Thursday, March 15, 2018

Arkansas Classic

by Austin Montalvo

The second race of the South Central Collegiate Cycling Conference took
place in hills of Fayetteville, a beautiful town in northwest Arkansas where bikes
and breweries are on the top of the to-do list.

Saturday morning kicked off with a beautiful 8.4-mile time trial. This route
followed along an ice-cold creek all while allowing riders to obtain a total of 501 feet
of climbing. Mother Nature started the racers off with temps in the mid 30’s and
head winds gusting up to 25mph. The concerns of the racers gradually disappeared
as the sun shone brighter and brighter, quickly warming up the day. The last quarter
mile of this race was a downhill sprint where riders topped out their speeds in
hopes of shaving time off. Arkansas’ own Joseph Pardue (University of Arkansas)
took the win for Men’s B cat when he came zooming past the finish line. He was
letting all the other racers know this was his backyard and by no means was he
going to let them win easily.

After the TT, racers had a lengthy break where they could regroup for the
afternoon road race. One team even enjoyed PB & J sandwiches while hanging
around in their hammocks all while basking in the sun. There were not many trees
around so they improvised and hung their hammocks between their vehicle and a
light pole. I was quite jealous of their setup myself. There was a lot of friendly
communication between teams as strategies and trash talk were exchanged for the
next event.

The road race began that afternoon with a 2.8-mile neutral rollout that
eventually merged into the loop that would be the race route. The loop itself was 12
miles long with about 657 ft. of climbing per lap! The amount of laps racers
completed depended on their category. Men’s D and Women’s C cat raced 2 laps;
whereas Men’s A raced 5 laps. That’s a whole lot of climbing! There was one
particular climb towards the end of the loop called Weaver Hill, which personally
made me doubt if I would be able to climb it and not fall over on my bike. There
were also sharp turns at the bottom of some descents that put the riders’ skills to
the test. Namely, turn #3 had racers jumping the ditch BMX style. Racers’ favorite
part of the road race was the 2.8-mile uphill commute back to the staging area after
the race was over. It was the icing on the cake and was Arkansas’ way of saying “Y’all
come back now”. Joseph Pardue obviously still had tons of energy from the earlier
event and showed everyone how to climb Weaver Hill as if he was on a motorcycle.
He took first place in his division for the road race as well, bringing much pride to
his school’s ranking.

The next day (Sunday) was the last race day of the weekend where riders
gathered to race the short, but fast crit course. The .5 mile course was held on the
University of Arkansas campus near the Agricultural complex. This course only had
12 ft. of elevation per lap (thank God!). This course required the perfect
combination of skill and speed. If you were too fast, you would miss the turn but too
slow and you would get left behind. The biggest thing about this course is if you
were not fast enough to stay in the lead group then you would get lapped very
quickly, and officials would pull you out so that you were not a hazard to other
riders or yourself. I raced all of 5 laps before the fast boys had already started
catching up to me thus I was pulled early and placed.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend for racing and the scenery along the
courses was gorgeous. This town is not short on things to do, and I highly
recommend stopping by if you’re in the area. Be sure to stop by the local bike shop
“Phat-Tire” and pet the cool dogs that are hanging out.