“Nuclear”. That’s the word Jeremiah Bishop (Cannondale) used to describe the pace during the Raystown stage, stage number 4 of the NoTubes Trans-Sylvania Epic presented by Dirt Rag.  Only 25 seconds separated Bishop from Barry Wicks (Kona Bikes) at the start of the day.  By the end that lead had ballooned to more than six and a half minutes.

The fourth stage of Trans-Sylvania took place on the rolling whoops and dips of the Allegrippis trails at Raystown Lake a one hour drive from Camp TSEpic.  Allegrippis has proven to be crowd favorite every year and this year was no exception.  One of two “remote” stages in the Trans-Sylvania Epic, Raystown is the fastest and smoothest singletrack of the week and racers were greeted with slick and wet conditions that left riders covered with mud at the end of the stage but grinning ear to ear. 

“I wanted to show the guys I was back” continued Bishop. “I treated the start like a World Cup.”  Bishop pushed the pace early and quickly pulled a group including South African Matthys Buekes, Justin Lindine (Redline), Aaron Snyder (SCOTT), Drew Edsall (Kenda/Felt) and Wicks away from the rest.  Less than 5 seconds separated these six riders the first time through the lap point.  The fireworks continued immediately into the second lap as Bishop was determined to shed his adversary Wicks who had spent the previous two days chipping away at the lead Bishop established in the ITT at the start of the week.  Buekes was on the move as well looking to find time lost during the first two days of the race.  Lindine too was Wicks was having none of it coming past Bishop and into the lead with the intent to send off a final attack.  In the flurry of activity Edsall, then Snyder and finally Lindine were dropped from the front group.

Unfortunately for Wicks, as he jumped, his run of luck came to an end with a flat tire leaving Bishop and Beukes alone in the lead.  Beukes was looking for a stage win and passed Bishop as he bobbled on one of the final switch backs in the wild undulations of the Allegrippis trails.  Bishop recovered and in his words, “I kept pushing Matt and pushing Matt, trying one side then the other, until I got by because I knew the first person out of the singletrack had the advantage in the finish.  And I wanted this stage win.”  Bishop found the room the made a final pass, emerged first from Sleek Dog Trail.  Buekes attempted a last pass out of the final corner but came up one half bike length short.  Trailing in only seconds behind came Lindine with Snyder on his heels.  Edsall finished another minute in arrears with a disappointed Wicks crossing the line more than 6 minutes behind the winners.  Bishop now leads second place Wicks by 6:30 though his lead is anything but secure with the the raw old school trails awaiting the race in RB Winter tomorrow.

In the women’s race Sue Haywood (NoTubes Elite Women) continued her run of success in stage victories grabbing her third of the week.  ”We [Cheryl Sornson (Team CF) and I] went back and forth a bit but it was really hard to get away from each other.  One of us would put in a big effort and the other would roll up on the next descent.”  Teammate Jenny Smith continued, “It just wasn’t worth the effort to make the repeated accelerations today.”  Haywood did find one last place to make an acceleration and clipped 14 seconds from Sornsons overall lead though Sornson still holds a commanding 4:50 lead in the GC.  Smith rolled across in third and has a strong hold on third in the GC.

The stage saw new winners in the Duo Men’s race with Tim and Troy Zimmerman (First Place Racing) from Florida showing themselves to be a dominant force in tight and twisty racing taking out a six minute win over GC leaders Dax Massey and Jake Wells (NoTubes/Breck Epic) with Mike Festa and Craig Lebair of Philly Ciclismo in 3rd.  Zeke Hersh (Honey Stinger/Breck Epic) claimed the stage over Kenny Wehn (NoTubes Elite Masters) and Jon Davis (Trek Bike Store Boulder).  Dejay Birtch (Niner/Ergon) continued his dominance in the SS category while Rich Dillen (Team Dicky) came home in second and Clay Chiles (Faster Mustache) finished third.  Jim Matthews continues to lead the 50+ race while the Coed Duo of Juan Garcia and Trish Grajczyk (JCTracing/Deadgoat) has yet to concede a stage to another racer.

Tim Johnson (People for Bikes/VW/Cannondale/Red Bull) put in perhaps the most impressive ride of the day.  Johnson crossed the finish line in 7th place overall but that came after a start in fourth wave and an eight minute delay as part of the Epic Team competition.  His adjusted time put him in 5th overall and it is impossible not to consider what might have happened if Johnson had started in the front and not had to pass 70-80 racers on his way to the front.  Johnson chipped away at his team’s deficit to Team CF’s Chip Meeks, Jessie Kelly, Nate Cross, Jack Delzel and Kaitlyn Broadhurst but still has close to 20 minutes to bring back and only three stages left to do so.

After the evening stage presentation the fun continued with the second annual wheelie competition and Hump Day Party which was made possible by stage winner Bishop and his sponsor Cannondale.  Joel Light of the Epic Team TEVR destroyed all in an “around the world” wheelie while racers kicked back under the Red Bull wigwam and enjoyed a selection of fine beverages before tomorrow’s assault on RB Winter and the raw, rough, old school trails throughout this part of central Pennsylvania.

Interested in 7 days of mountain bike bliss?  Check out TSEpic.com or follow us on Facebook where we’re posting daily race coverage and pics as best the steeps and deeps of the ridges and valleys of Pennsylvania will allow.

Photos courtesy AE Landes Photography