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My blog has been getting plenty of hits this week.  I’m guessing it’s because people are wanting to see what happened with the puzzler.  It was a huge success for us.  More than twice as many people than last year, longer, better weather, more food, better prizes, and a real bike race vibe.

Thanks to everyone who volunteered.  Races never happen without volunteers.  Sometimes you get a good spot to watch some action.  Other times you are stuck in the middle of nowhere and riders come by huffing and puffing every 5 minutes.  So thanks a bunch to all of you who put up with broken up cell calls and complaints and confusion from riders.

For the full story, check out the write up on Cyclingnews.com.  I spent a few hours compiling that thing.  Here it is:  http://cyclingnews.com/mtb.php?id=mtb/2009/feb09/elpasopuzzler09

We are getting flurries today and it’s really cold.  I’m so glad we had the weather we did for the Puzzler.   Next week is Old Pueblo.  It should be interesting.

For those of you in El Paso, please check out the BMBA blog.  We’ve got some work to do.

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It will be interesting to see who will line up for Puzzler dos.  So far we’ve got two Coloradoans and a couple El Pasoans signed up for the torture fest.  Online registration is up, so we’ll see if that gets people going on it.  We have as much swag and cash as last year.  This year we’ll be awarding some incredibly cool trophies.  This trophy will be worth putting on the mantle.  It will definitely be placed at the front of the stash of award crap.  I only wish I could race for one as I used to dream of a similar trophy when I was a kid.  I missed that opportunity….created a new one….but I can’t participate.  Being a race director kind of sucks.  Oh well.

We finally got some cold rain and snow in El Paso this week.  The mountains were white most of the day yesterday and today.  I wasn’t sure if I’d be putting fenders to use this winter or not.  The new PI rain jacket kicked ass.  Gotta love PI’s stuff as long as it fits correctly.

Sign up for the Puzzler.  It’s going to be a blast.

Sorry if I made you check back here a dozen times trying to see if I updated my Gila report.  I was waiting on a card reader so I could download pics from my phone to my laptop.  My phone’s pics are pretty low quality, but I’m not too disappointed in the way they turned out.

I loaded up the mutt into the 25 year old Benzo….no A/C, no stereo, no cruise…and tried to keep it between 75 and 80 – preferably in the draft of a semi.  I got to Silver City in about 2 1/2 hours.  Not bad.  Jen had the rig parked at some doctors house where her friends were crashing for the week.  It was a nice place for sure.

Here’s a little llama farm near the doc’s house.

Jen had called me the night before day 1 to let me know she was blowing ass with a seriouso case of the runs.  Nothing I could do for her.  She avoided the major crashes to finish with the pack way down in 34th.  She was kind of pissed.  First off because she’s always done well on Mogollon and second off because her teammate Kathy Sherwin broke her thumb in one of the crashes.  Kathy took off to Phoenix to have a doctor set her thumb in a cast.

Jen’s second day was pretty good at building her confidence since she got in the main break that got away on the descent.  They got swallowed up later, but no major happenings.  Day 3 brought the TT and Jen threw on a 54t, aero bars, and a disc wheel to finish 18th.  That moved her up to 24th overall.  She was stoked.

I arrived the evening after the TT and she was pretty excited.  She didn’t race until 2 on Saturday, so that left me to some ride time on the Continental Divide.  Afer breakfast and reconverting her bike back to a real road bike, I took off towards the mountains.  No map….just a good sense of direction and about 5 hours to play.

I hooked up with the CDT off of Gomez Peak and headed north towards Signal Peak.  I’ve heard stories about the difficulty of the Gila and I’ve ridden the portion of CDT north of Signal Peak, so I wasn’t suprised to find a bunch of crappy trail that hadn’t been used much.  When I got to the pavement of the little road that goes from Pinos Altos to the Gila Cliff dwellings, I decided take the pave to the road that goes to the top of Signal Peak.  On the way I got passed by two of the Tecos boys but was able to use their draft for about 15 minutes.  That kind of smoked me, but it saved me some time. 

I climbed the road to just below signal peak and hopped back on the CDT to ride a pretty sick descent back to the pave in Pinos Altos.  The first 3.5 miles were off camber with about 3 inches of new pine needles on top.  Luckily I was rolling the Stout up front so I didn’t slide around much.  The last 3.5 miles sucked as it was rock garden after rock garden.  My arms were starting to feel hot and I remembered that I hadn’t put on any sunscreen.   Whoops.

