[Photo Fayetteville Flyer]
Last weekend, Northwest Arkansas’ brand new junior development cycling team, Breakaway Cycling, took on the challenge of competing in the Joe Martin Stage Race, an event consisting of 3 races over the course of 2 days.
Despite my excitement and preparation for this event, my weekend started off a bit shaky. The first race was a 2(ish) mile, uphill time trial, and for whatever reason, my performance fell pretty short of everyone’s expectations: leaving me 8 seconds behind the race leader as we prepared for the second stage of the race.
The second stage was the 45 mile road race which featured plenty of hills. Despite the course being quite well suited to my riding style, and the great support I received from my entire team, strong representation of other teams insured that I would have no success establishing a break that would allow me to make up time on my general classification (GC) rivals. The race ended in a bunch sprint, leaving Breakaway Cycling back at square one: still trailing first place by 8 seconds. With less than 25 minutes of racing left in the weekend, closing the time gap seemed unlikely at best.
The only feasible way to move up in the GC at this point was to win the third and final stage of the race: the criterium. Crits are not my specialty, so a win on this technical course would require the undivided efforts of my whole team and then some. That’s easier said than done after having already completed two hard races on the previous day. But no matter. The whole team arrived to the Fayetteville Square Sunday morning with sore legs and high spirits. The first few laps of the criterium went by quite quickly as my teammate Sam Meullenet kept the pace high from the front of the group. It wasn’t until three laps to go, however, that we really made our move. It all started with a killer effort from Jacob Mantey which stretched out the whole field and put even the strongest riders in difficulty. Immediately after Jacob’s effort, Sam attacked just before the start line and created the winning break. Despite these two great efforts, the race leader was able to find himself in the front group, and the chances of finishing the race more than 8 seconds ahead of him were slimmer than ever. With one lap to go, I almost hung up my helmet, but a few quick words with Sam reminded me of everything my teammates had done for me, not just over the weekend but all year. We came around the final corner and I was boxed in, nowhere to go but backwards and then around. I took a moment off the pedals then jumped out from behind the other racers as soon as I could. I was able to hold off the pack, and take the stage win and, by a mere two seconds, first place in the general classification thanks to the time bonus awarded to stage winners.
The Breakaway cycling team raced incredibly well together, and I can’t wait to see what the next few months of this season have in store for us.
Lastly, I’d like to thank our supporters at Custom Electronics, Cycling Performance Lab, Ozark Cycling Adventures, and The Bike Route for making this team, and this win, possible.