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Celebrating its 20th year as part of the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour, the UCI 2.2 Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race will begin on Thursday, May 19. The four-day event will field both men and women’s teams celebrating a tradition of equal prize purses for both.
The new title sponsorship by Walmart has also afforded the race to provide a live stream for fans to watch Sunday’s crit finale, in downtown Fayetteville, on Global Cycling Network.
“Walmart’s partnership with Joe Martin Stage Race is a game-changer for our event,” race director and All Sports Productions CEO Bruce Dunn said. “With Walmart’s partnership, we will be able to not only grow the race in terms of prominence but to also upgrade key areas of the overall participant and spectator experience.”
As many as 15 pro women teams are expected to take the start. EF Education TIBCO-SVB is back after a strong showing at Tour of the Gila. Clara Honsinger, who just missed the overall podium last season, Elizabeth Banks, and current US National Road Champion, Lauren Stephens are on the start list. Emily Marcolini returns with her 3T/Q+M Cycling team, hoping to snatch the elusive overall leader’s jersey after her win atop the Gila Monster and leading the GC at Redlands Bicycle Classic.
DNA Pro Cycling will take the line, with Gila’s Best Young Rider Anet Barrera and also Maggie Coles-Lyster who returns after crashing out in the crit at Tour of the Gila. Look for the Specialized crit squad to be a heavy contender in Sunday’s finale. The ladies of L39ION of Los Angeles will be strong rivals, in their first stage race of the season returning with the Schneider sisters, Skylar and Sam, as well as Alexis Ryan and Shayna Powless backing them. Skylar is the 2021 defending champion. Other teams to watch out for include Fount Cycling Guild with Jennifer Wheeler, Instafund Racing with Heidi Franz and Maddy Ward, and ATX Wolfpack with guest-rider, Austin Killips, who finished third overall at Gila.
In the men’s race, 18 teams are planning to race, including both Wildlife Generation and Team Novo Nordisk fielding full squads for the first time in the U.S. this season. The men’s pro peloton will include a mix of both road racing and crit-focused teams. CS Velo will arrive after their surprising upset at Tour of the Gila, winning the overall with Sean Gardner, and Xander White who led Redlands Bicycle Classic. Project Echelon will be hot on CS Velo’s wheels with both Tyler Stites and Stephen Vogel looking to continue their success from Redlands and Gila.
Best Buddies Racing will arrive in Arkansas after a successful slew of races, recently, at Speed Week. While they are primarily crit-focused, don’t be fooled. The Florida-based team has a strong roster filled with stage racing veterans, including Ruben Companioni, Bryan Gomez, Michael Hernandez, and Alfredo Rodriguez. Their crit-racing team rivals L39ION of Los Angeles and Miami Blazers will join them, including Jonathan Brown and Frank Travieso for Miami, and Mexican National Road Racing Champion Eder Frayre and Tyler Williams for L39ION.
Other teams to watch out for include the Canadian squad Toronto Hustle with Matteo Dal-Cin after his four-second GC loss at Gila. Yoeleo Test Team will race for their first time in Arkansas with Andre “Toby” Røed, Gila’s stage 1 winner. Canel’s ZEROUNO will be a no-show due to track racing conflicts, but their compatriots from Mani Zabala-Jagafa will race, including Mexican veterans Jose Aguirre Infante and Nacho Sarabia.
Racing begins Thursday with Mount Gaylor Road Race for the UCI men’s stage 1, a loop that starts and ends in Fayetteville. The pro men will stretch their legs on a 119-mile course that includes more than 7,300 feet of climbing. On a slightly different course, that includes the same finish, the UCI women’s Arkansas Tourism Devil’s Den Road Race will see them racing 69 miles with 4,300 feet of elevation gain. After both a category 2 climb and an intermediate sprint near the second half of the stage, the final 2 miles are expected to be fast with a new, very slight uphill finish before awarding the first jerseys of the race.
A similar loop is set for day two — the Mount Sequoyah Road Race — with the UCI men starting first to face 6,499 feet of climbing with three intermediate sprints, two KOM’s before completing the 103-mile stage. The UCI women will set out 45-minutes later, racing 61-miles with 2 intermediate sprints, and 2 QOM’s. Both finish atop the category 1 climb up Mt. Sequoyah.
The GC contenders will be eyeing stage 3’s time trial, set on a short 3-mile point-to-point course, finishing with about a half-mile and 700-foot climb to the finish. The UCI women will start at 14:00 local time, followed soon after by the UCI men. The sprinters and crit specialists will be waiting eagerly for Sunday’s grand finale, set on a unique eight-corner relatively flat course. Important time bonuses are on the line, with for available for the UCI men, and three for the UCI women.
Last season both the men’s and women’s final GC podium were all within a minute of each other. L39ION’s Tyler Williams won by a mere five-second margin ahead of Gage Hecht (Aevolo) and Oscar Sevilla (Medellín). Both Aevolo and Medellín are not returning. Four out of the top five pro women on GC last season will be taking the start, with spectators expecting a hotly contested four days of racing!
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