The El Paso Puzzler….. Solved?
Mission Impossible ….take two boys ages 11 and 9 and enter them in a TMBRA Endurance Series Race, The El Paso Puzzler. What…!! Ask them just complete the race, but as the race ends you find they were super competitive in this 35 mile version of one of the toughest courses in the Country.
RESULTS 35 miles/3500ft 56 racers Men’s Open Class Field
13th Place 11 yr. old Jake 4 hrs 45 mins 21 sec
14th Place 9 yr. old Nye 4 hrs 45 mins 56 sec
Here’s their story!
Yackle Brothers Racing Team members, Jake and Nye have etched their mark as top national junior XC MTB racers over the last 3 years, winning National Championship Medals (Gold, Silver, Bronze) along the way and dominating their peers! Challenging themselves seems to be the only logical course for these two top athletes.
In their hometown of Cortez, CO and the Corporate Headquarters of one of their most supportive team sponsors, Osprey Packs they start their MISSION! They completed their exemplary 2011 XC season, their training started at the Phil’s World Trail System in late Fall 2011. Over three consecutive days Jake and Nye tested their metal, completing 30+ miles each of those days. They proved to themselves they had the fitness to step up their racing game another notch. Confident that the Puzzler was not only possible, but was a race they were legitimate threats to their competitors they pressed on. Over the remainder 2011, and as the January 15, 2012 race date approached, they trained daily with passion and commitment. Two weeks before the race they made their finishing efforts. Two days of 30+ miles on the High Desert Trail Gallup, NM, followed by 2 days in Moab, UT to complete some long miles on some of the technical trails at the Moab Brands and Klondike Bluffs Trails systems.
They were trained and ready!
4 A.M. Thursday, Jan 12. The day begins as we start our 8 hour trek to El Paso, TX. Bikes, bike and camping gear stowed securely in our Yakima Rack n Roll Trailer pulled by our fully loaded VW Jetta TDI Wagon we press on to fulfill the MISSION! Our plans were to get 3 pre-rides in before Race day, to add to our knowledge about the Franklin Mountain State Park bike trails and race course. Two years ago, on our way back from San Antonio, TX we stopped at El Paso and rode the northern section of the Lower Sunset Trail-rocky and rugged! Today, we expected to uncover some kinder, gentler trails to go along with this trail! What is the rest of the Puzzler course like?
3 P.M Thursday, we ventured out from the Tom Mays Park, on the Westside of the Franklin Mtns. Under cloudy skies and bristling, cold winds we began our preparation on the southern section of Lower Sunset Trail. The expectation of some rolling and flat trails was soon dashed. Rocks of all sorts-loose, embedded, round, jagged, limestone, granite- this isn’t what we expected on the trail. As we continued we found it had steep climbs and descents as it followed the contour of the Franklin Mtn. drainage washes. We told ourselves, Oh well! There’s tomorrow’s trails! Should find some relief there!?
Jake exclaimed after the Race:
“Lower Sunset’s brutal, rocky climb offered up a huge group of Racers. We destroyed them in short order! Nye dug deep and put out like a Pro. That fired me up!”
Friday, waking up to an icy, but welcomed sunny morning, we moving our race camp over to Bowen Ranch, the Eastside of the Franklin Mtns., the site of the Race Venue. There we continued our pre-ride regiment. Today’s MISSION! Mundy’s Gap, the signature climb of the Puzzler, a 1500 foot climb topping out at 5875 ft. We rolled out of race camp, on the Lazy Cow Trail, a crushed granite, singletrack trail on a flat, creosote bush, strewn plain, we were stoked! Flowing and fun!
Nye chirps after the race:
The trail was fun, fast and flowing. That refreshed my spirit for what was to come! Next, shredding Mundy’s Gap!”
