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This past weekend I chose to skip our local 12 hour race to join the freaks in AZ for Dejay Birtch’s birthday party ride, AKA SSAZ. This was my third and by far the best one yet. Dejay surprised us all with a shuttle partway up Mt. Lemon so we could ride Bug Springs. After instructions, a hundred or so riders took off up the road for a couple of miles before linking up with the trailhead. I hung out in the top 5 or so and then we hit dirt….which went up…which meant everyone was walking…..or running in the case of some little guy with a 99% carbon full rigid rig with really narrow bars. AZT honch Dr. Kurt Refsnider was hot on his heals and I sat back in 10th or so, waiting to warm up. Bugs was awesome and I only dabbed in a couple of spots. Not bad for never having been on that little beast.
After Bugs we crossed the Catalina Hwy to hit the AZT down to Prison Camp. That section was fun and still had plenty of gnar. When I reached the parking area at Prison Camp, I shed some clothes and tried to eat something. Crossing the highway again we headed up to Molino Basin. As soon as the trail got a bit techy, I saw a dropped Luna bar…nuts over chocolate…opened up but not bitten into with no dirt or ants on it. Score! Turns out it belonged to my buddy Mark who I eventually caught on the climb. Thanks buddy. It was delicious. The decent down Molino was tougher than I remember and Mark got around me there and proceeded to school everyone in the vicinity. After that, there was a bit of climbing mixed with techy mixed with 2-track. I stomped a couple of climbs and found myself around 3 or 4 other riders. I grabbed a cookie in the comfort station and headed up Bolletello Rd. to hook up with Reddington Rd. While climbing the Bolletello, the flyweight on the 99% carbon bike came around me. He must have gotten lost somewhere. Eventually I made it to Reddington Rd and headed down to Chivas. I didn’t see many tracks and doubted my route finding, but I got to Chivas without being run over or shot.
Chivas was hammered with recent rains and of course anyone with a lift kit and 4×4 thrashes the hell out of that section. I caught flyweight again who claimed he was fixing a flat and then he passed me when I stopped for a bottle that flew out of my King Ti Cage. The route eventually took us to the secret stash and I soon found myself looping through the woods with Robin from Grand Junction. Headed up the sandy wash, I only saw two or three tracks in front of me. Seriously? Dudes must have dropped or taken wrong turns…..or stopped for bowls in the woods somewhere.
Back on the AZT, I eventually crossed Reddington again with Robin not far behind. I was far enough ahead of him that I did solo gate duty as I didn’t see him after I got them opened. Eventually he caught me on some descending and we rolled into the comfort station again where I made myself a nice mixer with Hornitos and 7Up. It warmed me nicely. I had to walk/jog about 50 yards down the wash to my bike where it had been transported by a helpful party goer. Apparently there were only two riders ahead of us…Kurt and the flyweight. Pleased as punch to be kind of at the front, I made my way into La Milagrosa….where my slight buzz from the tequila did not help my flow at all. I walked more than the other two times I had been down it. I tried to take in some of the views and not think about how tired my arms were. At just over 4.5 hours and 42 miles, I rolled into the party/finish as the fourth finisher, signed in, and grabbed pizza.
The rest of the evening consisted of catching up with friends, watching finishers try to find the sign in sheet, eating lots of pizza, checking out the grounds of the host’s estate, playing with the kiddo and the dog, eating more pizza, checking out some seriously amazing bikes, enviously staring at a titanium bong whose owner had a huge canister of medicinal marijuana, and trying to find something in the prize stash that would fit me.
Once again Dejay hosted an amazing ride with the raddest crew of riders around…..some who finished well after sunset. This course had the most gnarly descending of any event I’ve ever done in the least amount of mileage. I’d almost say it was too much gnar per mile, but then that might make me seem like a pussy….which I kind of categorized myself as since I ran a 32×21 and was kicking myself for not running at least a 21….or as the Back of the Pack Racing crew says…32xFU or 32xYM….or something like that. I carried too much food and water and wished I had run a full sus rig like I did the last time I rode this thing.
Sorry for no pics. If you want to see pics, go to Facebook. I didn’t take any and I don’t feel like stealing pics and trying to credit the correct folks.
