John Murphy Returns to Joe Martin Stage Race to Defend Title
The Joe Martin Stage Race, a staple on the US road racing calendar since 1978, will return this weekend to Fayetteville, Arkansas. John Murphy of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team won in 2015, and will be back to defend his title. The race is known for its friendly vibes and supportive crowds that line the streets to watch the action. Beginning with a new route for Thursday’s uphill time trial, the race takes on four days and four stages of racing through the beautiful Ozark Mountains. The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team will field both men’s and women’s squads with the intention of taking stage victories and, if the opportunity presents itself, an overall General Classification win.
Mike Tamayo, UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling General Manager, explains the decision-making that went into picking the 2016 team for Joe Martin, “we went with a sprint heavy team for this year’s race, to focus on both stage wins and overall victory. The new uphill time trial makes the course more suited for the punchy riders, and we hope to hold our own on the opening day and work from there.”
2016 Joe Martin Stage Race Men’s Roster
Joining Murphy on the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team will be current US National Road Champion Matthew Busche, who will look to prove his legs on the longer climbs of the weekend. New signing Ty Magner rode at Joe Martin last year with the Hincapie Team, and returns this year to build on his previous podium finishes. The workhorses of the team include Danny Summerhill and Brad White. White’s 100-km ride in the breakaway of last year’s road race was instrumental in holding onto Murphy’s overall victory. Team captain and excellent climber Jonny Clarke will make the calls on the road, and lend his efforts when the road tilts up. All-rounder Chris Jones and aggressive sprinter Carlos Alzate complete the well-rounded and powerful roster.
The women of the team have been abroad for most of the spring, completing their most ambitious European race campaign to date. Iris Slappendel, who led the team through the racing in Europe, will race Joe Martin in the role of road captain. Coryn Rivera will look to defend her stage victory on the challenging 63-mile road race, where she pulled out a commanding win in 2015.
2016 Joe Martin Stage Race Women’s Roster
Rivera will be joined by a mix of new signings and established racers. Lauren Tamayo will debut her USA Cycling Pro Criterium National Champion’s Jersey in Sunday’s final stage. Before that, Tamayo will be key player in bringing the sprinters to the line. Cari Higgins opened her season at the Sunny King Criterium last month, and will use her years of experience to guide the lead out in the fraught finishes the race is known for. New signings Hayley Simmonds and Shawn Morelli will both be racing Joe Martin for the first time, and hope to learn from the experience within the UnitedHealthcare Team, as well as push for their own results. Simmond’s riding style and time trial prowess suits Thursday’s uphill time trial, and she will aim to put herself in a strong position for the rest of the weekend’s racing. All-rounder Annie Ewart and time trial World Champion Linda Villumsen complete the squad, both in great form after the team’s heavy spring of racing overseas.
The racing takes place in and around Fayetteville over four days. Thursday’s time trial is hosted at Devil’s Den State Park, and features a brutal climb through the untouched deciduous woodlands that make the Ozarks such a prime tourist destination. Friday’s road race begins in downtown Fayetteville, and covers 64 miles for the women and 110 miles for the men. Over similar distances, Saturday’s race begins in Prairie Grove, AR, and uses the famed 23-mile Hogeye Loop for the bulk of the racing. The Wall, a short but very steep climb, will be the main hurdle to overcome for this stage. Sunday’s downtown criterium is the biggest draw for spectators, and will prove challenging for the riders after three days of racing. The course climbs up Dickson Street on each lap, providing enough of a challenge to split the fields and ensure that only the strongest survive.