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Hi, I'm Whitney! I am a middle of the pack runner who discovered the fun of triathlons in 2009. Join me in my adventures in life and training. I run with the Rush Running team and enjoy the fun that comes with such a supportive group of friends who understand what running means to me. I'm newly discovering road biking and the fun that it entails.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Joe Martin Stage Race

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Northwest Arkansas rocks for many different reasons...one of which is the Joe Martin Stage Race.  Here is a brief description of this event which takes place in and around Fayetteville every year during Mother's Day weekend:

The Joe Martin Stage Race is part of the National Race Calendar (NRC) which is the pro and elite amateur cycling tour of USA Cycling. USA Cycling is the national governing body of cycling operating under the United States Olympic Committee.  More than $50,000 in cash and over $10,000 in merchandise will be given away over the four-day, four event Pro/Elite category and 2-day, 3-stage amateur category races.  Over 700 athletes from 19 countries and more than 45 states attend the race.

This year I went down with friends to watch the Criterium on Sunday which is the last event of the stage race.  The pros race for 90 minutes on a loop course that is 1.4 miles of tight turns, fast downhills, and uphill climbs. It is really neat to watch the line of pros navigate the course... especially the turns where the smell of brake pads tends to fill the air and carnage is sure to be seen at least once or twice.  We were still finishing lunch when the pro race started but had a good view of one turn from our table at US Pizza.  As typical, the service was slow...but the food was good.  We had to beg for some crackers and ranch to tide us over while we waited for our orders!

Sorry, their yellow shoes were cracking me up!
Especially since most of this team was wearing red socks.
After finishing up with lunch, we headed down Dickson to a turn at the bottom of a fast downhill section of the loop.  By this point in the race there was a breakaway of 4 riders and Floyd Landis (probably the most well-known name competing this year) was working hard to catch the breakaway.  We stayed at this spot for a few loops.  We then moved down towards the next turn and I was able to get a picture of Floyd working hard between the main group and the breakaway.

Floyd Landis working to catch the breakaway.
We got to the next turn in time to see someone being loaded onto an ambulance and shortly thereafter another crash.  We learned from friends at this spot that they had seen at least 5 crashes during just the pro race alone.  We kept moving and eventually made our way to the finish.  There were a couple of bell laps where the lead rider could earn a small cash bonus.  I was happy to cheer on the Team Garmin Transitions rider who was in the breakaway group.  I think he managed to win a couple of the bell lap prizes.  I really started liking Team Garmin Transitions last year during the Tour de France.

With just a few laps to go, the breakaway group lost 2 riders to the pack and the pack significantly closed the gap.  The final sprint to the finish was really exciting to watch as the pack pretty much swallowed the lead racers.  I caught another picture of Floyd finishing up with the pack and thought it was funny that the announcer thanked him as he crossed the finish.  It was a great event and I wish more people would come out to support these racers.  We are so truly lucky to have such an amazing race in our backyard. 

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