Heroes of the Trans-Sylvania Epic
The timing official gave me the official count, “…five seconds to go.” I was about to begin the prologue time trial of the Trans-Sylvania Epic (TSE). Nervous, underprepared and completely unsure of myself I pedaled out of the starting tent.
Stephan “Geronimo” Kincaid – photo by Abraham Eric Landes
The pedals were turning, I was breathing hard and trying not to crash. I was quickly reminded how void of light the woods in Central Pennsylvania can be. The vegetation is thick and the tree canopies choke the suns rays before they hit the forest floor. I fumbled over the first section of rocks, roots and mud. Will I survive this personal war?
Ten years ago three men were also at war, a much bigger war. Stationed in the Middle East, David Nolletti, Joel Kostelac and Chris Seifert trained hard for months. They then left their loved ones, boarded a plane and fought a war in a foreign country thousands of miles away.
Joel was in the 82nd Airborne aka “All-American or Eighty Deuce” and spent eight years on active duty. Chris and David were in the 101st Airborne Division aka “Screaming Eagles”. David spent four years on active duty and five in the reserves. Chris never came home. Chris’s life was taken when a grenade was tossed inside the tent where he lay sleeping. Chris left behind a wife and a four-month-old son.
Before this years race David and Joel decided to reunite over the Memorial Day Holiday. Neither of them has seen one another since David’s wedding 18 years ago. They both believed it would be a great way to honor Chris and pay homage to the many brave men and women who lost their lives serving our country.
Joel and David. The true heroes of TSE – Photo by Abraham Eric Landes
Joel, along with the help of TSE promoters Mike Kuhn and Ray Adams, crafted an Epic Team comprised of David, Joel, Gunnar Bergey, Rob Lictenwalner and myself. Finish time of the best-placed rider on our team is what is counted for the General Classification or “overall” stage results. It’s a great way to experience TSE.
When I met David and Joel I was astounded by their nervousness. Knowing their history, what they have endured they appeared as statues of men. I was perplexed at their self-doubt. “I haven’t been riding much.” “I’ve never ridden seven days in a row.” “I hope to finish this thing.” Here I stand with two of the bravest men I know and they are nervous about a mountain bike race.
I made it through the first two days of TSE before I had to return home. I had another little war at home. My mom has fallen ill and work responsibilities beckoned. Yet, each and every hour I would check the TSE social media feeds to see how everyone was fairing in their daily TSE battles.
Unsurprisingly David and Joel were riding well. The pictures and results came in and they were among the first that I would search for. David’s preparation was paying off and he was a solid finisher each day. Joel bravely put in some long hours out in the woods and never gave in. Both are a testament of courage and for me the heroes of TSE.
Gunnar had a fantastic week battling in the Under 25 category and would eventually take second place in the Under 25 General Classification.
Gunnar Bergey – Photo by Abraham Eric Landes
Rob was a last minute addition to our team and was only able to join us for the first two days. After both days of racing he would spend the rest of the time riding with his young son and pregnant wife.
I couldn’t help but think of Chris, his wife Terri, and his 10 year old son Ben. Chris never got the chance ride a bike with his son. I know Rob appreciates, as many parents out there do, time with their children. I wish I would have snapped a picture of Rob smiling and talking with his boy as they pedaled into the woods.
Rob Lictenwalner sans baby bike seat and son– Photo by Abraham Eric Landes
After taking care of things at home I was excited to see my Epic teammates again. I left work Friday and drove straight up to the race. Immediately I could see that the four days I missed had taken their toll on all the riders. The anxious and quick steps early in the week became slow zombie walks with red eyes. Yet the mood in the air was still uplifting. We ended the week in 2nd place amongst in the Epic Team category. We more than survived TSE, we thrived at TSE.
*If you would like to donate to the Chris Seifert memorial please visit: http://cptchrisseifert.org/Home_Page.html or checks can be made out to the Delta Tau Delta Educational Foundation with memo to “Benjamin Seifert Scholarship Fund”.
- Richie O’Neil’s (of Stan’s NoTubes) father. Richie’s dad was a 26 year Marine veteran, fought at Vietnam and was buried with special honors at Arlington Cemetery.
- My Dad for serving 26 years in the Army and fighting the war in Vietnam.
- Thank you to all our service men and women. Without you, I believe I would not be able to ride the bicycle with the carefree attitude and freedoms that I do today.
- Cheers to all the competitors at TSE. Y’all are brave and hardy folk.
- My brother Patrick and his wife Tania for caring so much for Mom while I ride my bike.
- Hugs and love to Sandie for just being who she is.