The team started the Joe Martin/Tour of the Gila double racing trip with a long drive across the country. We began our trip on Sunday, April 17th—leaving Berkeley, CA around 9am. Eight cyclists piled into the team van and we were off. The Joe Martin Stage race squad consisted of Sam Bassetti, Tim Rugg, Torey Philip, Matt Chatlaong, Willie Myers, Sam Cerruti, and myself. The van was packed. We divided the drive to Fayetteville, Arkansas in two 13-14 hour days. The First day we drove to Prescott, Arizona where Sam Bassetti’s brother Carlos welcomed us. A huge shout out goes to Carlos for letting us spend the night at his place and rest up for the next big day of driving. Monday we ended up making it to Oklahoma City where we decided to call it a day and get a hotel. During the long periods of driving in the van we all used the Marc Pro, and consumed plenty of Herbalife 24 hydrate drink mix to ensure that we were healthy and primed for the race; even after two days of travel. Tuesday we finished off the driving and made it to Devil’s Den State Park for an afternoon spin.
After our recon of the TT course in Devil’s Den State Park we made it to our Herbalife host house in Fayetteville, and our host Karina Rolf warmly welcomed us into her home. Wednesday we did our pre race spin, stopped at a local coffee shop, and checked out a local herbalife nutrition club/store. In the evening we met up with our director for the week Ryan Parnes for some pre race logistics.
Stage 1: Thursday Devil’s Den TT
The course for the stage 1 TT was 3 miles long, gaining 725 ft. in elevation, with an average gradient of 5%. The team decided that our trusty Giant TCR advanced road bikes would be the best bike for job due to the twisty climb included in the course. Everyone got in a good warm up before their start time and made sure to drink some H24 prepare, CR7 or lift-off. We topped off our energy stores with some nature’s bakery fig bars as well. There wasn’t much strategy to this first stage—just go as hard as possible to the top of the climb and then hold on and dig super deep for the last few minutes on the flat and downhill section to the finish line. The whole team gave it their all. Our best finisher was Tim, 40 seconds down from the winner with a time of 9 minutes 47 seconds. For me, a TT like this is always a huge learning experience. There is no better setting than a short intense tt to push limits mentally and physically.
Stage 2: Friday Road Race
Friday’s road race loop consisted of 110 miles, and 5300 ft. of climbing. The race started at a Wal-Mart parking lot in Fayetteville, and then finished with a false flat uphill drag downtown on Dickson Street. The teams strategy for the day was to get one of our sprinters (Sam B., Matt, or Willie) to the finish with a shot at a good result. Throughout the 110 mile stage we made sure to stay hydrated with plenty of bottles of cr7 from the car and that we were fueled by consuming massive quantities of Nature’s Bakery brownie and fig bars. We all helped each other out and made sure we were in good position at the right moments. The finish of this stage is super tricky with a sharp left turn into narrow and lumpy backstreets of Downtown Fayetteville with less than 2km to go. The team decided to get Tim to the front of the group by that left hand turn so that he would be in good position for the finish. Matt, Torey, Sam B., Ryan, and myself all worked to get Tim where he needed to be with a big push to the front right before the left turn. While the team didn’t execute a perfect lead-out, Tim still positioned himself into the last 2km with good positioning. Many of us never participated in a true lead-out before so this was a great learning experience. Tim ended up finishing 47th after getting caught behind a crash. Unfortunately during this stage we lost our fast man Willie due to time cut after he was dropped while dealing with asthma problems.
Stage 3: Saturday Road Race
For Saturday’s race we had a neutral roll out from the start/finish to a 23 mile hilly loop that we did 4 times. The plan for the team was to try and get in promising breaks, and be positioned well for the full gas climb every lap. I quickly found out at the start that my legs were pretty flat so each time up the climb it was a game of survival. Throughout the race we were all trying to get each other in good position so that we could have as much energy as possible for the finish. After the climb on the last lap, Torey, Tim, and I were the only guys left in the main group. We tried to stay patient and recover so that we could try a few off the front digs closer to the finish. The last few kilometers were very dangerous with wind, narrow roads, turns, and crashes. Those of us that were left in the lead group kept safe, and Tim finished off the day with a 15th place.
Stage 4: Downtown Criterium
Looking at the course, we knew this criterium would be tough. Eight turns, crosswinds, and a tough climb up Spring Street and Church Street made this crit one to remember. We all warmed up a bit on trainers before the start, and we made sure to try and get a good start position. For me, it was extremely hard to move up on this course, and I kept getting caught up in the “tail of death”. Being at the back of the race was extremely hard from getting repeatedly punished by the rubber band effect—sprinting to speed up and catch the field or slamming on the brakes as the field bunched up through a turn. Throughout the race it was a battle to get to a spot towards the front of the field where the pace was steadier. Many of us were popped and pulled a little over an hour into the race along with the majority of the field. Tim ended up finishing with the lead group—placing 13th on the day.
I would like to say thank you to our director Ryan Parnes for his hard work throughout the week. He was super positive and encouraging all week—we all enjoyed learning from him and having him as a director.
A huge shout out goes to our extremely generous and hospitable hosts Karina Rolf, Albert Campos, and Mateo. We really appreciate you guys hosting the team!
Overall, Joe Martin Stage race was super fun for all of us! It was a really great racing and learning experience for most of us who hadn’t done the race before.