Sandwiched by two beautiful Spring days, Sunday was cool, windy and gray. While many people would consider the weather a hindrance to cycling, fifteen teams of five cyclists met at Willow Beach Park along the Arkansas River near Scott, Arkansas to race in the cold wind on an overcast morning.
For the second year in a row, Justin Slarks, who many know from Chainwheel Bike Shop in Little Rock, has planned the Scott-Tucker-Scott Classic Bicycle Race. Billed as a “Gentleman’s Race,” even though several teams have female members, the S-T-S Classic is old school style racing. Each team of five leaves the start staggered in an order chosen by the organizers, “based on extensively researched algorithms.” This of course did not deter the majority of the teams from sharing concerns about their placement in the starting line hierarchy. The staggered start plan is structured so that over about a one hour period, teams leave in the order of slowest seed to fastest in an attempt to make all fair and to ensure that most teams finish the over 70 mile course at around the same time. This method also keeps the local residents from being freaked out by a pack of 75 cyclists riding down the small-town roads.
The first team left the park at 9 am with hopes of holding off the next teams for as long as possible. Before long all teams were on the road, heading north and passing Plantation Agriculture Museum State Park and eventually turning east on roads riddled with potholes and bike chasing dogs. By the time all the teams were out on the flat roads, some teams were showing the strength of well rehearsed team cycling while others were already splintering in the wind. Eventually the teams would turn south and head down long roads surrounded by open fields. Those teams who worked well together moved quickly on the smooth pavement.
Recent wet weather and a drying wind made the 11 miles of gravel at the southern end of the course more rideable than organizers and riders expected being more hard packed and less dusty than it is on most days. Back on the asphalt, the cyclists pushed themselves to draw out the teamwork they may have lost on the gravel, following the Arkansas River back to Scott and Willow Beach Park.
At the finish, the ride was celebrated with plenty of Whole Hog BBQ, beer brought by the teams, and an awards ceremony that involved cash and very small rocks.
The Scott-Tucker-Scott Classic is all about an unsanctioned, no course markings, no closed intersections, straight out old school style racing event. If you’re interested in this type of riding experience, watch for the announcement of the second annual Tri-County Shakedown, another Justin Slarks production, and if you’d like to do something that is a little more laid back, check out the Inaugural Little Rock Gran Fondo coming up at the end of May.
Results? We’ll post them as soon as we get something vaguely official from Justin. In the mean time, watch for all the photos that Cliff Li and I took at the race on our Facebook Page.