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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.

I’ve never liked the standard McLeod tool for trail work.  My main complaint has been the 48″ handle.  At 6’5″, that’s w ay too short and it caused me to have all kinds of soreness in my lower back.  Hell, it pained me to watch average height people use it.  The benefits of the McLeod’s head are outstanding.  It’s wide enough enough to use the corners as a significant lever when trying to pry rocks out of the ground.  The tines work great at sifting the rocks from the dirt, but they can break off if you aren’t careful.  For years I’ve used a ZAC Tools McLeod.  It came with a fiberglass handle with a wooden insert.  It was tough, but way too effing short.

A couple of years ago our club purchased some 60″ fiberglass handled Rogue Hoes.  We called them the Sarah Palin tool.  The long handle was fantastic, but the head was too small to be effective.  Women liked using them because they didn’t hang up in the rocks and roots as easily as the McLeod and the longer handle kept them from having to hunch over like Igor.

I got sick of my short handle, yanked it out, yanked out the 60″ handle on one of the Rogue Hoes, and installed it on my McLeod’s head.  Now I have a 62″ long handle on my McLeod head!  I epoxied the thing in there since I could only insert it deep enough to get the first bolt through it.  The aluminum sleeve on it really stiffens it up so you can yard the crap out of the thing when trying to unpluck stubborn rocks from the trail.

For years I’ve always wanted Rogue to make a longer handled tool with a McLeod like head.  I checked their website the other day and low and behold, they are now making a 54″ McLeod like tool.  It looked so cool, so I used some club funds to buy 2 with the intention of giving one to trail building guru Robert Newman.  He’s kind of picky, and he loved it!  I still prefer my custom McLeod, but a few minutes with the new Rogue McLeod, and I’m wishing they made a 60″ version.  It’s head is super thick and the blades are sharp.  It’s the perfect size.

Here are some pics.

L to R - Sarah Palin, custom XL handle McLeod, rock bar, Rogue McLeod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L to R - Sarah Palin, McLeod, rock bar, Rogue McLeod

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.

Here are a couple more photos from the 12 hour.

ss podium

 

 

 

 

 

 

Race promoter Mike Rossen is in the background doing his best to stay awake.  I wonder if he had a headache?

solo winners

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myself and Adam Hoppe.  I’m so glad I had a recliner.

Lots of other good pics here and here and here.

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. 

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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.

ss trophy

The Catholic School girls (they’re really MILF’s in disquise) brought back memories of high school.

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My pit area….you can barely see the trail between my 10×10 and the tent in the background.

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I didn’t look nearly this good at 10 pm.

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My dog had a field day checking out lots of new smells and being in her natural “race” environment.

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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.

"The Elephant" from Smuggler's Canyon

"The Elephant" from Smuggler's Canyon

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.

two holes with one stone

two holes with one stone

Not actually hurting as bad as some others I've had.

Not actually hurting as bad as some others I've had.

The new BMBA socks came in this week.  I think we are selling them for $13 a pair.  They turned out really nice.

P5170208  P5170210

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.

Ryan Cody taking top honors.

Ryan Cody taking top honors.

My meager pair didn’t stand a chance.  I knew something was up when Ryan put back an Ace and a Jack.

P5170212

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?

P5170221

Over the past couple of years, I’ve been pushing for more “epic” length trails in El Paso.  Robert Newman has helped my dream come true by linking up a lot of single track to form a loop around the Franklin Mountains that will be entirely inside the state park.  This loop will be about 75% single track with 2 mountain passes.  The final sections are now coming together.  Jen and I went out last weekend to hike the newest section.  He did a great job laying it out as it is much higher on the mountain than I expected it to be.  So the views are spectacular.  Hiking through the Franklins without trail is a nightmare.  I used a walking stick and my shoulders and neck have been stiff all week.  Jen’s calf got stabbed pretty good a couple times by lechugia.  Two miles of trail took us 4 hours to hike.

Here are some of the views from our hike.

Ridge line above north end of upper and lower sunset trails.  View is looking west.  Hitt Canyon is behind us.

Ridge line above north end of upper and lower sunset trails. View is looking west. Hitt Canyon is behind us.

A pretty view looking to the south.

A pretty view looking to the south.

This canyon behind me is going to be a cool place to explore during one of those all day rides.