If you are wondering why I chose this over the 12 Hours of Old El Paso, I have several reasons. 1. I’ve won the overall solo (on a SS) twice and took 2nd the first time I did it when Adam Hoppe beat me on a geared bike. 2. The 12 Hour was never officially announced until several months after Dejay announced SSAZ. 3. I just couldn’t bring myself to ride laps around Lazy Cow and Mad Cow when I knew a record 13 or 14 laps on that stuff wouldn’t come close to providing the amount of gnar the SSAZ course dished out in less than 45 miles. 4. It’s SSAZ. I got another patch and a few lessons on how to ride the gnar! ….and there were stacks of really good pizza.
The weekend before AZT, Jen and I decided to give the 12 Hours of the Wild West a second go ’round. The inaugural year was pretty fun with a fast course, despite a nasty head wind on the final descent. We had a babysitter that year with my mom joining us for some help with the C-man. We took the win in the coed category that year and we were third overall.
This year Jen was pretty motivated to do this race again. I figured it would be a good, albeit late, tune up for AZT. With no babysitter and Connor in a pretty new cast on his lower leg, we were a bit nervous as to how this race was going to end up. When Jen registered us, she mentioned that she wanted to win the whole thing. I figured it would be possible as long as no 4 person male teams were too stacked and Connor understood that he wasn’t going to get much attention.
We got to the venue near Ft. Stanton, NM and set up in the gravel parking lot right near the timing tent. Jen got out for a pre-ride and I just chilled with the C-man checking out some of the other rigs at the race. The weather was perfect with only a slight wind/breeze. The course was much longer than the first year and we were looking forward to getting in a few miles.
Since there was no Lemans start, I went first. I put it in cruise control and let Paul Pacillas lead things out. I kept it rolling on the second lap and put in a chase for Paul’s teammate Jay. I was reeling Jay in when my chain started skipping on my cogs. Uggh. That’s what I get for thinking all my wheels/cassettes are worn about the same.
I held my position in the race and handed off to Jen. Jen came back with a pretty substantial gap on the leading team and I switched over to my Superfly 100 which was set up with a 32×21. It was a bit easy for the course, but I made it work. What sucked was that the brakes on that bike have been getting louder and louder. I cleaned them, lubed them, did a bleed on them, put factory pads in, tried different rotors….no difference. Howled like a wolf who had just smoked a pack of camels. Oh well….brakes only slow you down.
Our lead grew throughout the day and we ended up finishing up in less than 11 hours with the overall win. Jen put in lap times that were equal to mine….and where much faster than the slowest members of our opposing teams. The longer laps were definitely beneficial to us with lap times of 1:10 or so. Some riders took almost 2 hours to get in a lap. My suggestion to the race promoter was to stick with a slightly shorter lap in order to allow teams to put in more laps.
Connor did quite well and stayed occupied with all of his trucks. He even noticed when one of my tires went flat and immediately let me know. I had punctured through the rim strip. Luckily we both brought two bikes each so we were never stressed about bike related issues. Other than my howling brakes that frightened the bajeezus out of more than one rider, and my skipping gears, no major issues slowed us down. Notubes….NO FLATS!
Click here to see the official results.
For 5 years in a row now the El Paso Puzzler has had stellar weather. This year was one of the best. Not the warmest, but perfect racing weather that didn’t cook those from colder regions or freeze our amigos south of the border. 175 racers lined up for racing with 102 in the 50 mile race. Only 25 didn’t finish! That’s a record low number as we usually sit at about a 35% attrition rate. This year’s event was sponsored by our Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and they stepped up our PR just a little. They didn’t come on board until December, so we were lucky to get what we got. Great swag bags for all entrants were filled with goodies from ProGold, Stan’s, lip balm from the CVB, and even cooler, the El Paso Visitor’s Guide spring edition with yours truly on the front cover. I’m also inside with a full 2 page spread posing with my buddy Brent and Steve Ainsa, a local engineer helping us with our Redd Rd. parking lot. I actually got a bit of compensation for that with free tickets to the Shrek broadway show at the Plaza Theater as well as a gift card to Cattleman‘s.
