We Went To The Woods | #TSEpic #ColtCamp

Singletrack Summer Camp as a right of passage. That is the idea behind the yearly #ColtCamp at #TSEpic.

Summer camp, and bike racing, have shaped who I am as a person more than any two other things. I’ve spent summers at camp since I was an infant, joining my family for weeks in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York. It’s where I grew up, found nature, learned about community, and at age four, met my best friend. 21 years, and 21 trips back to camp later, I married that friend at the camp’s lakeside chapel in front of equal parts family and camp friends– though by that point it was near impossible to tell the difference.

In the mid 1990′s I found bike racing. 20 years of experiencing every side of the sport and industry has taught me about a new kind of community. It’s taught me about setting goals, working hard, and choosing happiness no matter where the trail takes you. That trail has taken me from kid’s cup races in a field to the MTB XC at the 2012 Olympic Games in London– also held in a field, albeit a much larger field. And without hesitation, I can tell you the Trans-Sylvania Epic Mountain Bike Stage Race is the best bike race on the planet. It’s equal parts summer camp and mountain bike racing– and as a coach, there’s no other place I’d rather spend a week with athletes learning and teaching about life with bikes.


My wife, who wrote a senior thesis on the summer camp experience, has helped shape the vision of #ColtCamp from inception. In her own words: ‘Unpacking the magic of #singletracksummercamp: TSEpic through an anthropological lens.’

There is something special—some might call it liberating– about spending a week in the woods racing bikes with your friends. Since its inception in the 1860s, summer camp has always existed to provide a temporary excursion into our imagined roots as a more wild, less civilized species. The constructed boundary between humans and nature is part of an overarching ideological tradition that is based in an interpretation of human nature that frames human cognitive capacity as being the most fundamentally human trait and physicality as being subservient to thought. Using this paradigm, camp’s separateness from this modernized world makes it transformative—a return to a natural, purer state of existence that allows for certain types of personal growth. According to the ideology that places humans as radically separate from nature, humans are essentially thinking beings, not feeling beings, because it is their cognitive capabilities that separate from the animal, or from nature. In short, engagement with those qualities considered, under the working dualism, to be less human, and more animalistic, such as getting really dirty and loud and living in tents, is purported to be valuable when it is both isolated and temporary in that it allows people to incorporate lessons from these purer modes of living into their overarching value structures. In this sense, nature is constructed to serve the ideals of people, and TSEpic can be understood as a transformative experience.


With that said, let us relive the full week of #TSEpic through the lens of A. E. Landes Photography and stories from #TEAMCOLT!


#TSEpic kicks off with the Stage Zero BBQ and Enduro-Cross Moto races at a cabin down the road from camp. Free food and drink to celebrate the week on tap.


Registration opens Sunday morning, followed by the start of the 16 mile Stage One ITT. Stephan Davoust, riding as a part of the Colt Training Systems White Team finished the day in a little over one hour.


Jason Blodgett finished Stage One with the fastest Enduro times, earning him a start in the Green Jersey on Monday.


Libby White, Drew Dillman, Ellen Noble, and Jason Blodgett gather for the start of the grueling 42 mile Stage Two. White jerseys for the U25 GC leaders, Green for the leaders of the week long Enduro competition.


Payson McElveen, the 2014 U25 Champion and member of the first ever Colt Traning Systems #TSEpic Team, won three stages this year and wore the Yellow Jersey of race leader for six of the seven stages. He lost his lead to teammate, and 2013 winner Justin Lindine after a flat tire on Stage Six’s Tussey Ridge left him running to the next tech-zone.


While McElveen dominated the front of the U25 Men’s classification, Drew Dillman and Lewis Gaffney battled daily for the remaining two steps on the podium. Both rode the week as teammates on the Colt Training Systems Red Team.

“TSEpic was more than just a race, the whole experience reminded me why I love to race and ride bikes. Everything from the people to the trails we rode everyday make riding bikes really fun. Even though it’s a sufferfest, its a really good time on the bike.” –Lewis Gaffney (4th U25 GC)


Johanne Albrigtsen, 19 years old, from the University of Colorado finished Stage Two in a time of 4:21:56.


Unanimously considered the hardest of the week, Stage Two starts and finishes at camp. The ice cold pool of lake runoff is a popular afternoon hangout on this day.


Stage Three, the Enduro day! Racers face five timed downhill sections with neutral transfers in between. 3,600 ft. of pristine downhill singletrack makes this a day to remember. #TEAMCOLT celebrated with #teamUSAday outfits.


