Cantrell's love of cycling began with his first bike, a used 24" Texas Ranger balloon tire bicycle he received as a Christmas present from his teacher, Mrs. Wendt, while attending fifth grade at Sacramento Elementary School in Alamogordo.

In 1968, Carl bought a new Schwinn Varsity ten-speed that he used for commuting around campus at the University of New Mexico, and riding around Albuquerque after classes and on weekends. It was his first road bike.

Back then, recreational cycling was yet to enter its boom years of the 70's, Carl wasn't even aware that bicycle racing existed and he had never heard of the Tour de France. So by May of that year, he went looking for a club to ride with so he could learn more about cycling.

Turns out at that time the only cycling club in the State of New Mexico was a racing club called the Duke City Cyclists. Carl joined the club and began riding his Schwinn Varsity on their training rides.

To their surprise he could stay with them on those hard training rides and it wasn't long before they had talked him into racing bikes. Carl bought his first pro road bike, a Peugeot PX10 and at only 19 years old, this began his bicycle-racing career. He was hooked for life.

By 1969 he had become the New Mexico State Road Champion, a title he retained through 1970. At the time he was still in college majoring in engineering, but now convinced that he wanted to make a career of cycling, changed his major to coaching.

His goal at the time was to race for a while, coach for a while, and then build a racing school for kids.

It was purely coincidence that the University of New Mexico had one of the best coaching programs in the nation. While working his way through college he found the time to continue racing, promote a number of races, and form two racing teams including one college program.

Carl's serious racing came to a halt following his marriage and the unforeseen medical problems his wife had within weeks of the wedding in late 1970, but he never lost his deep love for the sport of cycling. Even with these overwhelming personal responsibilities he was able to race on a sporadic basis while running training races and helping other racers get started.

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