I ended up making it into town about 2 laps into Jen’s crit.  I scored me a fat burrito from some hippie grocery store and put myself in spectator mode.  I ended up getting a couple of good pics.

Jen finished with the pack and on the final day finished 11th to move up to 15th overall in GC.  I think she was the most improved over the week and was able to walk home with 4 times as much money as she did when she finished 9th five years ago.  I was able to do another ride on the CDT (Pinos Altos to Gomez Peak and back into town to fetch the Benzo) and make it back right after Jen finished.  It was definitely a good weekend.

Enjoy the pics from my mediocre camera phone.  I’m hoping for a real digi-cam for my birthday!

Here’s a view from the CDT looking northwest.

Here’s the stamp of approval.

Why does my beater bike always want to take breaks against trees?

The beater bike taking a break next to a tree.

Gord Frasier and Henk Vogels before the final stage.  Henk says he has to sleep on his back.  He’s a true hardman!

There’s Jen hanging at the back.

Those are some nice rear ends!

 

Despite some grumbling from some late risers, the Puzzler took off just a bit after 9 am with 29 starters.  The pack spread out quickly as is usually the case in technical and long cross country races.  The course was incredibly well marked since we had to resort to using ground paint in the Heinrich Park area due to a sour puss trying to sabotage our course arrows.  Nobody got lost!  That was my number one desire for this event.

The weather was incredible with a light breeze, lots of sunshine, and temps in the mid 60’s!!!  Arm warmers and knee warmers were almost too much, but they came in handy for crossing over Mundy’s Gap.

Just under four and half hours after starting, the first finisher rolled in for an award winning bowl of chili and some energy drinks.  About a half hour later, I rolled in with Jennifer hot on my tail.  The last finishers made it in safely at 5:30 pm.  Every finisher scored a t-shirt, bottles, and some killer swag and gift certificates.  Only 17 riders finished the entire event.  Some were a bit disappointed.  Others were amazed at how long it took to ride the first 36 miles opting to eat chili instead of completing the entire 45 miles.

Big thanks to our sponsors:  Revolution Cyclery, Vinci Bike, Bicycle Co., Richard’s Cycle Sport, Hunt Family Foundation, Rudolph Honda, Sun Harvest, Costco, Planet Bike, WTB, DT Swiss, Salt Stick, Hammer Nutrition, Diamond Back/Avenir, and Raleigh

For some great race pics, check out this link:  http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=379431

Thanks again to everyone who supported this event and came out to give it a go.  It is an amazingly difficult loop and next year promises to be even tougher.

Three of the top five finishers were riding 29er Single Speeds!

Here’s a list of the finishers:

Name                                                               Time                            Category

Bret Bernard, Las Cruces, NM                       4:25                             Geared Male

David Wilson, El Paso, TX                             4:58                             SS Male

Jennifer Tribe-Wilson  , El Paso                      5:01                             SS Female

Mark Challoner, Sierra Vista, AZ                   5:23                             SS Male

Chris Hereford, Albuquerque, NM                 5:32                             Geared Male

Brent Sanders, El Paso                                   5:38                             Geared Male

Pablo Lopez, Las Cruces                               5:39                             SS Male

Ryan Cody, El Paso                                       5:50                             Geared Male

Susan Rasmusen, El Paso                               6:01                             Geared Female

Brian Long, Cloudcroft, NM                          6:15                             Geared Male

“Smokin” Raymundo, Las Cruces                  6:55                             Geared Male

Tyler McLaughlin, Las Cruces                        6:55                             SS Male

Chris Larabel, El Paso                                    7:33                             Geared Male

Don Futch, Las Cruces                                  7:40                             Geared Male  

Erich Anderson, Dallas, TX                            8:20                             Geared Male

Henry Ramirez, El Paso                                  8:30                             Geared Male

Adrian Martinez, El Paso                                8:30                             Geared Male

Single speed enduro guru Dejay Birch has announced the date for th 2008 Single Swizzle.  The 50 or so that participated last year will all tell you that it is a single speed experience not to be missed.  Jen finished it in 4:20 and this year it’s supposed to be a lot longer.  There was a limit on the field size last year, but we’ll see what Dejay has in store for ’08.  I sat out ’07 with the dog nursing my knee injury, but took part in much of the post race festivities….cheap pizza and good beer!

