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Back in 2008 I thought I was going to attempt Tour Divide. I figured I’d kit up the Racer X and hit it, but I had never done any bikepacking and I was still ripping fast in XC races, so I put that idea behind me and never really thought about it again until a couple of years ago when I did the AZT 300 and CTR. I thought, “No way in hell would I do TD…..too much road. Yuck.” Then I started Nuke Sunrise and I started thinking about things I’ve accomplished….and haven’t. TD was back on top of the list.
At the start of last summer, I made the decision that 2014 would be my year for TD…..northbound as it would be stupid to fly my ass up to O’Canada just to ride back home to a place I prefer to escape every summer. Soon after making the commitment, I contemplated a new ride. I really wanted to do it on a Fargo style rig since JP’s last attempt was done on one and he mentioned that he had no hand issues during or after…..something I’ve been battling for a couple years. So I looked up some of my favorite frame builders….and saw that Walt Wehner of Walt Works had moved to Salt Lake City where I was visiting at the time. I made arrangements to meet up with him and I gave him a deposit….a whopping $200. Just before my Christmas break, he started building my frame….a severely upsized Fargo.
So all these build shots made their way into email and I was really hoping to have this beast ready to roll by the time I left for South Carolina, but that didn’t happen. It didn’t show up until a couple weeks ago. I got it built that night (despite over an hour spent rummaging for all the parts I needed) and rode it the next day to Mundy’s Gap….a burly rock fest of a climb. I cleaned everything up and down and was thoroughly impressed with the short stays and general fit. The ride down was a hoot on running a Knard 3.0 up front on the fat bike fork.
I ditched the Knard after one commute. Those things are tanks and I really am thinking speed. I think I can achieve plenty of comfort with a carbon fork and maybe 2.3’s front and rear. I think I may even ditch the Moxey post…..mainly so I can more easily run a seatbag. This bike is so comfy that I really don’t think I’m going to need it. I’ve got a Thomson on the way. I’ll put some miles on it to make sure. The Selle Anatomica is pretty sweet.
Eventually I got this thing made. What a freakin’ puzzle. Now I need to start working on the tanks that will bolt on to the top tube….and ride more.
I also bought this bad boy.
That’s a Shutter Precision thru-axle dynamo hub. I had it laced up in less than an hour to a Velocity Blunt SL (420 grams). This will be the first blunt I’ve ever rolled…..seriously. I’ll be charging batteries with this bad boy so the only batteries I’ll have to purchase will be AAA Energizer Lithiums to power my Spot….which I don’t plan on using 24/7 like other racers.
So here’s a run down of the build:
Walt Works frame
Salsa Enabler Fork (will upgrade to Niner RDO carbon TA fork)
Chris King headseat
DT Swiss 240 S rear hub w/ Stan’s ZTR355 rim
WTB SS rear hub w/ Stan’s 355 rim on the fat bike fork (will upgrade to SP Dynamo TA on Blunt SL rim)
Shimano Ultegra front shifter/brake lever
Shimano 105 10 speed rear shifter/brake lever
TRP Spyre cable discs w/ Yokazuma cables
Shimano XT 9 speed rear derailleur (new 10 speed dynasys won’t work with 10 speed road shifters)
Shimano XTR front derailleur
Truvativ X9 180mm cranks (28/42 rings)
Crank Bro’s Candy SL pedals
Sram 1050 10 speed cassette
105mm generic stem (upgrading to Syntace 100mm stem)
Salsa Woodchipper bars
Lizard Skins 2.5mm thick bar tape on with one layer of fake cork foam tape under the “tops”
Moxey Pro seat post
Selle Anatomica X seat
As for tires….right now I’m using some old WTB semi-slicks. For TD, I’ll use something like the 2.35 Kenda Slant 6 or the 2.3 Maxxis Ikon. Those are a bit bigger than what most guys run, but I do want some comfort on all that washboard.
Currently, my during the week training consists of riding it like this.
I’ll post more after I get the new fork. I ordered an orange one, but when I pulled it out of the box, I saw it wasn’t even close to matching and Jen thought it was pretty lucky. So I’m sending it back for a black one. It will drop some weight for sure. I’m more curious as to how it will feel. I’ve never ridden a carbon mountain fork and my road bike fork is 14 years old so I really have no idea how it’s going to feel.
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.