Finishers of this year’s Puzzler 50 took home a hoodie for their efforts. Jen won the women’s race….handily. She took home $400 cash, a set of Stan’s rims, a can of Okole Stuff and some of the new Lehe Stuff. I asked her what she would want if she won, and that’s the stuff she wanted.
I did my best to manage Connor while I did some announcing, course management, and meeting/greeting of VIP’s. He was a champ and really enjoyed a weehoo ride to do some sign checking. We rode ALL of Lazy Cow back to the venue. He didn’t like getting swiped by various plants, but hooted a few times when we went through some rolling dips and turns. Eventually he realized I couldn’t pay much attention to him so he spent a lot of time on his Strider. He didn’t want anything to do with someone who planned to help out with him so I had to just keep an eye on him while he roamed around the venue and sat on the camper stairs giving me the stink eye.
Since the event went so well, we are meeting with the CVB tomorrow to discuss what we can do now for next year. Some ideas I’m tossing around are:
- A bounty for a certain time or for an SS to take an overall win
- A relay (we have 3 laps….one 7, one 27, one 15)
- A free trip to marathon nationals
Those are just a few. What do you think would get people to visit sunny El Paso during the winter to do a hard mountain bike race.
Almost half of our competitors were from out of the area this year.
It’s been tough to blog lately. This past summer I made little effort to get to internet access. I spent most of the summer NOT riding due to an issue in my back/neck/shoulder/arm. I’m better now and after pretty much taking a full year off from doing anything hardcore on the bike, I’m prepping for a next summer starting today.
I spent 2 hours this evening cleaning out my toolbox. This was initiated by an oil spill of some sort in the top compartment. I ended up dumping half my tools into the wash bucket with lots of soap, water, and orange cleaner. I thought all the handles on my Park cone wrenches were black. Turns out they’re blue. I ended up resorting all my tools, picking out all the duplicates and tools I don’t use for bike repair, and removing all the non-tool items like cable housing and zip ties. I completely emptied the box and scrubbed it with a sponge and the hot, soapy water. After rearranging everything, I’m much happier. I placed all the tools I use a bunch like those large T-handled Park allen wrenches, the tape measure, the shock pump, and my torque wrench set in the top of the box instead of in a difficult to open drawer. I put all the chain lube, anti-sieze, and rarely used tools in the bottom drawer. Genius! Should have done that years ago.
Now I’ve got to sort out all the parts I pulled out along with the tubs of parts on my work bench. Once I get that done, I’ll be ready to do actual bike maintenance. And boy do my bikes need some love. So do Jen’s bikes. Her’s more than mine.
I’ll be ripping off the parts from her strange fitting 659’r that was supposed to be a 29’r two time national SS winning Titus to put on her On One Inbred which is currently draped with junk parts, commuter wheels, and a rack. She said she didn’t want to have a heavy SS, but why ride a light one with a strange geometry and a weird sized rear wheel that barely fits and handle like a Corvair convertible?
Did you hear about Jen’s attempt at a 3rd national SS title? I thought it was a valiant effort and I’m very proud of her….and myself. Why am I proud of myself? While I was hanging out with Connor and Jen was pre-riding the shitty national course in Idaho, I saw Rebecca Rusch on a hard-tail that was converted to a SS. I kept my mouth shut all week knowing that if I said anything Jen probably wouldn’t even start the race. Jen was WAY under geared for what turned out to be a running festival and Rusch plowed through the waves of geared riders that started ahead. Luckily Jen has been doing a bit of running herself and moved into 2nd place at the hike-a-bike short cut that was near the top of the course. Rusch put down the fastest women’s amateur course time of the day. Jen finished in 2nd more than 9 minutes down. I was proud of her because I knew she was under geared and she only did 4 mountain bike races previous since the end of Summer 2009 when I knocked her up with Connor. Of course, she was pretty disappointed, but it was Rusch’s home turf. And honestly, nobody really cares. She also beat last year’s champion by 3 minutes. Not bad for someone riding a wierd fitting/handling bike that’s 5 years old.
