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Jonny Clarke wins stage 1 of Joe Martin Stage Race

Jonathan Clarke crossed the line solo, with teammate Noah Granigan next to the finish, giving the Wildlife Generation Pro Cycling Team a one-two finish in the Mount Gaylor Road Race on the opening day of the Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race.

Granigan took second from the three-rider chase group 34 seconds behind Clarke, while Tyler Stites (Project Echelon Racing) took the final podium spot.

"It's mainly a young team," said Clarke. "I’m the old statesman on the team, so it's nice when I get a result and I watch how excited the young boys get to help me out and I think it's also a good lesson for them in learning how to defend a race. So, we're looking forward to tomorrow, but I think Noah is more our guy for the GC."

After Stites, it was climber Sergio Henao who was the final rider from the chase group over the line, posting a surprise fourth place. The Colombian retired in March but returned to racing in Arkansas as part of a seven-rider squad Emanuel Ibarry 2NDBIKE. After nine years on the WorldTour level at Team Sky and UAE Team Emirates, he moved to Qhubeka NextHash in 2021, but could not find a contract when the team shut down in December.

The peloton was splintered as it crossed the finish of the 191.5km (119-mile) stage 1 which had 2,079 metres (6,823 feet) of elevation gain. The heat provided as much chaos as the climbing with temperatures rising to 31 degrees Celsius (88F) and winds blowing 24 kph, and higher gusts, in Fayetteville, Arkansas. 

"It was pretty windy all day," said Granigan. "Headwind for the first half and then kind of as we made the turn into the crosswind, things started to get a little more aggressive."

"It was a tailwind up Mount Gaylor, which made it pretty hard up the climb. And then we kicked things off over the top."

The field finished the day split into two main groups, with Scott McGill (Wildlife Generation) leading a bunch of 16 across the line in fifth place, 50 seconds off the winning pace of his teammate Clarke, who will wear the leader's jersey Friday for the Mount Sequoyah Road Race. 

"We've got to defend, I'm sure, " said Clarke, when asked what the plan was for the upcoming day. "You know, we've got first and second on GC, so it would be crazy not to want us together at the bottom of that last climb tomorrow. We’ll see what happens, but it’s always hard defending."

The race in in Fayetteville will deliver 181.5-kilometres (112.8-mile) with 1,863 metres (6,115 feet) of elevation gain before riders cross the line.

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Jackie has been involved in professional sports for more than 30 years in news reporting, sports marketing and public relations. She founded Peloton Sports in 1998, a sports marketing and public relations agency, which managed projects for Tour de Georgia, Larry H. Miller Tour of Utah and USA Cycling. She also founded Bike Alpharetta Inc, a Georgia non-profit to promote safe cycling. She is proud to have worked in professional baseball for six years - from selling advertising to pulling the tarp. She has climbed l'Alpe d'Huez three times (not fast). Her favorite road rides are around horse farms in north Georgia (USA) and around lavender fields in Provence (France), and some mtb rides in Park City, Utah (USA).

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