Joe Martin Stage Race Preview: fierce competition, equal prize purses and live coverage

The longest held stage race in America runs May 19-22 in and around Fayetteville, Arkansas

L39GION leads out the 2022 Lion's Den
(Image credit: Getty Images)

After hosting the UCI Cyclo-cross World Championship in January, pro bike racing returns to Fayetteville, Arkansas, for the 2022 Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race this week.

Now in its 45th year, the Joe Martin Stage Race is America’s oldest amateur stage race with an esteemed pro history as well. This year marks the event’s 20th anniversary on the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour (PRT) calendar as well as eight years on UCI’s Americas Tour.

Previous winners include Neilson Powless (EF Education–EasyPost), Tyler Williams (L39ION of Los Angeles), Robin Carpenter (Human Powered Health), Lauren Stephens (EF Education - Tibco-SVB), Coryn Labecki (Jumbo-Visma), Ruth Winder (formerly of Trek-Segafredo), Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles) and Chloe Dygert (Canyon-SRAM).

Carrying a UCI 2.2 ranking, the Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race is one of just four UCI races left in the US, and is therefore a rare opportunity for riders to earn some coveted UCI points on US soil.

The Riders

Held May 19 through 22, the four-stage race will be contested by more than 200 professional cyclists representing 13 countries and 24 teams. Among them will be 10 current or past national champions. 

With just a few UCI races remaining in the US, the Joe Martin Stage Race is a rare and important opportunity for pro North American riders and team to earn some exposure.

L39ION of Los Angeles, Toronto Hustle, Team Novo Nordisk, Project Echelon, CS Velo, Best Buddies...all the top North American men's teams are slated to compete in Arkansas. With 19 pro teams on the start list, Joe Martin may very well be the best-attended race we've seen yet on US soil this season yet. 

Tyler Williams and the L39ION of Los Angeles team are returning to defend their 2021 victory, and will certainly be the ones to watch in the stage 4 criterium on Sunday.

Meanwhile, CS Velo will want to build on their success and last-minute upset at Tour of the Gila last month. This grueling five-stage race came down to mere seconds won in a bonus sprint by 2020 Everesting world record holder Sean Gardner (CS Velo). His teammate Xander White was a strong GC contender at Redlands in early April as well where he ended up in second to Tyler Sites of Project Echelon. 

Sites and his team gave an impressive performance at the Gila and will be the ones to beat in the time trial especially.  In the team's last showing, Project Echelon managed to place three of their riders into the top 5 on the TT stage. 

In the women's field, the EF Education - Tibco-SVB is showing up with a strong roster. The World Tour team is contesting races on two continents with half their team in Spain just finishing up Durango-Durango Emakumeen, while a mostly North American roster will compete at Joe Martin, including national cyclo-cross champion Clara Honsinger, Lauren Stephens, Emily Newsom, Sara Poidevin, Emma Langley and, the lone Brit, Lizzy Banks.

Competition for the GC will come from defending champion Skylar Schneider and her L39GION of Los Angeles team, which includes her sister Samantha Schneider, Alexis Ryan, Shayna Powless and Julyn Aguila. 

As crit specialists. look out for L39GION to steal the show on the final stage, though they will have fierce competition from DNA Pro Cycling.  The latter have Canadian sprinter Maggie Coles-Lyster in their midsts as well as Colombian national champion Diana Carolina Peñuela. 

InstaFund will be wanting to build on their victory at the Redland Classic last month, where their team captain, Heidi Franz, gave a dominating performance to win ahead of Erica Clevenger (DNA Pro Cycling) who will also race at Joe Martin. 

Skylar Schneider, formerly of Boels-Dolmans and now with L39ion of Los Angeles, won the 2021 Joe Martin Stage Race.

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The Courses

The 2022 Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race consists of two road races, an uphill TT and a criterium on the final day.

Stage 1: Devil's Den Road Race

Pro Men: 

A recurring course with a new finish for 2022, the Devil’s Den Road Race is a demanding 119-mile loop with some 7,300 feet of climbing. The course is undulating throughout but has a fast and flat 3K run-in to a slightly uphill finish.

A potentially race-defining feature comes 78 miles into the race in the form of a 9.2-mile stair-step climb. With an average grade just below 3%, the climb is moderate but could break some things up. 

Pro Women:

The pro women are given a brand new, and very demanding, course for 2022. The women will climb some 4800 feet over the course of 69 miles. Along the way, they’ll tackle a three-mile switchback climb with an average grade of 8%. The race shares the same finish as the men’s, which means that they too will have a fast 3K run-in to a slightly uphill finish into Baum-Walker Stadium. 

Stage 2: Mount Sequoyah Road Race

The second road race is again one with a lot of peaks and valleys. The races finish on top of Mount Sequoyah, which is advertised as a race finish “you will want to forget” with a “punch in the gut” starting at 2K to go. 

But even before that, the race courses are plenty hilly. The men will climb 7100 feet over 113 miles, while the women will nearly 4600 over just 67 miles.

Stage 3: Devil's Den Time Trial

A literal race to the top, the men’s and women’s contestants will tackle the same 3-mile uphill time trial in Devil’s Den State Park. The 700 feet of climbing has an average grade of around 5%. 

Stage 4: Downtown Criterium 

The event wraps up with a downtown criterium on a fast and technical 1.2-mile course. There’s an uphill section leading to the start/finish line that will challenge the field as the race progresses. Both the pro men’s and pro women’s races will be shown live.

Equal Prize Money

The Joe Martin Stage Race has historically hosted a near equal split in attendance of male and female pro racers. This year is no different as the field will again compete for an equal prize purse.

“We know that purses don’t match up at most professional races, even when female and male athletes are equally accomplished. That’s why we’re so proud to have a long history of elevating women in sport at the Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race,” said race director Bruce Dunn. 

Equal prize money will be distributed among the top 20 male and female athletes in the overall standings. As a bonus this year, the overall men’s and women’s winners will also receive a gold and diamond medallion, valued at more than $5,000 each, which are custom-made by a local fine jeweler. 

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

Cycling Weekly's North American Editor, Anne-Marije Rook is old school. She holds a degree in journalism and started out as a newspaper reporter — in print! She can even be seen bringing a pen and notepad to the press conference.

Originally from The Netherlands, she grew up a bike commuter and didn't find bike racing until her early twenties when living in Seattle, Washington. Strengthened by the many miles spent darting around Seattle's hilly streets on a steel single speed, Rook's progression in the sport was a quick one. As she competed at the elite level, her journalism career followed, and soon she became a full-time cycling journalist.