The Joe Martin Stage Race will return to a regular time slot in late spring this season, May 19-22, with Walmart as the new title sponsor. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event’s expansion as a four-day stage race for professional men and women and its eighth edition on the UCI Americas Tour calendar.
The announcement follows the UCI Cyclo-Cross World Championships which concluded on Sunday in the same region of northwestern Arkansas, which was also supported by the retail giant. Race organizers said they would offer higher prizes to professional men and women, with equal payouts, although the amounts were not disclosed. They should also offer some type of live streaming for the races.
“We’ve brought the world to Arkansas for competitive road cycling for the past two decades, and now, with the support of Walmart, we can travel the world with live streaming and innovative tracking technology. “, Bruce Dunn, CEO of All Sports Productions which promotes and directs the race, said at a press conference Wednesday in Arkansas.
“The ultimate goal is not only to make the Joe Martin Stage Race the greatest competitive professional cycling race in North America, but it is my dream and I hope to elevate road cycling in the United States to the same level as most other professional races in the sport in our country.
Details on the four stages for men and women were not disclosed, except that the fourth and final day would be the Criterium Experience Fayetteville on May 22 in downtown Fayetteville. Traditionally, the other three days include two road stages and an uphill individual time trial at Devil’s Den State Park. Dunn said the time trial could be extended beyond the current three-mile length in the future, but would return to the same distance this year. He also said details on the live stream and results would be released at a later date.
“We’re able to offer a bigger handbag for men and women, and that’s something we’re very excited about. Internationally, the scholarships are not equal, but they will be at the Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race. So that’s another area where we can support women’s racing,” added Dunn.
“And when you do two races, two rolling speakers on the same day, you want to make sure you have the same assets and the same support, and now that’s going to be a possibility.”
Among the athletes who joined the press conference remotely were defending champions Tyler Williams and Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles), who took home the victories in the professional categories at the race in August.
Besides the five-day Tour of the Gila scheduled for April 27-May 1, there are only two UCI stage races on the US calendar this year. Last season both races moved their events to late summer due to ongoing health concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but this is ultimately the second year in a row that the Tour of Gila has been canceled his plans.
“Joe Martin is a very important race for me. It wasn’t until 2016 that I was old enough to do a UCI stage race, and Joe Martin was that first UCI stage race for me. It was my first podium in a UCI race, and it opened many doors for me and my career,” said Schneider.
“In August, we [L39ION of Los Angeles] were able to participate in Joe Martin, and it was my first overall UCI victory. So this race had a big impact on my career. And it’s inspiring to hear the focus he’s going to put on women in sport, in particular. Any role I can play in inspiring more women to ride a bike, whether for fun or for racing, gives me great satisfaction.
The Joe Martin Stage Race is the longest running and continuous stage race for amateur riders in the United States, attracting hundreds of participants over three days of amateur classes. Amateur and professional events will continue in 2022.
“Road cycling is the only discipline in cycling that doesn’t quite keep pace with mountain bike racing, gravel racing, BMX or cyclocross. The reason why it’s really difficult to organize road races, it’s difficult to organize stage races. It’s complicated,” USA Cycling CEO Brendan Quirk said in a recorded message for the event.
“Walmart’s generosity is going to ensure that this race can still be held in Northwest Arkansas, continues to be a true crown jewel of the racing scene, not just [for] Arkansas but really for all of the United States.
Quirk, who was named head of USA Cycling just two months ago, was previously a board member of BikeNWA, a nonprofit advocacy and education organization based in Bentonville, Arkansas. He was also Chairman of Rapha North America, which is headquartered in the same city. He said that back when he raced, the Joe Martin was his “A race” in training.
“The Joe Martin Stage Race is an iconic stop on the American bike racing calendar. It’s amazing to think of how many world-class professionals have left their mark on this race over the years,” Quirk added.
It’s been 33 years since there was a name change for one of America’s top stage races, which started in 1978 as the Fayetteville Spring Classic, then was renamed after the director’s death racer Joe Martin from cancer in 1989. The title sponsorship with Walmart was facilitated by the Ozark Outdoor Foundation, a charitable organization dedicated to creating healthy and rewarding outdoor experiences in Arkansas.
USA Cycling is supporting a national criterium series this year, the America’s Criterium Cup, with 10 events. It had not been announced if the Pro Road Tour would return in 2022 with other events.