EF Education-Tibco-SVB's Emma Langley took home her first UCI stage race victory at 2022 Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race after winning the stage 3 time trial on Saturday, and successfully defending her 27 second lead the next day at the downtown Fayetteville criterium.
Stage 2 winner Heidi Franz (Instafund) took second, 29 seconds behind, and Austin Killips (Team Wolfpack ATX) was third at 30 seconds after four days of hard racing in Arkansas.H
"It feels amazing. To be honest, it hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm really ecstatic," said Langley, fresh from a spring racing block in Europe. "US racing will always have a special place in my heart. This is just absolutely incredible.
How the Race Was Won
Stage 1: Skylar Schneider wins on a borrowed, too-small-for-her bike
L39ion of Los Angeles' Skylar Schneider claimed top honors in the grueling opening stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race after battling strong headwinds and 1,310 total meters of climbing. The conditions made the race a battle of attrition, with a reduced group of around 20 riders sprinting for the win.
Rylee McMullen (Instafund) took a close second, and Schneider's teammate, Shayna Powless finished third.
"It was a really tough race," Schneider said after the stage. "I think normally, when it's such a strong headwind, you expect to be able to be calm and hang out at the back. But it was pretty full gas from the start today. Everyone wanted to try and make or breakaway except us, who wanted a sprint, so we just had to cover the moves and be patient."
"I had to change bikes with my sister at the base of Devil's Den climb. I had a flat at the worst time, and we're different sizes, so I had to finish this stage on a really small bike, but I'm just grateful that we made that decision when we did, and I could finish it off. And also, I wouldn't have the chance for a sprint if Alexis and Shana weren't chasing the breakaway, so a big thanks to the entire team."
The Mount Gaylor Road Race obviously suited Schneider, who won the Joe Martin opener two years in a row. She said she felt good, despite the hilly course being a shock to the legs coming straight from the Speedweek criteriums.
"It feels good (to win two years in a row)," she said. "I think because it was such a hard race. It feels even better, and yeah, I'm still at a loss for words. And I'm excited to now try and defend the jersey these coming days."
Stage 2: Heidi Franz (InstaFund) seizes her chance
Instafund's Heidi Franz proved to be the strongest on Stage 2's hilly Mount Sequoyah Road Race, passing Diana Peñuela (DNA Racing) in the closing uphill meters of the 108km stage.
The Colombian champion made her move at the bottom of the final climb, but faded just moments before the line, allowing Franz the win and the precious time bonuses available, which boosted the Instafund road captain into the overall lead. Austin Killips of Team Wolfpack took third place on the day.
"For the first time ever, I found myself up in the lead group on that first kick and able to hang on," Franz said. "I was like, 'oh, okay, I'm still here. I'm still here. I think I can do this. Because like, I still feel a little bit of kick left. I think I got it.' Diana Peñuela instigated the sprint, but she went a little bit long for a hilltop finish. I stayed patient, used the wheels that followed her and then came around and just had enough kick to get to the line.
"I'm super happy," Franz said. "I've always been afraid of this stage, because I knew I could do well on it. And it was just a matter of having all the right pieces, the confidence, the right legs on the day and the right team around me. Today was all of it."
Franz would start stage 3 with a nine-second advantage ahead of Peñuela.
Stage 3: Langley storms to victory
The Devils Den Time Trial played a major part in shifting the GC's top five after Emma Langley stormed up the 4.8km course to take the stage win and overall lead from Franz.
The EF Education-Tibco-SVB rider clocked a time of 10:47.25, giving her a 27-second buffer over her closest GC contender, Austin Killips. Killips took second with a time of 11:17.39 and Langley's teammate, Clara Honsinger finished third in 11:26.16.
"Time trials are definitely my strong suits, and when they're going uphill, that's even better," the 26-year-old American said. "I was actually really stoked and surprised to win last year and this year as well, so I'm proud to put together a good race. I wasn't expecting that. I spent all summer racing in Europe, so I did a little bit of tried and true racing into fitness, so I was pleasantly surprised with how I felt.
"It's my third time coming to this race and my first time in the pink leader's jersey. The goal was to get the jersey today and successfully defend it in the crit."
Stage 4: Crit came down to a bike throw
Skylar Schneider (L39ion of Los Angeles) was denied a second stage victory in the downtown criterium finale after an upset by Canadian sprinter Maggie Coles-Lyster (DNA Pro Cycling). Schneider had to be content with second, while her teammate, and lead-out, Shayna Powless finished third.
The race was aggressive, with plenty of attacks during the 31km criterium. Still, with EF Education-Tibco-SVB set out to defend Langley's 27-second lead, nothing was allowed up the road for any duration. Langley finished the race safely in the pack to take her first-ever UCI stage race victory at Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1