Joe Martin and I were meant to be good friends, but now we are on some rocky ground.
It is a 4 day stage race, named after a certain Joe Martin, which takes place in the lush foothills of the Ozarks. It has been a NRC race for 8 years.
It takes place around Fayetteville, Arkansas. It took me the whole 7 days of being in Fayetteville to learn how to spell it, and a good 3 days to be reminded that Arkansas’ abbreviation is AR, not AK. If you are trying to find the weather for Fayetteville, AK–no such place exists. The last time that I had visited Fayetteville, I was playing a tennis match against the Razorbacks. I think we won that match. Take that Joe Martin. I used to be able to play tennis better than you.
We drove to Fayetteville from Silver City. Yes. Drove. And you thought your life was glamorous. Finished up an 80 mile race that ended on a mountain at 8000 feet in the snow, and then got in the van and drove to Albuquerque (also learned how to spell that one). I played tennis in Albuquerque a couple of times as well. On the initial part of the drive, we repeated some of our race routes from THE Gila, and I was actually able to appreciate the high desert of the Gila National Forest. Oh, it was pretty there. Don’t remember that from the race.
We have also taken to referring to THE Gila, as THE Gila. Something that immense deserves a well placed article in front of it.
After 7 hours at a hotel, all 4 girls in one room, we drove through the rest of New Mexico (which was not as exciting as the first part of NM), Texas (I lived there once), Oklahoma (Texans don’t usually like Oklahoma, but the state never did anything to me), and then into RKansas. It was very Grapes of Wrath. A mechanic, a soigneur, a DS, and 4 professional cyclists piled into a van, a trailer, and a Volvo. We were a convoy averaging 60mph. We were so fast.
Upon arrival into Arkansas, we were greeted with everything good, warm and green. Everything that Silver City did not have, Fayetteville had in wonderful excess. Silver City had one Sonic. Fayetteville had many. Silver City had a Walmart, Arkansas is the home of Walmart. Most importantly, it was GREEN and WARM and HUMID. The rolling terrain didn’t include any 9000ft mountains to climb, any severe wind warnings, and it has the greenest pastures I have ever seen. Our skin loved the humidity, the sun, and the sweat. We knew Joe Martin was going to be a good race. Besides, our host family had a trampoline and a swing set. That is the complete fun package. I loved Arkansas already.
The stage race started with a hill climb TT. The race bible said that it was a 2.5 miled (4k) uphill time trial, which averaged 6.8% grade. Liars. It was a .5 mile flat, and then a 2 mile climb averaging over 10%. It was 91 degrees and windy. I ended up 3rd in the TT, which put me 3rd in GC for the next stages! YeeHaw. MM was 4th on the TT, and AM was 6th. Team TIBCO rocking the top 10.
Stage 2 was a road race that finished with the nice uphill sprint right into downtown. The girls protected me, and we went for the stage. MM finished 4th, and I finished 6th. GC stayed the same. Stage 3 was a circuit. Crazy circuit with climbs, and descents, and more greenery. Sprint finish. MM finished 4th. GC stayed the same. I was still 3rd in GC heading into the final stage, a downtown crit. 1.5 miles. 13 turns. Hill. Sounded awesome. Turns out one of the corners was super slick and multiple crashes took place. After getting tangled up in one of those, I slipped down in the GC. It was a frustrating day in all, as MM was coming into the same corner last lap, and was involved in yet another crash. It wasn’t the bike handling, it was the corner. That corner was not meant for bicycles. The GC shook up, but AM took 3rd in GC and MM took 4th.
Joe Martin was a rollercoaster of a stage race. I was elated to be in the GC position, and excited to produce results for Team TIBCO. Good thing we have a strong team that if what you plan for and expect doesn’t happen, like is sometimes the case in bike racing where anything can happen—we can back each other up. I love my team. A good group of hardworking, understanding women.
Joe Martin was a success in many races, and also a little disappointing. A podium is nice, but a win is even better. Although at first glance, Joe Martin and I were supposed to be destined, I am not so confident of that anymore. However, maybe I will give him a chance next year to make it up to me.
Two short hours after the crit, MM and I found ourselves on our next adventure and hopping on a plane. TUCON conference for TIBCO, then next week the Tour of California!
Goodbye Arkansas. Thank you for being warm, green, and having BBQ.
Joe Martin, I am not speaking to you yet, but give me time. I might come around.