New Guy Initiation Week
Another year of First Internet Bank Cycling Team Camp is in the books. This year’s edition brought lots of changes for the team. We’ve got new equipment partners across the board, a small handful of new riders, and after back to back years of 40 degrees with lots of precipitation in our previous camp location of Asheville, North Carolina, we decided to move this whole operation to Fayetteville, Arkansas.
With some experience in Northwest Arkansas racing the Joe Martin Stage Race over the years, we’d gotten a small sample of what we could expect the riding to be like in the area, but had a suspicion that we were only scratching the surface of what Northwest Arkansas had to offer. Lucky for us, two of our new riders call Arkansas home, so we had our very own personal tour guides in Johnny and Tanner.
There’s currently quite a buzz around the cycling culture of Northwest Arkansas, and after last week, I think we’re all starting to understand what it’s all about. We stayed in a big Airbnb close to downtown Fayetteville and were able to navigate in and out of town without spending more than 30 seconds on a major road. The network of bike paths in kind of mind blowing, but is an absolute game changer for accessing all the riding in every direction.
On Saturday we hosted a gravel ride and a road ride from a local brewery (Apple Blossom Brewing Company) with the Fayetteville Wheelmen, and were treated to another day of sunny skies and 60+ degree temperatures. We split the squad amongst the two road distances and the gravel route. It was definitely cool to interact with the local community and get to field some questions on equipment, racing strategy, bike handling, among others. Once we were finished, we were able to hang out on the patio at Apple Blossom for a beverage of our choice (on the tab of Joe Martin Promoter Bruce Dunn… THANKS BRUCE!).
*I want to add a personal side note about this gravel ride and my new Cannondale SuperSix EVO. This thing is a Tour de France-bred road racing bike, but due to packing constraints for the trip, I didn’t want to have to bring another CX or Gravel bike, so I just slapped a set of 32mm tires on and went with the gravel group through some of that famous Arkansas rocky gravel, creek crossings and ripping descents, and she never batted an eye! I’m certainly looking forward to the diversity of this beast this year!
The last long ride day of the trip we decided to head out east of Fayetteville to an area called Newton County, where Johnny grew up. He spoke of “big climbs”, but in the middle of Arkansas? Surely not that big…
Straight out of the gate we were on a 10 minute climb, and although we had some quick ripping downhills sprinkled in, it seemed like the entire 100 miles was spent climbing (11.5k feet of it to be exact!). We wound our way through the Buffalo River National Park, up climbs as long as 25 minutes, and through awesome little towns like Jasper. It seems almost criminal to only spend an afternoon in this region.
Back in Fayetteville for the evening we replenished our souls with some Wicked Wood Fired Pizza and spent our last night hanging out as a group watching everyone’s favorite F1 documentary series on Netflix. With some people flying out early in the morning on Monday we had a diminished crew for our coffee cruise, but it was a good opportunity to ride through the University of Arkansas campus and check out the sights, as well as make a stop and local favorite, Onyx Coffee Lab.
Given the fact that we consider this team a family of people that occasionally race some bikes, we’re always a little apprehensive when adding a new person (or 3) to the dynamic. Lucky for us, all concerns were put to bed, and Tyler, Johnny and Tanner and just as weird as the rest of us. See y’all at the races.