Cyclists Ride Into Region As Joe Martin Stage Race Starts Thursday

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- Bicyclists will be riding into Northwest Arkansas this week as the Joe Martin Stage Race starts on Thursday.

The four-day, four-stage professional men's and women's cycling race also includes a two-day, two-stage amateur race. This year marks the 41st year the race is on the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) American Tour.

Carmen Newberry works with operations and volunteer coordination with the race and said they are expecting about 1,000 racers during all their events.

She has been with the race for the past four years.

Since then, she has seen quite a bit of change.

“We’ve really gotten to be known a lot more because we’ve become an international race," Newberry said. "So in the racing world, we are a very well known race. We tend to be one of the first races of the season. So it psychs the teams to get out and get started for their season.”

The race will take place on several roads and highways in and around Fayetteville, including South College Avenue, South School Avenue, 13th Street, Block Street, Meadow Street and 15th Street downtown, as well as U.S. 62 and U.S. 71.

The race will also follow portions of Arkansas 45, Arkansas 59 and Arkansas 170 to Devil's Den State Park, in addition to several county roads in Washington and Crawford counties. Amateur races will begin and end in Prairie Grove.

Drivers can expect road closures and traffic delays during the races. Race start times on Thursday start at 11:15 a.m. on Mount Sequoyah. Friday's races start at 10:45 a.m. in the Walmart parking lot on MLK Boulevard. Saturday's start times vary from noon-3:30 p.m. Sunday races have start times between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m.

Schedules and route maps are available on the Joe Martin State Race website.

The day before their first race, riders could be seen testing out the route around Mount Sequoyah.

Marc-Antoine Nadon did just that with his team H&R Block Pro Cycling.

Nadon, a Canadian native, explained their team was made up of people from all over the world.

He explained what their plan was to get ready for Thursday's race.

“Today it was just kind of roll around," Nadon said. "Maybe a few… an easy spin essentially with a couple of efforts to make sure the legs were still there but then we are probably going to roll over to the coffee shop downtown. I think its Onyx. One of the good local ones. So go to a coffee shop, drink a coffee, then go home, relax for the rest of the afternoon and get ready for tomorrow’s race.”

Samantha Bosco was also out practicing with her team the Amy D. Foundation Cycling Team.

She said there were some tough spots during the course, but she is trying to keep nerves out of the equation.

“I feel like nerves tend to not go well if you let them be too much," Bosco said. "So I just treat it as another training ride and I get to race bikes with my friends and be out here riding a bike in beautiful weather. There’s not really much to be nervous about I guess or try not to be anyways.”

Newberry said this event brings people in who then spend their money at local restaurants and hotels.

She said some have even come back with their families after the race is over because they love the area.

Thursday's race will end at the top of Mount Sequoyah where an event called Party on the Mountain will be held.