Every April, the Joe Martin Stage Race rolls into Fayetteville, bringing with it close to 1,000 cyclists and team support from all over the States and the world. For four days, top cyclists battle it out for points and claims to fame and for pride in themselves for finishing one of the most grueling qualifiers for the Tour de France. This year, the race began on Thursday, a gorgeous WARM day, but with some seriously strong headwinds blowing out of the south. Also, for something new and "fun", the race directors had the first leg of the race (a mere 113-miler for the elite amateur men) finish uphill on top of Mt. Sequoyah, a local landmark here in town and sporting some wicked twists and turns as you head up the drive.
What is is it with race directors in NW Arkansas placing finish lines at the top of a hill? It isn't just bike race directors either, running races have the same placement for finish lines, too!
Thursday, I took a shuttle up to the top of Mt. Sequoyah to shoot some of the race for myself, which is a real treat. I don't have to shoot every racer if I don't want to, I can shoot how and what I want, I can be creative and and play with composition. And I can leave whenever I want to, also. I enjoy doing that every now and then, helps to loosen up the juices and get them flowing again.
Due to the heavy winds, the finish was delayed by an hour, with the elite amateur men arriving an hour later than was expected, the pro women arriving an hour later than they were expected and the pro men, likewise. Nothing like riding headfirst into gusty spring winds to make you late.
I stayed for a couple hours, shooting over 500 photos, until my shuttle showed up to take me back to my car. I had a blast, even getting a small sunburn from the strong sun beating down on all the asphalt that covered the events' parking lot. The race finished up the final stage this afternoon, and now Fayetteville will quiet down until the next event comes along.
Quiet down and catch her breath.