After spending time with the Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling Team in Arizona, I was anxious to get to another race to support the team. As my work trips finalized for March, I realized that I would be in Houston just as the Joe Martin Stage Race kicked off in Fayetteville. Instead of going home on Thursday night, I grabbed a short flight to Arkansas to catch the last 3 stages and flew home on Monday.
While the team stayed in host housing, Cathy (Cotton Sox Photography) and I shared a room at the Comfort Inn. It was close to midnight on Thursday when I arrived, but Cathy was still up editing photos so we caught up on Stage 1. Our UK powerhouse Claire Rose was 4th in the 3 mile uphill time trial behind UHC's Ruth Winder in 1st and two Tibco riders rounding out the podium. Cathy finished up her edits for the Team and Cycling Illustrated, then we crashed after a little more chit-chat knowing we had a long 3 days ahead of us.
My assignment on Friday was to support our soigneur Erin in the Feed Zone. We left the hotel in the van, topped off the tank, and went to the host house to pick up the riders. Cathy was shooting both the men's and women's race, so she took Zippy (our rental car) to the Men's Start. It was great to see the riders again and catch up on their last month of racing and training. The Women's Start was an hour drive on a windy road and although we had some close calls, nobody got carsick. The guys (Scott, Jerome, David, Jason) had arrived much earlier to secure a spot and prep the bikes. Erin and I spent a little time with the team, but took off before the start in order to drive the course and get to the Feed Zone. Instead of jumping in the van, I offered to drive one of the RTO Team cars back so they wouldn't have to come back later.
|Stage 2 - Pre Race|
|Always looking pro and representing the team sponsors|
|Heading to the Feed Zone in the RTO car|
The Feed Zone is a fun and important assignment with its own culture and hierarchy. There is also a lot of pressure to make sure all the riders can grab either a water or mix at race pace. Erin and I split up and did our best to get everyone covered. Once the riders came through, we followed the race back to Fayetteville, then found the team near the finish. The race radios didn't work, so we were dependent on twitter, text, and occasional glimpses of the race from the vehicles. Once the team arrived for warm down, we learned that Ruth won Stage 2 and Claire grabbed another 4th, keeping her 4th on GC.
|Feed Zone Selfie|
|Stage 2 - Post Race|
One of my other "jobs" was to send Alex a race report to use in the Team's FB Post since he was working in Europe. Once we got back to the host house, I knocked that out and ate a late lunch. I still had time to ride, so went to the hotel to grab my Ritchey Breakaway and we realized that the derailleur hanger was bent. I called and visited bike shops with absolutely no luck. It was a bummer to realize I wouldn't be riding and had carried my bike and gear across the country (and to work meetings) for nothing. Oh well, there was plenty to do to help the team.
|Host House Neighborhood - Speed Tables|
Friday evening, I ate at the house with the team and attended the team meeting which is a unique experience and I'm thankful to be included. Cathy and I retreated back to the hotel for laptop time and a little wine to celebrate the day.
The Start/Finish on Saturday for Stage 3 Road Race was in Fayetteville and just a short drive. Cathy and I took Zippy from the hotel, stopped for breakfast, and arrived just before the team. We celebrated Jen Luebke's birthday before the stage and then she celebrated by suffering in the break along with Mindy McCutcheon.
|Stage 3 - Pre Race (Zippy in the background)|
Happy Birthday Jen!
|Number 3 behind UHC and Tibco|
|My roommate Cathy - so pro in her moto outfit|
|Up in group to talk to Anna|
|Jason rocking the Feed Zone|
|Erin doing it all in the Feed Zone|
I didn't see the finish, but Mandy Heintz was our top finisher in 6th and the GC stayed the same with Ruth in 1st and Claire in 4th. The riders quickly warmed down, cleaned up, and returned to the house to eat and recover. We went back to the hotel once things had settled at the house then Erin, Jason, and I went to dinner while Cathy edited.
|Stage 3 - Post Race|
|Team Car Dashboard Notes|
|Claire doing an Interview at end of Stage 3|
Sunday was the final stage and an afternoon crit, so I had time in the morning to walk while Cathy continued editing. I also made a food and wine run which proved difficult on a Sunday in a dry county. Surprisingly, I wasn't the only one at the liquor store in Arkansas at 10am on a Sunday morning.
We met the team near the Start/Finish in another great parking spot and next to a coffee shop. The weather was threatening, but it stayed dry until the women's race finished. I decided to take video and got snips of each of the 16 laps (youtube links below). Claire rallied the troops prior to the Start and the team delivered. Claire finished in 2nd on the Stage behind Ruth and moved up to 3rd on GC! The team headed out to catch flights in good spirits, while I stayed to watch the men's race while Cathy worked it. We were soaked by the end and quickly drove back to the hotel to warm up.
|Stage 4 - Jerome hard at work, as always|
|Pre Race Strategy Session|
|On Video Duty - check out all the videos at end of post!|
|Scott, Claire, and Jason waiting for the Podium|
|Cathy shooting the Men's Race|
|Coffee Shop - Spent a lot of time here during the Men's Race staying dry and keeping Cathy hydrated|
I picked up the remaining team members at the house for a celebration dinner while Cathy edited, then picked up Heather for a fun evening at the hotel. Monday morning came very quickly and we were off to the airport to work/edit before our flights. It was a lovely weekend with great friends and an amazing network of women's cycling. Next up for me is hopefully the Amgen Tour of California. Some of our riders raced in Alabama last weekend and next up is Tour of the Gila.
|Celebration Dinner - Jen, Jerome, Claire (missing everyone that flew out Sunday evening)|
|Sunday Night Hotel Celebration|
|Home from 4 States in 2 Weeks|
My photos are so amateur compared to Cathy's, so check out her amazing work on Cycling Illustrated and the Team's FB page (plus my race reports).
Joe Martin Stage Race: Stage 4 Crit Videos
Lap 16 - Finish