Yesterday’s Chupacabras 100km in Juarez, Mexico was one of my best.  After making it through a bunch of absolutely retarded crashes and trying to figure out why all the tiny Mexicans half my size wanted to be in front of me or beside me, I made it to the turn around without harm.  I couldn’t believe some of the shenanigans on the way out. 

Right after we started heading back west, a group of about 15 or 20 rolled off the front and I was sitting back in about 50th.  I roll up next to Scott Romero and asked him how many were in the lead group.  He told me and I asked him WhyTheF did they get away and WhoTheF let them get away.  Sheez. 

Well,  after making it through a few miles of high speed double track, we popped back out on the levee and I tried to get a double paceline together.  Turns out all the roadies are doing the Tour of Chihuahua, so teaching 10 mexicans how to double paceline was my mission of the day.  I kept yelling, “Dos lineas!  Trabaje!”  Well, we got two lines, but the line that was supposed to be pulling off would never stay close enough to the pulling through line and it was all f’d up.  After about 20 minutes of that crap, we rolled up on the lead group.  They were sitting up!

Cool, I was the second rider across the railroad tracks….freakin’ nightmare if you are in a group….and got into an awesome group with the two Italians (eventual 1st and 2nd), Tinker, McCalla, dude name Scott from Trek grassroots (top 5 last year), the Turbo boys, and some other Mexicans.  We made it off the levee unscathed and headed up a wash/road/neighborhood.  Trippy seeing cars parked in a wash.  The Italians and the Turbo boys said seeya and dropped the piss out of the rest of us.

I was climbing great with Tinker, Scott, and McCalla, but I got caught up between some fence posts and a gap formed that I didn’t want to close.  Seeya guys….been nice riding with you.  So I was by myself up to the Christo and ended up getting back with a Mexican guy after the Christo.  We worked together pretty well until he flatted. 

So it’s mile 30 and I’m already starting to cramp. Freakin’ hamstrings.  I went halfway through my food and water and I took a bunch of water from the support crews before the Christo.  Cramping should not have been happening that early.  I was in the top 10 before the first hike-a-bike.  I felt much better pushing my bike.  Santiago and I put a gap on the rest of the local expertos and I pinned it over the top and down the first long descent.  I put a good gap on Santi, but lost it as I stared at a huge pool of water below the chapel.  It was like one of those mud pits they use in the tractor pulls you see on ESPN or Spike TV.  Did I have to ride through that thing?  Some old lady waved me around the side of it.  Whew.  That looked disgusting.  I was cramping again so I took a banana and more water and Santi and I headed up the long single track to the Asphyxia climb (flankerdog has some great pics here).  We were working really well together.  I was riding way more stuff than he was and I felt good despite hamstrings that felt like they were going to pop.  We were almost halfway up the asphyxia, I’m still riding, and my tire got cut. 

I lost three places while putting in the tube.  I caught one guy on the way down the big descent and I never saw him again until the finish.  I managed to make it through the slum without breaking down like I usually do…..something about having kids in a slum cheer for you and knowing that the bike you are riding is more than their family will earn all year….and hit the levee with plenty of strength.

I was able to climb the rock wall with no issues, got lots of cheers, grabbed some more water, and rolled into the finish in 12th place.  Awesome!  My second best finish ever and the race is easily twice as large as it was when I finished 10th in 2003.  Someone told me 3800 pre-registered but that includes the kid’s race, the spinnathon, and an archery event.  So maybe about 2800 real Chupa participants.

Half an hour later, Jen rolled in.  First female!  She was stoked.  38th overall.

We grabbed our loot…..another sweet jersey and full-zip to boot….and rolled back across the Rio. 

McCalla got 5th, Tinker 6th or 7th, and Santiago 11th.  Scott from Trek and one of his buddies were also in the top 10.   Not a bad day for the Americanos.  If Damian or Jens had shown up, we may have had the first gringo winner since Sager.

I drank 100oz from my camelbak, 7 bottles of water/cyto, and drank from at least 5 other bottles handed up to me.  I ate one banana, 4 gels, 3 Clif Z bars, and 5 salt tabs.  It’s never enough.

I started my GPS about 6 or 7 miles down the road from the start…bonehead move….but check it out here….

http://trail.motionbased.com/trail/activity/4214999

For the last year, I’ve been dropping hints to race promoters everywhere that something has to be done about the crappy prizes and nik naks that are handed out at races.  I know I’m not the only one.  This past spring BIKE Magazine had an article about how mountain biking lacks “the prize”….like the Stanley Cup.   Any of you who have stood on the podium or browsed the prize table while struggling to remain standing after a race…..this blog posting is for you.  For your entertainment, I have gathered some of my stash.  Half of it is buried somewhere in a closet.  Others have made it to the landfill.