After I get her bikes all dialed (the Titus will become the Chariot dragging device), I’m going to do some major stuff with my bikes. More to come….I promise. Maybe I’ll even have some pictures.
This post is a response to JHK’s article in singletrack.com.
As a long time racer (first Norba sanctioned XC event in 1989), I’ve seen our race scene change quite a bit. While I’ve never been a “world cupper”, I have been the overall winner at many races over the years. I stay as a fit as I feel like staying in order to remain competitive and not make a fool of myself. Prior to the mountain bike, I raced ABA bmx. Over the past 10 years I’ve taken racing much more seriously competing in short tracks, xc’s, marathons, 100 milers, and even a stage race. I still do road races about once a year. I participated in the Mercury Tour and Team Big Bear’s King of the Hill way back in the 90’s, so I think I’m a pretty good judge of what our racing scene in America is and was all about.
Two years ago a buddy of mine and I decided to put on an endurance event, the El Paso Puzzler. We had 28 competitors in v.1, v.2 had 68. This year is v.3 and we are expecting around 125. Not bad for the middle of winter in a dirt town like El Paso, TX.
As a race promoter/director/organizer, my goals are simple: make sure everyone has a great racing experience (however difficult our event may be), raise awareness of the trails in El Paso, and raise some money for our bike club, the BMBA. While I strive to get better riders to our event, the last thing on my mind is helping world cuppers get UCI points.
The UCI charges an enormous amount of fees and requires that the promoter subsidize drug testing costs at any event that has UCI points. No thanks. Toke a blunt on the course and shoot up some amphetamines at our race if you want. We don’t really care about that stuff. If you can afford that stuff, you definitely shouldn’t be whining about prize money or UCI points.
American mountain bikers, at least the ones who have been in it for over 20 years, are looking for something more challenging than the 1.5 hour lapper at a ski resort or broken bottle riddled city park. They want adventure. They want to push themselves to a new level. They want to go beyond the bonk, sit down on course and eat 1000 calories, run out of water, crawl to a feed zone, finish refueling, and ride another 20 miles to the finish with a knog led lighting the way. They want cool venues where they can camp and gather around a bonfire while their teammates slog out more laps during a 24 hour race. They want to use the same bike in a multi-event race where pads and full face are worn one day and two camelbak bladders are packed the next. The demand for diversity is out there. However damaging this diversity may be to UCI point seekers, that demand far outweighs the benefit of hosting a UCI event. I’m sure the Angel Fire promoters will agree with me on that one.
American mountain bike racing has become incredibly diverse and promoters of these diverse events are not complaining. In fact, many of them are capping the number of participants. Entry fees range from nothing to thousands of dollars and people show up from all over to try out whatever new fangled adventure awaits over the next pass.
Big money competitive mountain biking in America has been dead for longer than most care to admit. Even the Chevy Truck days were weak compared to European world cups today. American world cuppers need to do just like the roadies did….nut up and spend A LOT of time in Europe. If you really want that front row start, prove that you deserve it with the best XC racers in the world. The list of American road racers that have done this is too long for me to publish on my pissant blog. They are doing it for a reason. Racing in Europe is a spectator sport. People pay to sit in grand stands and enter parks where the events take place. Do that in the US and you’ll be lucky if half the stands fill up. Try it at a city park mountain bike venue and the neighbors will be pissed that they won’t be able to walk their dog that day.
Keep the UCI out of American racing. American promoters should keep pushing the limits of the support with challenging events. Dare to be different. Make that feedzone just far enough into the race where a camelbak AND bottles have to be carried. Provide bacon and burgers in the feedzones. Serve beer and margaritas for free at the awards ceremony. Charge camping fees to raise money for a youth cycling program, not prize money or promoter profit. Utilize paydirt programs to get more trails.
American mountain biking has soul. That soul is getting better with age. The UCI has done little to promote the soul of mountain biking in the US. Let’s keep it that way.
