulent Mother Nature, a bridge was out on the OG route so Ryan threw us back into Bald Eagle State Forest with a stage similar to Stage 1 but a little less climbing and some spicy chunky jeep road (down and up), a rad tunnel, and a small running section!
Eddie got on the gas early and really put me in the hurt locker on the second 5min climb. I barely hung on over the top. Three of us dropped the rest of the group but then we regrouped at the bottom before the next big climb where Jeff and Nate boxed Eddie in.
Then we ripped some chunky jeep road and got another gap on the next climb and into aid 1. 2 miles later a pheasant flew across the road and straight into Eddie’s Duraace bladed spokes, instant RIP. 2 miles later Eddie crashed at 30mph. Karmic retribution.
We regrouped after that before rolling into Poe Daddy, through the tunnel, and up the chunky jeep road climb to Penn’s View. With Eddie’s bones quite literally rattled he wasn’t pushing quite as hard up the final climbs so we came into the finish together. I set myself up to enter camp first and take the stage win.
Ending the stage race 2nd in GC with 2 stage wins and a new appreciation for the gravel roads in central PA. There are some true gems out there and I definitely recommend giving this race a try next year. I’d love to see this grow and be prolific on the east coast as we do not have a gravel stage race out here.