We had four separate groups entered in the Team division of this year’s race: Colt Training Systems Red Team, White Team, Blue Team, and Stars & Stripes Team. The ‘Murica Day costumes let everyone come together and enjoy this day as one squad.


Mason Shea, jean shorts, from Austin, Texas, is a full-time student at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.


Cyclocross National Champion Cody Kaiser from El Dorado Hills, California, was the top placing finisher for the team on Stage Three. He rode the week on a custom Specialized Epic set up specifically for the #EastCoastRocks of Pennsylvania. #codyrodeit

“What an experience!! Being primarily a cyclocross racer, who focuses on short, hard racing, the idea of a MTB stage race never cross my mind. Well, now being just a few days removed from the Transylvania Epic week… I can say I would do it again in a heartbeat. It truly is mountain bike summer camp. Everyone has breakfast together before partaking in the day’s brutal stage. Then meet again for dinner and talk about how everyone did and what happened during the day. At the end of the day everyone is dog tired and can’t imagine doing it again the next day. Then the alarm goes off the next morning and everyone is back at the mess hall for breakfast and ready to start again.” –Cody Kaiser


Cody Phillips, member of the 2014 Colt Training Systmes winning Team, came back this year with the sole focus of winning the Open Men’s Enduro GC and the $1,000 cash prize that comes with it.


Jorge Munoz, 18 years old, was the youngest competitor in this year’s race, and became the youngest finisher of the seven day race in it’s six year history. This summer he’ll travel the US Cross Country circuit with his sights set on qualifying for his first World Championships team and a Junior.


Linnea Dixson, 3rd at the 2014 Collegiate Mountain Biking National Championships, came to #TSEpic just days after graduating from the University of Wyoming.

“Of all of the races I have entered as a cyclist, the TSE was truly unique. Although I did not leave with the results I expected at my first TSE, I learned that expectations should be let go and risks should be taken in trying something new. I entered as a cross country racer and transitioned to the “Endur-bro” plan in which I pedaled leisurely until the Enduro sections (Sue Haywood even said that I looked “so Enduro” in Stage 5!). New experiences, new trails, and new challenges were all met with friendly faces from all of the racers, promoters, and staff. Every aspect of the event was well planned and left a smile on the faces of everyone who participated. Thank you to everyone for the wonderful time at #singletracksummercamp. I look forward to seeing everyone next year! “ –Linnea Dixson


Stage Four, the road stage. This is, of course, a wildly deceiving title, as the day still includes more than enough singletrack to make every racer with an option choose their full suspension. Still, it does feature a lot of miles spent on the backwoods gravel roads that cover this area of central Pennsylvania.


Ryan Clyaton, Michael Kern, and Paul Solomon, all of Utah, came to #TSEpic to challenge themselves on the unfamiliar #EastCoastRocks as a part of the Colt Training Systems Stars & Stripes Team.

“I didn’t know what to expect going into the TSE. I’ve never done a stage race of any sort so the thought of racing every day for seven days was a bit daunting. I had no expectations on placement, only finishing. The TSE stages served up can’s of whop ass from every direction. I’m stoked to say I did it all and met some awesome people while riding/camping. And NO TICKS! Wooooo!” –Ryan Clayton


Drew Dillman, 2015 Collegiate Cyclocross National Champion for Marian Univercity, finished the week 2nd in U25 GC and led the Red Team to GC victory. Highlighted by a 3rd place overall finish on Stage Five, Dizzle’s week was marred by multiple flat tires.

“TSEpic  was a lot of “Big’s” and “First’s” for me as a Mountain Bike Racer. This year I have decided to focus more on Endurance Mountain Bike Racing so clearly TSEpic was the Big race for me to try and do well at. TSEpic was the first mountain bike stage race I have done and one of the hardest races I’ve ever done as well. It was also the longest race I had ever done (7 days), but one of the most fun. I had planned and trained for TSEpic to be the highlight “race” experience of my summer, but it was also the highlight “fun” experience of my summer as well. Thank you so much to the promoters, Mike and Dave, who put on the race and I look forward to being back next summer… with thicker tires.” –Drew Dillman


Levi Kurlander, Durango, Colorado, was one of two members of last year’s winning Team to repeat as Team Champions again in 2015.


After Stage Four, before Stage Five, there is Stage 4.5. Better known at camp as Wheelie Wednesday. Campers gather in the field after dinner to challenge each other to a contest of longest wheelie, farthest skid, highest bunny hop, and of course a game of bike limbo. Here, after winning the longest one-handed wheelie title, Stephan Davoust clears 24 inches with room to spare. Cody Kaiser and Cody Phillips would go on to tie at an insane height of 36 inches.


