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Joe Martin Stage Race: Franz take victory at Mt. Sequoyah on day 2

Diana Peñuela and Austin Killips round out the podium.

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On the second day of racing in Fayetteville, InstaFund Pro Cycling’s Heidi Franz took the victory, after coming around the Colombian national road champ, Diana Peñuela of DNA Pro Cycling in the final meters of the stage.

Peñuela had hoped to repeat her win on Mt. Sequoyah from 2018, but after attacking at the base of the climb was just short on the line. With important bonus seconds available at the finish, Franz moved into the overall lead taking the jersey from L39ion of Los Angeles’ Skylar Schneider who finished 38-seconds down inside the top ten. Austin Killips of Team Wolfpack was third.

“This is my third time doing this race,” Franz said. “After that last QOM before the long run-in to the finish, it’s always really tactical and so we were happy to just keep conserving our energy. Tibco wanted to keep things going so we let them, it wasn’t our job to keep the pace high because we had lower numbers than they did. We were just staying really patient in that final.

“Maddy [Ward] and Izzie [Bertold] really helped me position well into that final. All I had to do was follow wheels in the end. I felt really good yesterday and I felt really good today and hoped that those good legs would stay around. I was really happy to have the last kick at the end there to come around Diana.”

InstaFund arrived in Arkansas after a successful start to the season after winning the Redlands Bicycle Classic with Franz and the sprint classification at Tour of the Gila with Ward. The GC has finished tight in the last few years, with the top ten finishing within a minute of one another. After the first two days of racing, 2022 looks to be the same. Heading into the short, 3-mile time-trial, the top three on GC – Franz, Peñuela, and Killips – are all within 10-seconds of one another.

“In the crit, there are several time bonuses available, but I think tomorrow’s time trial will be the most decisive,” Peñuela said.

EF Education-Tibco-SVB had been driving most of the race on Thursday, but only managed to slide inside the top ten for their efforts. They have three riders – Sara Poidevin, Clara Honsinger, and Emma Langley – in the top ten on GC, with Langley just off the podium in 4th, 13 seconds down from Franz.

The return to stage racing after several weeks of crit racing has proved to be too much for the legs of L39ion. Schneider finished 10th on the stage, sitting 43” down in ninth on GC as the team’s top finisher heading into the TT on Saturday. Sunday’s crit differs from a classic, flat, 4-corner style crit the squad has become accustomed to. However, the peloton is wise not to discount the squad of racing veterans ahead of Sunday’s finale.

The pro women will kick off the 3-mile time trial climbing up to Devil’s Den, Saturday at noon, followed by the pro men starting at 1:00 p.m. CDT.

Full results here.