UnitedHealthcare, Tibco return to Joe Martin to defend 2015 success

Arkansas stage race is 4th event on USA Cycling Pro Road Tour

The USA Cycling Pro Road Tour continues this week at the Joe Martin Stage Race, a UCI 2.2 event in Fayetteville, Arkansas that runs April 21-24. This year marks the14th season for the pros at Joe Martin and the second year the race has been on the UCI calendar as a 2.2 event.

The four-day race is the fourth event on USA Cycling's new Pro Road Tour after the Sunny King Criterium and Fort McClellan Road Race in Anniston, Alabama and the Redlands Bicycle Classic in Southern California.

As a UCI race, Joe Martin is open to Pro Continental teams like UnitedHealthcare, and the blue-and-white squad will return to the scene where it had great success in the men's race last year, winning two stages and the overall with John Murphy.

Orgullo Antioqueño, the Colombian team that animated much of the racing last year, will not return in 2016, however, and with Rally Cycling choosing to race in France instead and Jelly Belly-Maxxis not on the start list, it will be up to the remaining Continental teams to take the fight to UHC.

Team Jamis, which won two stages in 2015, will be among the teams on the start line, along with Holowesko-Citadel, Axeon Hagens Berman, Lupus, Astellas and Team Elevate. Canadian Continental teams Silber Pro Cycling, Garneau-Quebecor and H&R Block are also on the provisional start list.

Stephens returns to defend her title

Although the UnitedHealthcare women won two stages last year, including sweeping the top four spots in the final criterium, it was Tibco-SVB's Lauren Stephens who took the overall crown. Both teams will return again this year, along with fellow UCI teams Colavita-Bianchi, Rally Cycling, Hagens Berman-Supermint and Visit Dallas-DNA Cycling.

Stephens won the Joe Martin Stage Race for the past two seasons, gaining her advantage in the opening time trial, but this year the organisers have changed up the route. The TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank captain is undeterred and even motivated by the new course.

"I'm excited about the new TT course," Stephens said. "I've previewed the course and it’s a very different climb than the previous years. The old TT was a steady climb where this one has a lot of steep pitches and even a short down hill."

Stephens will not have to face overall Redlands winner Kristin Armstrong, who will miss Joe Martin along with her Twenty16-RideBiker team. The Cylance Pro Cycling team will also miss the race after competing in Europe.

The Route

Stage 1: The Devil's Den Time Trial is a 4.8km lung-busting uphill sprint through multiple switchbacks on Devil's Den Road, which averages a 5 percent pitch. In 2015, Jamis-Hagens Berman's Gregory Brenes beat a trio of Colombians from the Orgullo Antioqueño team. In the women's race, Stephens beat former world champion Amber Neben (Visit Dallas Cycling p/b Noise4Good) and soon-to-be 2016 world champion Linda Villumsen (UnitedHealthcare).

Stage 2: Friday's road race take the men over 173.km and 1,645 metres of climbing, including a finishing straight with a 6 percent grade over the final 350 metres. The women will race 94km with 1,066 meters of elevation gain. In 2015, Murphy won the men's race in a bunch sprint ahead of Hincapie Racing's Ty Magner and Dion Smith. Leah Kirchman, riding for Optum at the time, won the women's stage ahead of Coryn River (UnitedHealthcare) and Mandy Heintz (Fearless Femme).

Stage 3: Saturday's Prairie Grove Road Race starts 19km west of Fayetteville and takes place on a 23km circuit that has 457 metres of climbing each lap. The men race 175km, while the women tackle 107km. Murphy doubled up on stage wins here last year, with his teammate Rivera claiming the women's win in Prairie Grove.

Stage 4: The final day's criterium takes place in downtown Fayetteville on a technical eight-corner, 2km course with a slight uphill rise to the finish. The women's 50-minute race starts at 2 p.m. The men's 85-minute race starts at 3. Sebastian Haedo (Jamis) won the day last year, but Murphy took home the men's overall prize. Scotti Wilborne led a UnitedHealthcare sweep of the top four stage spots, followed across the line by Ruth Winder, Rivera and Alexis Ryan in succession. Stephens' performance in the opening time trial proved to be the difference, however, as she won the overall.

After Joe Martin, the Pro Road Tour continues April 30 with criteriums in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Dana Point, California. The top domestic teams will travel to Silver City, New Mexico after that for the Tour of the Gila May 4-8.

Click here for the 2016 Joe Martin Stage Race start lists

2016 Joe Martin Men's Teams:
UnitedHealthcare Professional Cycling Team (USA)
Astellas Cycling Team (USA)
Axeon Hagens Berman (USA)
Cylance-Cannondale Pro Cycling p/b Incycle (USA)
Elevate Pro Cycling p/b Bicycle World (USA)
Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Sportswear (USA)
Team Jamis (USA)
Lupus Racing Team (USA)
Garneau-Quebeco (Can)
H&R Block Pro Cycling (Can)
Silber Pro Cycling (Can)
Bissell ABG Giant (USA)
Canyon Bicycles - Shimano (USA)
CCB Racing (USA)
Credité Velo Cycling (USA)
Elbowz Racing (USA)
Herbalife p/b Marc Pro - Nature's Bakery (USA)
Gateway Harley-Davidson Trek U25 Cycling Team (USA)
Support Clean Sport-SeaSucker (USA)
Team Arapahoe Resources (USA)
Team Novo Nordisk Development (USA)

2016 Joe Martin Women's Teams:
Colavita-Bianchi (USA)
Hagens Berman-Supermint Pro Cycling Team (USA)
Rally Cycling (USA)
Team Tibco-Silicon Valley Bank (USA)
UnitedHealthcare Women's Professional Cycling Team (USA)
Visit Dallas Cycling DNA Pro Cycling (USA)
Asahi Muur Zero (Jpn)
Canyon Elite (USA)
Chicago Women's Elite Cycling (USA)
Chinese Taipei (Twn)
Cyclery-Opus (Can)
First Internet Bank-Clarksville Schwinn (USA)
ISCorp p/b Smart Choice MRI (USA)
Orion Racing p/b K'ul Chocolate (USA)
OrthoCarolina Winston (USA)
Sun and Ski Elite Women Team (USA)
Weber Shimano Ladies Power (Arg)

Travis McCabe (Holowesko-Citadel) currently leads the men's individual standings of the Pro Road Tour, while Armstrong tops the women's rankings. Both leaders' teams also lead the team standings.

2016 Pro Road Tour Men's Indivdual Standings
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Travis McCabe92 pts
2Neilson Powless67 
3Matteo Dal-Cin60 
4Ulises Castillo52 
5Janier Acevedo Calle47 
Men's Team Standings
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team p/b Hincapie Racing173 pts
2Team Jamis125 
3Axeon - Hagens Berman85 
4Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis52 
5Gateway Harley-Davidson Trek U23 Devo36 
Women's Indivdual Standings
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Kristin Armstrong151 pts
2Mara Abbott108 
3Scotti Lechuga84 
4Amber Neben67 
5Leah Thomas67 
Women's Team Standings
#Rider Name (Country) TeamResult
1Twenty16 Ridebiker276 pts
2Rally Cycling174 
3Hagens Berman | Supermint Pro Cycling Team88 
5Visit Dallas DNA Pro Cycling63 

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