Saturday, April 20, 2013

Racing in the desert, close to the caverns

Arid landscaping around the Fairfield Inn, Carlsbad, NM
Just a week ago I was in the relatively lush rolling hills of Solavaca near Glen Rose and Cleburne, and now I am in the land of cacti, creosote, and ocotillo. Welcome to Carlsbad, NM, home of the eponymous caverns, and also home of the Carlsbad Caverns Cycling Classic, a two-day omnium that this year has attracted a little more than 100 riders from NM and TX—or about the same as last week's high school mountain bike race. Road racing is different from its dirt-based brother: Here we have to have lots of officials to monitor what's happening on the road, and we actually see the whole race from the vantage point of cars and in the case of moto refs, motorcycles.
Old-school moto ref Bill Bennett and I go back many events
My being here in Carlsbad is due to having met Pamala Thullen, the USAC regional representative for NM, at last year's Collegiate National Mountain Bike Championships in Angel Fire. Half a year later, she is my Chief, and I love every minute of being an Indian. It turns out that I am the closest official for this race as the drive from Albuquerque (where practically all the commissaires live) is close to 300 miles one-way, and I covered just 175.
As even Tecumseh used to say: A good-looking Chief is half the battle won!
We're done with the first day: No crashes, not protests, clean racing, and beautiful weather. OK, we could have done without the Lubbock-like gale-force wind that started kicking in around noon, but that's life in these parts. The fields were small ( I followed the Women's Cat 4 field, numbering six riders, three of whom were blown off in the first climb after just a few miles, so I watched the three leaders for the rest of the 2-hour race; later I got to watch the somewhat more-populated and -animated Men's Cat 4 race), the volunteer support stellar, and the ten-odd other officials a total pleasure to work and interact with.

The three remaining contestants in the Cat. 4 Women's field crest the final ascent
There was a enough time to look around, and since the race finished close to Carlsbad's Living Desert Museum there was ample opportunity to look at the dry stuff:
Cacti ...
... cholla ...
... creosote ...
... ocotillo ...
... and weird rabbits riding on turtles!
And so it's been another fine weekend doing something that I truly enjoy, with nice people. Actually, it's not a past thing yet since it is just Saturday night and we still have Sunday's races ahead of us. After our dinner at the Trinity (it may say fine dining on the menu, but it is Carlsbad, after all) I've returned to my room to finish off this blog post and get some good sleep. Tomorrow, we'll be on the course and at the finish line again.
No fancy banners as the wind almost flipped over the trailer
Thanks for reading.


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