Racing bicycles on the road is different than most other events we cover. It’s actually more of a team sport than running, paddling or even trail running. Road cycling teams train together, working out strategies utilizing the strengths of different team members, sprints, climbers, workhorses; it takes all to get a single rider to the front of the pack at precisely the right moment to capture the win. To enter a road bike race, and we’re not talking about the tours and other fun rides, without a team to work with, sets yourself up for almost certain failure.
The Crosswinds Classic is much like a criterium race on a much larger scale. The 13.1 mile lap over the generally flat course leaves the wind and other riders as the main obstacles to be overcome. Distances are broken up by 26, 39, 52 and 65 miles depending on the category of the racer. Working within the peloton, riders vie for positioning, taking pulls on the front, protecting teammates, and blocking other teams as they make their way around the course. In the categories where the more experienced riders compete, some nudging happens as riders try to get past riders who attempt to hold other riders back. To be on the giving or receiving side of the nudge takes strong bike handling skills. In the less experienced categories, riding in the pack gets sketchy due to the lack of bike handling skills and the occasional risky moves by riders like hitting brakes in the middle of the pack, making a move to the outside without knowing where the cyclists behind them are, or not reacting fast enough to a movement in front of them. Here is a video from Saturday’s race showing what can happen. Thanks to David Clark for sharing his view: I have no idea what caused the first bike to go down but the second one is rather obvious. The ambulance came back to the finish line without a passenger and without a stop at the hospital so I assume all participants are okay, tough folks. The Crosswinds Classic course remained unchanged this year, taking cyclists through some of the oxbow lake country east of North Little Rock and north of the Arkansas River. Racers started with a neutral rollout from the Truck Centers of Arkansas parking lot at the Gwatney exit of Interstate 40 following a pace vehicle south until they pass Valentine Road heading East on Highway 70 and then the race is on. As they start out the pace is reasonable allowing everyone to get comfortable in their positions in the pack.
Just after passing Hills Lake, which I assume is a local family name as there is nothing resembling a hill anywhere on this course, racers turn south on North Walkers Corner Road. This section provides a few turns in the road as it
curves carves through local farm properties. Once riders pass Faulkner Lake Road they leave any protection from wind that they may have enjoyed in the early part of the course. They ride on open farm road, a perfect place for early attacks to begin as riders and teams test the resolve of the pack to hold everyone together. Another right turn on to Old Highway 300 brings the racers to England Highway and then a sharp turn North onto Baucum Road which turns into Valentine Road before crossing the finish line.
It’s a great venue for racing but tough for spectators. The finish line is on a farm road cutting through a working field and the only parking is along the side of the road. Some find parking near the truck stop and walk down with chairs to watch. As racers finish they move out to take over both lanes of the road and the sprint is on. If your team has a good sprinter who’s been protected throughout the race, meaning they still have strength left in their legs, the team can come home with a win.
The Crosswinds Classic is managed by DLT Event Management (client) and sponsored by Central Arkansas Velo in conjunction with USA Cycling. Watch for more great road cycling events coming up this Spring and Summer on our Calendar of Events.
A whole countryside worth of photos have been uploaded to our Facebook Page, please share, comment on, tag, download, whatever.