Preview: Arkansas’s Joe Martin Stage Race turns 40

750 racers from 27 countries and all 50 states expected at season-opening Arkansas stage race

Kicking off the 2017 USA Cycling Pro Road Tour (PRT), the prestigious 40th Annual Joe Martin Stage Race (JMSR) returns to the roads of Fayetteville, Arkansas this weekend from March 30th – April 2nd.

Launched in 1978 as the Fayetteville Spring Classic, the JMSR was renamed in 1988 to honour the late Joe Martin after his courageous battle and ultimate death from cancer. This year, more than 750 racers from 27 countries and all 50 states across the pro and amateur ranks will tackle four gruelling stages.

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“If you are a U.S. based rider, it’s your Super Bowl. Joe Martin starts it,” said race director Bruce Dunn.

An uphill time trial at Devil’s Den State Park will kick things off on Stage 1, featuring three miles of switchbacks at an average gradient of five percent.

On Friday and Saturday, both the men and women will take to the roads around rural Fayetteville, with 110 miles and roughly 6k feet of elevation gain, and 64 miles with 3,500 feet to be tackled for the fields respectively each day.

A technical and lumpy 1.2-mile-per-lap criterium course featuring a short, but painful five percent kicker each lap will finish off the racing weekend in the heart of the city on Sunday.

The men’s pro field will feature Ty Magner of Holowesko-Citadel (2016 USA Cycling PRT Champion) and Kiwi and former WorldTour rider Greg Henderson (now riding for the Pro Continental squad UnitedHealthcare). Also present will be the up and coming Rally Cycling team featuring the young climber from Colorado, Sepp Kuss, and Canadian Matteo Dal-Cin, who raced for Silber Pro Cycling last season and won the Redlands Classic in California.

In the pro women’s race, the 2015 USA Cycling Criterium National Champion Kendall Ryan (Team TIBCO – Silicon Valley Bank) will be leading a strong field of women including Erica Allar (Rally Cycling), Tayler Wiles (UnitedHealthcare) and Starla Teddergreen (Hagens Berman – Supermint).

All the riders descending upon Arkansas this weekend will be looking for success and points in the PRT standings at this UCI 2.2 race. Dunn is excited for the future of the JMSR, with the goal of turning the race into a statewide tour of Arkansas in the next three to five years. With the cancellation of both the Virginia Commonwealth Classic as well as the Philadelphia Cycling Classic, this could be a great opportunity for the growth of cycling in America.

“You are going to see some of the best athletes of the world. They train anywhere from 15 to 18,000 miles per year. I mean, they ride on their bicycles more than most of us put on their car,” Dunn said.