Last night I packed up the bike I call Lazy Lightning for a test run in the Franklins. Temps were going to get down to just above freezing and high winds were expected. It rained all day, and I was kind of hoping to get a bit of rain just to see how my gear would do but it didn’t happen. Despite having the messiest garage in the world, I got everything packed and said goodbye to the family.
Connor’s been a bit under the weather, so leaving the family alone may or may not have been a good thing. He sure was happy to see me this morning though.
I headed up the new Sotol Forest extension with plans of camping in a flat spot just over the pass. It wasn’t that big of a deal considering that my bag is a synthetic 30 degree mummy that compresses down to half it’s original size and that I used a mylar/bubble sheet windshield reflector for a pad. I dealt with it and got probably 8 hours total.
The ride up had some mud in spots which is really rare in the Franklins. I knew riding it in the morning would bring a grin.
My Nemo Gogo was perfect despite not having the foot pole or the pump. I’ll have to rig the a pump up using a bike pump, but I’ll have to get my metal shop to machine down a presta valve that will fit in the little hole.
Next morning I dealt with more wind than I wanted to and packed everything up to ride some trail. Sotol Forest is one of the rockiest around so off I went. I stopped by the old mining equipment for some chocolate covered coffee beans then headed over to Gellman’s.
Gellman is the only guy I know of in town that does custom sewing. I wanted to see what stuff he had in hopes of maybe not having to make another costly order to complete the other bags I want to make. His setup is totally sweet as he’s got a dedicated room with lots of shelves full of lots of webbing, velcro, elastic, thread, etc. Of course, he’s a war fighter making a little extra off the war fighting community so all of his stuff is some sort of camo. He’s also rockin’ a servo on his machine so I wanted to check it out. He’s got a nerf football stuffed under the treadle to keep things under control. Great idea and it may be working better the foam padded stop I have set up. I need to toy with mine a bit more to get it dialed.
I’m really stoked about the way my frame bags turned out. I’ve got some refining to do on the handlebar set up and I want to make some feedbag style holders. Some people asked me if I’d be willing to make bags for them. The answer as of now is “not yet”. Give me a couple more months so I can finish the things I need for myself before I attempt something for someone else. When I do farm out my skills, it will be for the frame and gas tanks to start. They’re not too hard to make.
Anyway. It’s getting cold here finally and we may finally get our first freeze. I picked these beauties before covering as much up as I could. If I can get some in next week, that will be 4 Decembers in a row that I’ve picked tomatoes.
Well….the racing season finally started. After a couple of low key endurance events, I officially kicked things off with a win at the NMORS#1, the Coyote Classic here in El Paso. There was a record number of racers. 268! 100 Cat 1’s! Unbelievable! And I passed more than 75 of those cat 1’s. Ridiculous. Or as I say when it’s REALLY ridiculous….ricockulous.
The Superfly100 was a beast today. Despite the cracked lower swingarm and the missing set screws on my YESS tensioner, it rode amazingly well in the rock gardens and climbed like a antelope!
I was sick all this past week and Jen was a trainwreck from a broken or displaced rib. I didn’t ride Monday through Wednesday and Thursday’s ride sucked. I was still coughing and blowing green shit out of my nose this morning on my warmup. Smartly, I did a long warm-up by riding from the house to the venue.
Needless to say, I’m very pleased with the start of my season. The Puzzler was a bit disappointing, but the bike didn’t fit and I used gears. What in the world was I thinking??!! I think I could have won SSUSA if I hadn’t lost my handup right after I got it. To put things together as well as I did today, I’m pleased. I won’t show my HR data as it’s way too impressive. I’d have to say that today was one of my best races ever….performance wise. Of course there were many national podiums that were more awesome, but my body’s performance today was exceptional.
As some of you know, I worked on a master’s in Ex Physiology for a while and I have never had my own coach. I found this blog post by Heather Irmiger to be pretty interesting. She has a degree in ex phys and isn’t down with the testing. Pretty cool. I like doing VO2Max tests, but they don’t really indicate much when in comes to mountain biking. Skill is such a huge factor and strategy is also big. Today I had a home court advantage. I felt great, and I stayed skinny this winter. I’m looking forward to a great summer!
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.
I’ve been wanting to pull off something brutal and fun this fall and I think I’ve got it. Am I a masochist?
Check it out here.
The course is going to be pretty sick.
I doubt it will include the new northern pass trail, but we’ll see. The current configuration goes over Mundy’s twice….once in each direction. This will be a good preview for the shorter Puzzler which takes place in January.
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?
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.
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.