Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic – Stage 2 dispatch

In this Adventure of the Week, we get an exclusive dispatch from photographer Vince M. Camiolo, who’s in State College covering the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic, Pennsylvania mountain biking at its most hard core. Enjoy!

WHO: Vince M. Camiolo

WHAT: the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic

WHERE: State College, Pennsylvania

WHEN: May 29 to June 4, 2011

GEAR: Reef board shorts for creek-soaking, bike gear in case I can steal a ride in between or after shooting

Hello from mountain bike fantasy sleep-away camp.

Only in its second year, the Trans-Sylvania Mountain Bike Epic is already a must-do on many top pro endurance mountain bikers’ calendars and graces the wish lists of others. And although the word “epic” seems to have infiltrated the pop culture vernacular, stripping it of all authentic meaning — like “amazing” or “ironic” — this stage race embodies the original definition, challenging racers with seven days of punishing Central Pennsylvania trails. More than half the days have racers pedaling up and down the notoriously technical trails for between 38 and 47 miles.

This year Mother Nature has upped the ante with mid-July-like heat and humidity, testing these athletes’ claims of masochism (case in point: Racer Rebecca Rusch, arguably one of the greatest female endurance athletes in the world, embraces the moniker “The Queen of Pain”).

The race may attract big names and boast big ambitions, but it is glaringly grassroots (for you West Coasters think the Downieville Classic, but a week long). Organizers/promoters, locals Mike Kuhn and Ray Adams, have their hands (and bull-horn assisted voices) in every going-on during the week. In fact, this event serves as the biggest fundraiser of the year for their Outdoor Experience Organization, whose mission is to build, improve upon and document forest trails in the state of Pennsylvania (again, not unlike the Downieville Classic).

The coolest thing about this event is that five of the seven stages begin and end at the Seven Mountains Scout Camp, a sprawling mountaintop camp that includes a full dining hall for racers (and support staff/family) and accommodations ranging from private cabins to dormitory-style lodges, RV parking to tent camping. Add to that a picturesque pond for swimming and fishing, a bathhouse, swimming pool and post-race cold-water muscle soothing courtesy of a brisk stream… this event is nothing less than a mountain bike fantasy sleep-away camp.

But I’m just here to shoot.

And what I do can be anguishingly difficult. Not because of the two sleepless nights nursing an ailing laptop back to health prior to my four-hour drive to get here. It’s not the lugging of several bags of heavy camera gear over root- and rock-ridden trails in order to find the ideal location from which to shoot (and then another, and so on). It’s not even the thought of my beer getting increasingly warmer in the greenhouse that is my car with every second that passes (incidentally, I drink the good stuff, so ice cold isn’t necessary or even preferred). The anguishingly difficult thing about what I do is being so close to people doing what I love to do when I can’t do it myself. My consolation, however, is that the only thing that rivals my passion for mountain biking (and other outdoor pursuits) is documenting others’ passions for it.

After all, it’s the documentation of my passions that often gets me through a day stuck in the office, or motivates me to get some dirt under my tires during a lazy spell. If my work can provide that to someone else, that’s all the motivation I need to leave the bike — or climbing shoes, etc. — in the garage in exchange for a camera, notebook and pen.

*Note to editors and other content-purchasers: Please don’t read too much into that final statement. I still like to pay my rent.

The Tahoe Mountain Sports Adventure of the Week blog series takes a walk (or hike, surf, climb or Pennsylvania mountain bike) in someone else’s shoes, from pro athletes to local Tahoe adventurers. Let us know if you’ve got an adventure to share.

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