The Los Ancianos MC (Spanish for “the ancient ones”) once again welcomed riders into northern Baja California, Mexico, December 2, for their annual event, the 2017 Tecate Enduro
Some 75 miles of gnarly, rocky, fresh-cut single-track awaited, and although the unusually warm and dusty conditions provided an additional element of difficulty, the challenging terrain provided an epic day of racing (or in most cases, sheer survival).
In the end, GasGas rider Noah Kepple was able to emerge victorious after a daylong battle with Justin Morgan and Eric Yorba. Kepple was excited to claim the Tecate Enduro win two years in a row,
“Back to back! I’m really excited to come across the line with the win and to go two years in a row,” Kepple said. ““Los Ancianos down here puts on a really good course for all us to test our skills on. So having it be so rocky definitely played to my advantage. It was an awesome day.”
Kepple and his dad had quite a bit of modifying to do to his Gas Gas EC 300 before it was ready to take on the 2017 Tecate Enduro. No gas stop between the first and second loops (50 miles in total) meant he had to figure out a way to carry a lot more fuel than his stock 2.7-gallon tank would allow. Gary Kepple (Noah’s father) explained how he poured boiling water in the fuel tank and expanded it to 3.5-gallons (don’t try this at home!), then also affixed two liter bottles behind the number plate, and more in Kepple’s pack to go the full distance. The garage ingenuity proved effective, as did several other mods, which included a custom-cut rear tire, installing a radiator fan and fabricating a few copper cooling fins on the rear brake.
The preparation paid off, especially on the third Tecate Enduro loop, which put riders through the wringer.
“The third test was the typical Los Ancianos—they’re just testing us all,” Kepple said. “That was probably the hardest third loop that they’ve ever had down here, or that I’ve ever raced.”
The relentless tight trail littered with rock faces, hill-climbs, tricky descents and waterfalls dealt out a punishing day, challenging most to simply finish it, let alone race it.
Justin Morgan and Eric Yorba kept Kepple honest throughout the day, and the first two loops were fairly close, with Kepple taking the first and Morgan topping the second. The third didn’t start out so well for Yorba, who had a hard get-off in the first few turns.
“Unfortunately Eric had a decent crash in the dust and Justin had to stop for him for a little bit,” Kepple said. “That’s what’s so awesome about the sportsmanship down here. Justin is an awesome person and so is Eric.”
“He was fine,” Morgan assured. “I think he banged himself up pretty good, but it was really dusty.”
The dust made the starts all the more crucial, especially on the tight track where there was little room to pass in the first place. Jockeying for an early lead was key, and the trio knew they were in for some close racing when they were all put on the same row.
“They had us three on the first line, which was pretty cool,” Morgan said. “We were definitely expected to have a close race. It was a lot of fun.”
Morgan had less than an hour on his new Honda CRF450RX coming into the race, but put in a solid effort to claim second overall, about six minutes behind Kepple in the end. Yorba’s crash in the final test took its toll, and although he soldiered on, he yielded the final podium position to Dustin McCarthy, ending his day fourth. Fifth overall went to Kevin DeJongh, who was the first Open rider.
Kellon Walch made the top-10, finishing ninth overall as first Vet finisher. Alexander Smith raced the event yet again, this time with the support of his father Malcolm Smith, who made the trip to Baja for the race. Another notable finisher was Larry Roeseler, a former champion of multiple Los Ancianos Tecate races. “LR” took on the 50+ class and nearly won it, but yielded the lead to Grant Palenske on the third loop.
Full results from the 2017 Tecate Enduro will be available at http://www.losancianos.com/.