With the hard training and solid group ride performances I had leading up to Joe Martin Stage Race, I wasn’t nervous about the race. Until Des pulled up in the Amy D Foundation team car to pick me up from arrivals at the Tulsa airport for drive to Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the race was going to take place. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea after all I thought.

I did my best to squash the doubt, which was easy with Des at the wheel. Thoughts of how all the women that would make up team Amy D for the race would mesh turned into knowing that no matter the outcome, this week would be one filled with memories. I was the first to make it to the host house, so I brought my stuff to the air mattress Des instructed would be mine and got to building my bike while we waited for the other ladies to arrive.

Tabitha was the last of the roster to arrive after a long drive, so the first night’s team meeting was kept short and more in-depth introductions were made at the next morning’s team meeting before heading out for our first team ride.

The seven of us, ten really if you include the staff, meshed instantly. Like the fluid rolling hills and beautiful tree-lined streets of Fayetteville, each of us seemed to get that we were all unique and together made even better. All at Joe Martin for our own reasons, we all got from the beginning we were racing as a team and representing Amy D. And we all wanted to make sure we accomplished this well, to make Amy D Foundation, each other and ourselves proud.

Stage one of the race was a grueling 68-mile race, counting the 6.1 miles of racing – I mean neutral rollout – before the race. Three of the team made it with the main pack, Christie finishing the highest with a top 10 result. Four, including myself, came in straggling behind, but each of us within time cut. Stage two was another 60-plus mile race, this time with five of us finishing with the main group and all within time cut. Of the five that were with the group, we all worked flawlessly as a team to help get Christie to the front of the race when necessary and our best to secure as high a finish for her as possible.

Stage three was all about ourselves with a three-mile time trial that we dubbed the climb trial. We all wished each other good luck before taking off to suffer up the switchbacks, giving it our best to have a good result among the other 90 women in the race. And while we all wanted better when it came to the final standings, we all made it to the final stage. Stage four, the last of the stages, was a furiously fast crit with a sharp uphill finish that only a third of the field finishes all 16 laps (most get pulled with a prorated finishing time). 38-degrees at the start, a drastic change from the 80-degree weather of stage one, racing – and trying to warm back up – started even before the announcer could get “start” out. Beth Ann was our highest finisher of the day, but again all the women of Amy D finished the stage and successfully completed Joe Martin Stage Race.

The best thing about the week, though, wasn’t necessarily the racing. It was the comradery of the seven of us that made up the team that week, the respect and compassion we had for each other to know when to give one of us time to sit with our performance if we weren’t happy. It was the ability to help each other on and off the bike, to laugh with each other, to cook dinner for each other. It was the ability to share one bathroom between the seven of us and not get on each other’s nerves spending five days in tight quarters. The best part was making friends with women who all share the same passion for bikes and racing bikes, knowing that when our paths cross again – whether racing on the same team or seeing each other at another race – will run up to each other with smiles on our faces to say hello and hug before we get on bikes and line up at the starting line.

The second-best part for me was stage two, where at the end four of us came together to help Christie get the best possible result on the day. None of us had to fight tooth and nail to get another to support the collective goal, it was just something we all knew and wanted to be a part of. Individually we all had our strengths and each of us could have performed well in the race, but together we were better. We not only shared a passion for bikes and a similar dream, we had brought more out of each other that I believe will carry on when the racing is done.

Without the Amy D Foundation, this experience wouldn’t have happened for me. And for that, I am forever grateful.

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