Sorry it has taken me so long to update my blog. Things have been super busy with the scene here in El Paso. This past weekend’s 12 hour race confirmed that we have an awesome scene and it also helped further solidify my reasons for racing. It’s all about helping to put our scene on the national radar. Winning the Breck Epic was to legitimize the trails in El Paso as it was for my own personal goals. The fans at both the Epic and this 12 hour were awesome and I got huge cheers during awards and throughout the event. Mike, myself, and Brent have been putting in some serious time to make the mtb scene here in El Paso better for everyone. I just wish more people would get involved with the grunt work or volunteering with trail building or race marshalling.
I knew this weekend’s 12 hour race would be harder than most people thought it might be. Yes, it’s in my backyard and I know the trails quite well. I ran a 21 t on both bikes. I was hoping everything would go well, but damn…where that wind come from?
The 12 hours of old el paso was a hit! It’s gonna get big in couple more years. It’s gonna be big next year. This year’s event only cost $40 a person. They had food, music, beer, and fireworks. Lots of my buddies were out marshalling the course and the state park guys were making some laps to check everything out.
Here’s how it went down for me. Not wearing a costume…like Brent, I had settle for a longer run to the bike.
The run wasn’t bad, but I definitely need to run more if I plan on doing more LeMann’s starts. I started out on the FS with the YESS tensioner, 32×21, nanoraptors front and rear. The first lap was a bit faster due to a bypass of the first section of single track. I was sitting in about 5th or 6th and moved up to about 3rd or 4th at the end of the lap. I rode the first 2 and half laps with eventual solo winner Adam Hoppe. He was geared and had much more fun on the climbs than I did. First lap was 38 minutes. Second lap was just as fast considering the additional single track….42 minutes. On the third lap, I switched to the hard tail so Jen could let some air out of my tires. I pitted so fast she didn’t hear what I said and ended up adding air.
The hardtail was a bit slower feeling with a 2.55 Weirwolf up front and a 2.3 Exiwolf in the back. 3/4 way through the third lap on the hardtail, I stopped to pee and started to feel some cramping. 4th lap I was back on the FS. I was drinking 2 full bottles every lap. About half way into the 4th lap, my legs cramped so bad I had to get off the bike, which made it worse. I pitted a bit longer the next couple of times through and ate some solid food and took some more salt tabs and sportlegs. Eventually I was taking one or two of either salt tabs, sportlegs, or ibuprofin from lap 5 and on. My pits were still pretty quick with my longest at probably 5 minutes. My lap times stayed around 50 -55 minutes.
On my first “night” lap, I grabbed the hardtail with lights and a helmet with lights. I didn’t want to sit around putting on lights when Jen could do it for me. I ended up not needing the lights as I was able to finish it before it got too dark. Back on the FS I was lit up and rollin’. I love night riding and the laps seemed much faster though my fastest night lap was only 52 minutes. I kept rolling laps as hard as possible and finally stopped cramping on the climbs at about lap 10. Sometime in there I saw that Lenny, my challenger in the SS category, was done and hadn’t left his pit in a couple of laps. I decided to go for 13 laps and finished at 9:30.
My lap count was good for 2nd place solo overall. I won the SS by 3 laps, 2 if you count Karen Rishel who rode well after the 10 pm ending to complete 11 laps. She ran a huge gear on a sweet new Superfly. Props to the solo field. The sign in posters looked to have about 30 spots on them for all of us nutbags.
I had no flats and only came close to crashing once. That was on lap 5 or 6 when I was feeling absolutely stupid with my legs cramping on the descents. My pit spot was probably the best in the race and my pit bitch did a great job even though I rushed through way too many and could have slowed down just a little in order to think things through a bit more and communicate better.
After awards, I crawled back to the camper with my cool trophy and a check for $100. Hopefully this thing won’t rot away anytime soon.
The Catholic School girls (they’re really MILF’s in disquise) brought back memories of high school.
My pit area….you can barely see the trail between my 10×10 and the tent in the background.
I didn’t look nearly this good at 10 pm.
My dog had a field day checking out lots of new smells and being in her natural “race” environment.
This year’s Horny Toad was as rowdy as years past as a really bad band decided to take the stage at 11 pm and played till 2. They got worse as the night wore on and their bass player dropped out somewhere around midnight.
Here’s some shots from the chainless DH from which I have retired.