Stage Five, R. B. Winter. This remote stage takes rides to the rustic, land-before-time like trails at R. B. Winter State Park. Equally famous for it’s backwoods singletrack as it is for it’s high speed road gap jumps and post race pizza party.


Ellen Noble, U23 Cyclocross National Champion and 2nd year #TSEpic racer, recently finished her freshman year at the University of Massachusetts.


For the second year in a row, Stage Five at R. B Winter coincided with an elementary school field trip to the park. More than 100 4th and 5th graders were on hand to cheer the racers out on course. #trixareforkids


Racing with the White Team, Cody Kaiser left after Stage Five to travel back to California for a 100 mile gravel road race on Saturday. The ‘Epic Team’ format at TSE lets groups of racers compete in any number of stages they please, so long as at least one member of the team finishes each stage.


Paul Solomon, Sandy, Utah, finished Stage Five in a time of 3:28:06.


The finish of Stage Five and the day’s final Enduro segment are one and the same. Jorge Munoz celebrates the end of a hard ride in style.


Stage Six, the Queen Stage. It’s not the longest day, but it’s close. It’s not the most climbing, but there is a lot of it. It is, without question, the best trails of the week. The rocky, barren singletrack atop Tussy Ridge is one of a handful of trails that make this area famous for mountain biking.


Libby White, University of Vermont, led the U25 Women’s race from start to finish in her first #TSEpic.

“This race was by far one of the greatest things I could have done to prepare myself for the rest of my XC season. I got in plenty of base miles, freshened up my technical skills, and vastly increased my desire to race bikes after a frigid winter that refused to end. I loved getting to meet so many other enthusiastic mountain bike racers, young and old, male and female, east coasters and west coasters, gears and single-speeders. Can’t wait to race this again next year!” –Libby White


Emily Schaldach, University of Colorado, leads the pack into aid station 1 on the penultimate day of racing.


Sammi Runnels, 23, is a full time bike messenger in Austin, Texas. She came to #TSEpic best known as a road and criterium specialist, who, three weeks before taking the start in Pennsylvania, finished in the top 10 at the infamous fixed-gear Red Hook Crit in Brooklyn, New York. She left TSE 2nd in U25 GC and a part of the winning Colt Traning Systems Red Team.


Tritan Uhl, 26, attacked early in the day to win Stage Six and propel himself into a final spot on the Open Men’s podium in 3rd.


The party started early this year, with a post Stage Six canoe race eventually leading to a swim in the lake for #TSEpic founder and race director Mike Kuhn.


Other sports have the ‘Gatorade Bath’. At Trans-Sylvania we honor greatness with the ‘Viking Funeral’.


Stage Seven, the parade. At only 25 miles, the final day for most is a slow rolling celebration of what has been accomplished over 220+ miles of East coast singletrack.


For others, it is the final day to settle the score in General Classification. Cody Phillips, Banner Elk, North Carolina, entered Stage Seven with a slim lead in the overall Enduro GC. He failed to win either of the day’s Enduro segments and fell to 2nd overall in the final standing.

“I had another memorable experience. Not many races are so fun that they make you forget about the results but that’s how fun TSE is. I didn’t not leave with the result I wanted or the prize money that would have helped pay for the rest of my summers races. Instead I left with memories better than any race win, an experience more valuable than any prize money and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I showed up an elite racer, but left a kid at summer camp having the time of his life.” –Cody Phillips


Cameron Dodge, a multi-time UCI race winner last ‘cross season, came back to #TSEpic after riding as part of the winning #TEAMCOLT in 2014. Getting a late start to his season, Cam rode stronger as the week went on, finishing 4th overall on Stage 7 and moving himself into 3rd place overall in the U25 General Classification.


All said and done, #ColtCamp 2015 was an overwhelming success. Many races were won, many trips to the podium were made, but more importantly, everyone went home a better, happier version of themselves and more stoked on bike racing than before they came. Mission: accomplished.


Now, let’s party.


Stage Eight.


Jorge off to an early lead on the pretzel lap.


Paul Solomon will be hopping CX barriers in no time.


Emily Schaldach, Women’s winner, Stage 8.


Drew Dillman, Men’s winner, Stage 8.




A huge thank you to Mike, Dave, and the staff at Trans-Sylvania Epic for making this race happen, and for believing in the vision of #SingletrackSummerCamp. And to A. E. Landes Photography, without whom you probably would never have heard of this seven day bike race in the woods. See his full collection of images from the week here, and buy a few while you’re at it!

Finally, thank you to all of #TEAMCOLT for another best week ever! It’s your energy, friendship, motivation, and kindness that makes this experience what it is.

See you next year.











Comments are closed.