This canyon behind me is going to be a cool place to explore during one of those all day rides.

We saw a bunch of these web traps.  Not sure what kind of spider this is and none of us were willing to stick a finger in there to find out.

We saw a bunch of these web traps. Not sure what kind of spider this is and none of us were willing to stick a finger in there to find out.

A lot of lechugia is going to have to be removed to clear this trail.

A lot of lechugia is going to have to be removed to clear this trail.

Near the junction with Hitt Canyon trail (the one used in the Puzzler) with a view to the east.

Near the junction with Hitt Canyon trail (the one used in the Puzzler) with a view to the east.

This is going to be an awesome trail, but it’s going to take many volunteer hours to get it finished in time for next year’s Puzzler.  Anyone who puts in time on this trail will definitely be rewarded with an excellent trail.

We were thoroughly impressed with Robert’s driving skills.  He took his jeep up Hitt wash past the trail.  He then came back and put his jeep on the edge of the wash at the trail junction.  For a video of him getting off the edge, click here.

The BMBA is hosting a poker ride on the 17th of May.  I’ll have more details next week.  Our regular club ride is this Sunday at Heinrich.  8 am….new time to beat the heat.

This Saturday I’m doing a slaughter fest in the Franklins with 3 trips up to Mundy’s Gap in the plan.  Start at Heinrich, bee line up to Mundy’s, clockwise around big loop in park on west side, back up Mundy’s, down the middle road (past the tires) to Mad Cow, back on Sotol, Scenic Rd back up to Mundy’s, turn around and head back to Heinrich via Stan’s and whatever else I feel like riding.  I’ll be caching some water on Scenic.

Hopefully hit Heinrich by 8:30 am.  Let me know if you want to join me for some or a all.  Jen’s going to try to hang on as long as possible.  I’ll be rolling gears and big tires.

The last two weeks have been CRAZY!  The IMBA crew came to town….with pretty short notice in my book.  But no biggie.  We adapted and the members that came out learned some new tricks.  We also learned that we should slow down a bit on our building and work harder to build trail better. 

The best part is that the city of El Paso wants to build trails in their city parks.  They have one park that is just primo for it.  We’re going to do some flagging this Sunday.

But tomorrow is all about making Mad Cow as fast going up as going down.  If you live in El Paso and haven’t ridden Mad Cow…..well….you’ve been missing out.  It still needs some love.  I got some new toys and I’ll be giving lots of trail love tomorrow.  I spent an evening fixing up the bob to hold the toys.  I had to bust out the tiny wheeled circus bike since my bob doesn’t have the 29er friendly attachment.  A few minutes with a jigsaw and a door knob drill bit, and I got this sucker dialed.

p3060033        p3060034       p3060035      p3060036

p3060037      p3060038      p3060039

It’s over 12 feet long all together.  I picked up an Italian Grape Hoe that is super comfortable to swing.  It will work well in softer conditions or for roots that need to be cut.  I tested it out in the garden and it’s like a hot knife in room temp butter.  I gave the handle a bit of protection with an old Nevegal.  We’ll see how that works out.  I also picked up an extra long Mattock.  My other Mattock is super burly, but it’s heavier and has a super short handle.  It works well in the steep terrain when working on bench cuts, but Mad Cow is kind of flat. 

Of course the trailer has room for the McLeod.  I also fashioned a little water bottle holder for extra fuel by cutting up a water bottle and taping it to the trailer.  The fuel bottle fits in nice and snug.  In the bag I have long pants, face shield, hat, gloves, a file, and the chainsaw attachment for the Husque.  I can’t wait to put the blade that’s mounted up now to the test.  I’m not sure I’ll use the chainsaw blade.  It’s for big stuff.  Mad Cow has mostly little stuff that likes to grab your arms and feet.  I’m just hoping my ghetto carpentry skills hold up and the back board doesn’t break.  I took it on a test ride on the trail by the house.  Everything seemed ok but I decided to put the padding in there to protect the Husque.

So tomorrow will be about 45 minutes of road to the trails….another 30 or so to Mad Cow.  I’ll spend an hour or two on Mad Cow, then ride some more.  Then head back home.  Hopefully it will hold up.  Check back for photos of either disaster or pure trail love bliss.

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.