After watching the short track races at the nationals, Jen and I packed up the race house and headed to our first real rock concert since about 1997. There was a huge music fest in Denver and Widespread Panic headlined the show. Those old guys really rocked the house. From what I remember, they played Love Tractor, Travelin’ Light, Rebirtha,….and the highlight of the show…drums into Faries Wear Boots! My God! That kicked ass!
We boondocked in a Walmart lot and woke 4 hours later to city buses making their way through the park and ride which we were parked in. uugghh. We headed to Breck with the hopes of riding around Mt. Guyot. It was raining and we were super tired so we soldiered on to Utah. This is when things got weird and we decided to go to Moab. We drove the La Sal Mt. Loop and found a great place to camp right near the junction of Kokopelli and Hazzard County Trail. We did a sweet loop on Hazzard!
Onto Salt Lake we soldiered….in 100 degree heat. The next morning, we looped up the Crest Trail from ma-in-law’s for 5 and a half hours in some sweet heat. That cooked us. I’m taking a few days off the bike, but Jen is up here in Deer Valley riding Spin Cycle and other great trails as I poach wireless and get Luna in the water.
We’ll leave SL tomorrow and head back to Colorado with plans for the Guyot loop. Then on to Laramie for the Enduro.
Titus put us up on their site for “news”. Interesting that they call Jen a “factory rider”. Privateer is more like it. Oh well. She was kind of mad. I could care less. We haven’t received ANYTHING but a discount from them this year….and that was on some oem forks. They do make great bikes though.
Today was the BMBA Poker ride and Jen and I rode over the mountain to meet up with everyone. It was cloudy and cool enough for arm warmers.
Then we railed down from Blue Rock….so fast that I caught a huge rock that put two sweet puncture wounds in my shin. Yep…it left a mark.
The new BMBA socks came in this week. I think we are selling them for $13 a pair. They turned out really nice.
The Poker Ride was a blast…other than the fact that you had to clean a bunch of sections to get a chip. Ryan Cody won it with a full house. There were 4 straights to take the other prizes.
My meager pair didn’t stand a chance. I knew something was up when Ryan put back an Ace and a Jack.
Adrian G. took home a sweet bottle of Boone’s Farm schnapps for his worst hand. Why do I get the feeling that it might actually get consumed?
Wow! Being married to a pro cyclist can be really funny. Women do a good job of providing themselves with lots of defeatist-speak (sp?). They can be so negative…I’ve learned to let it flow and don’t even try to turn it around. What’s even funnier, is that the last two races we’ve done have both fallen on the day that that time of the month starts. So the negative-speak is frequent and sometimes loud. The good part is that the hormone cycle is prime for athletics. Yep. Believe it or not, women tend to perform quite well aerobically when they are menstruating.
So this weekend was a return trip to Socorro. Day 1 was the hillclimb up mt. baldy (10,800′). I promised myself last year that I would run a 22t, but after lightening the bike to 21.5 lbs and being told that the last pitch was covered in snow, I went back to the 21t. Half way up I would have shot myself if I’d had a gun. The middle part of that climb sucks. A 22t and I would have been at least 4 minutes faster. I finished 8th overall this year….3 places better than last. My time was pretty rippin’, but it hurt.
Jen’s competition…Cannondale pro Nina Baum was running some trick wheels and tires. They didn’t quite work out for her as she had to use her air cartridges several times up the road. Jen won by 4 minutes.
We had a fun ride down. Being rigid reminded me of the old days when I used to bomb down the old coal truck roads in Tennessee. The roads are quite similar, just a bit shorter and not as high an altitude.
Day 2 was the XC race in the Cabradas. We gathered a good crew in what little area there was to camp.
The wind died down and made for a beautiful evening. Mt. Baldy ended up getting some rain.
The XC was super fast. The SSers and the women started 5 minutes off the expert men. Myself and this kid Isaac caught about half the expert field before the end of the first lap. The start of the second lap, I attacked on the road and held Isaac off for a gap of about a minute for the win. I felt really good and went out for lap 3 with Jen. Jen had a huge gap and was riding the 659er 1×9 really well. I ended up dropping back to help some riders who were SOL in the middle of nowhere.