We quickly hit the Tin Mine Rd. double track, that marked that our luck was to be changing! Looming in the distance we could see the switchbacks that was Mundy’s Gap. A couple of rocky miles of moderate grades gave way to long stretches of 15 % grades, maxing at 21%. These types of trails were more suited to Mountain Goats and Big Horn Sheep. As Colorado kids, Nye and Jake are growing up on these kinds of trails in the San Juan Mtns. They hit the Mundy’s climb and appear to soar up the old road like a raptor floating on thermal drafts seeking its prey! A more difficult climb would be harder to find, but this is the rarified air where these amazing kids excel! On the summit we could only peer down the descent. We thought of the warnings we have been told of a even steeper, scree field descent! Descending and reclimbing wasn’t an option in the preparation plans, as 16 miles and a major climb today was plenty of riding for the day. A restful late afternoon was what we all craved!
Nye exclaims after the Race:
“Mundy’s Gap was set up for us! We blew past racer after racer. Preparation pays off! We knew we would kill it!”
Sunrise, the day before Race day. We had one more goal, to check out the newly completed Sotol Forest Trail en route to Hitt Canyon Trail and North Pass Summit. This traced the start of the race and the return route, too. A mile and a half of rocky roads and we jumped on the Sotol Forest Trail, known for it’s Sotol Yuccas lining the trail and the hillsides in plentitude. The 600 feet of climbing, roughness and newly tilled narrow nature it possessed was sure to break up the starting pack of over 150 racers. Descending 200 feet off the summit to the Hitt Canyon Trail we hoped for some more of that flowing and fun, but short Lazy Cow Trail. Not! What we found was the toughest singletrack yet. Hitt Canyon Trail was like a mine field of embedded granite and limestone rocks, mixed into the pebbly, dirt soil. The chunky trail undulated up and down around Sotol Yuccas, drainages, and rock outcroppings for several miles as it made a sporadic ascent to North Pass. Like yesterday, today’s 17 mile pre-ride loomed sufficient. We were very content looking down at 15 switchbacks on the singletrack up the Westside of North Pass. We contemplated the advice that several were unrideable. Race day would have the Yackle Brothers climbing up this little Devil! Today we just ate our lunch at the Summit, which marks the 27 mile mark of the course. Retracing the burly Hitt Canyon Trail and Sotol Forest Trail would complete the final 8 miles of the 35 mile race course and today’s pre-ride.
Says Nye after the Race:
“Those trails after the burly North Pass climb were rocky, chunky, gnarly and punishing. I sucked it up and pumped myself up for the intense trail ahead. Trail knowledge kept us off the dirt and in the front of the Race!”
Returning to our Race Camp we began the last phase of our Mission. We learned from our pre-rides, that a race speed of 7 mph would probably be all that they would muster on this brutal race course. Finally, Jake and Nye needed to prepare for being out on the Race Course an estimated 4.5 to 5 hrs. Thankful, their hard training was now a comforting fact because they would be racing 2.5 times longer than any other Race they have done. As a reference, their races at USA Cycling Nationals were between 30 and 45 minutes long. Checking bikes, race clothes, packs for readiness for the 8:00 A.M. start. Extra bike parts and tools, full water bags and Honey Stinger gels and bars to provide 150 calories every ½ hr were essential! Ready to GO!
Says Jake after the Race:
“The Osprey Raptor Hydration Packs were flawless! They stowed our gear, quenched our thirst and kept our confidence raging!”
Nearing 1:00 P.M. on Race day Jake and Nye finally appear at the top of the hill just before the Bowen Ranch Finish Line! Showing the toughness of this course, the winning elite racer had an average speed of a mere10.46 mi/hr. We were proud that Jake and Nye were able to record an average race speed of 7.26 mi/hr!
“Whew! I’m done. So proud, yet so tired. I conquered the Puzzler! People congratulated me, I’m stoked! Food at last!
Crossing the Finish Line makes me so happy. Boy I’m ready for some food! Great Race and people let me know!
Mission Impossible, Mission Accomplished is now the reality!
Yackle Brothers Racing…….…..The Puzzler Solved!
Great Raceng Boys!