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When a man reaches the age of 40 (or older) it is because he has learned several critical survival skills along the way. Things such as don't chew with your mouth open, put the toilet seat down, and don't play in the snow in thin clothing. On Sunday, a bunch of us over-40 Sports deliberately ignored that last lesson just to get the chance to show our competitors how tough we really are.

It was the annual pilgrimage to my favorite area race in beautiful Cloudcroft, NM. In this case, just an hour or so away from and 5000 feet above reasonable weather. The weather can be described in four words: wind, rain, snow, cold.

The rain started as I left Las Cruces for Cloudcroft and continued, off and on, most of the way. After getting there, the rain picked up and even gusted horizontal a few times while the temperature steadily dropped. A short time before the racer's meeting, it started to snow. It was freaking *cold*! This was going to be one of those races to talk about with our therapists.

The Sport's got off the line in a mass start, the mad dash to the singletrack ensued. I got a major hole shot until we hit the dirt road (about 100 yards), and then everyone and their extended families passed me without any effort that I could see. I must have pulled the whole bunch up to the dirt road by myself.

Fingers and toes frozen and hurting, I inched through the initial singletrack climb. The very first downhill, someone, "Roarin'" Richard R. I think, commented that my wheel was sliding all over the place on the descent. The next sound I heard was a thump from the rider behind me and someone asking if everything was OK. If that was you Richard, I will admit I couldn't think of any smart-mouth remarks to yell back at you being too busy stacking up traffic behind me by sliding downhill at 2mph.

I was too cold to even talk smack about other riders as they passed me while I cleaned the mud and slush off my glasses with completely soaked gloves. After an awful lot of hiking on the first two climbs before the Bailey Canyon road, I foolishly jumped into big ring to get past Monique G. on the road. A couple of pedal rotations later, I was back in the middle ring, struggling through the muck.

I did finally pass Monique, but my jittery mud-skiing through the meadows was slowing her down on the long downhill stretch to the start of the jeep road climb. Luckily, I lost control and went off the trail, allowing her to pass. After the turn up the jeep road, I got chain suck because of the mud. That's when "Smoking Man" Raymond P. blew by me, making some comment that I don't remember but I assume was a challenge to throw down.

I got back on that bike and did what I do best now that I'm in the sort-of-old-guy age group - I spun that hill for all I was worth, passing "Smoking Man" somewhere and finally passing Monique again near the top of the climb. I managed most of the climb after the cattle guard, but then two Beginners passed me, leaving me wondering if I was just being extra wimpy or if these guys were just fast. I settled for the "fast" explanation just to keep the old self-image polished.

The final climb up to the baseball field isn't really hard, but it broke me and I had to walk part of it. I crossed the finish line to discover my rear brake pads were worn down almost to the metal, and the front pads weren't much better. So it was a good thing that Sport's only did one lap, not two. Besides, "Smoking Man" was gunning for me and might have even beaten me given a second lap.

The real story of the race was Angie K. The Pro/Expert Women competition ended with Angie being the only one of four racers finishing both laps. Pro/Expert women are not quitters, so three racers DNFing tells you something about the harsh conditions.

The "Dude, You Must Be a Downhiller" award goes to the loco Crazy Cat Redd Rocks racer (sorry, can't remember his name) wearing only a summer bib in 30 degree weather with driving snow, rain, mud and slush. He didn't seem any worse for the wear after the race that I could tell, but he shoveled a rather large amount of buffet food down his neck at the next table.

This is probably the most uncomfortable race I've ever done, but now I know how I do in conditions I've never raced before, always useful knowledge.

Oh, yes. I ended up taking 6th out of 15 in my age group.
 

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I feel like I was there!

Great write up, it was a hell of an event, indeed. Which group was that? Sport 30-39? Seemed like the sport/beginner groups had more "stick to itness" and rode the event compared with us finicky expert/pros.

Socorro was very different indeed - report this evening!
 
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