Medals – I have boxes of medals.  Many of them are made out of plastic.  Some I have no idea where they came from or what place they were.  Others are well labeled and look really cool.  Looking through my stash, I get some great memories.  The guys at Team Big Bear are the worst.  They used plastic medals for years.   Woop d doo…I got a medal.  Stash that one in the box.  And don’t even get me started on ribbons. 

medals.jpg

Big checks – While big checks are cool, there really isn’t that much money to go around to make big checks that interesting.  Jenn and I both won big checks down in Mexico.  They were for 1500 pesos….$150.  Let me go buy that new car!  If you’re gonna give out the big check, make sure the money in the bank is worth it.  Nothing gets good racers to your race more than cold cash.  A lot of it.  Not just $150 for the overall winner…especially when you have over 200 participants.

T-shirts – T-shirts seem to be mandatory for all entrants.  That’s cool, but remember Mr. Promoter, that shirt ends up in the rag bin or the Goodwill dumpster about a year or two down the road.  I can get 8 high quality bicycle rags out of a medium t-shirt.  And that ugly ass color you used since the t-shirt company said they’d give you a great deal on it….sucks.  Why the f^@* do I want another black shirt with pink letters.  Or the purple one with the ugly sasquatch on it…what was up with that Bump and Grind promoters?  Instarag!

old-t-shirts.jpg

Belt buckles – Unless it’s for the Leadville 100….I see no need to try to copy.  Although this silver from the women’s Iron Horse road race is a nice one.  It just never gets worn.  I’m not into boots and plum smuggler wranglers.  Wearing these is not an option.

belt-buckles.jpg

Jerseys – Now were starting to get somewhere.  Of course, road races make this a mandatory thing.  Leaders get a sweet jersey for the wall.  Overall winners too.  Jenn has a bunch of those things stashed away somewhere.  They’ll go on a bike shop wall one day.  The Chupacabras 100K (or 120 K or however long it is now) gives a jersey to the first 600 finishers.  Nice.  And if you win one of the many national championship categories, you get a good ‘ole stars and stripes.  2 for this household!  The downside to wearing these is they’ll wear out.  It’s sad to do that. 

jerseys.jpg

 Trophies and plaques – Ugg.  So BMX.  I mean look at them.  I’m not going to cover my wall or let dust build on all this crap, so what do I do with them.  And what in the hell is that thing on the right?  Can you get any more lame for a prize?

 trophies-and-plaques.jpg

Bike Swag – Thanks local sponsoring shop or big manufacturer who is friends with the promoter.  I love you.  You’re gonna pony up an assload of tires for the winners!  Just what I need.  A set of 26″ mud tires for me to ride on my 29er down here in the desert.  Or those ugly ass gloves that sat on your shelf for over 2 years.  Or the 2 year old helmet.  Sometimes it’s good stuff, but finisher beware…..make sure you count the spoke holes on those sweet lookin’ rims.  You may never use them and they’ll get all bent up on your way home.  I must admit that I am currently using quite a few products that were picked up off the winner’s swag table.  Other times, I’ve found myself so weary and fried after sitting around for 3 hours waiting on awards, that I just grabbed the wrong thing.  Really wrong.

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THE ULTIMATE PRIZE……

The drinking vessel!!! – A quality drinking vessel is the best prize you can give a cyclist.  Sheeez.  All we do is drink…and eat and train occasionally.  Fluids are key to our survival and sanity!  Why not give us something to remember our suffering.  I fill that pint with a cold Sam Adams and remember putting the wood to those guys out in Vermont.  Fill that mug up with OJ in the morning and remember Yuri H.’s first of many crashes (King of the Hill DH at Deer Valley…thanks for cheering Yuri).  Jenn even has a stainless steel martini glass!  How cool is that?

beer-glasses.jpg

So listen up all you promoters.  Order the beer glasses for your winners.  Stuff some cash into them for the experts and pros.  Put gift certificates to the local sponsoring restaurant or shop into them for the sports and beginners.  Fill one up with Sports Legs or packs of Cytomax for the last finisher.  Give the extras away to your volunteers.