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Joe Martin Stage Race Begins Thursday In Northwest Arkansas

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- More than 750 cyclists will be racing the roads in Northwest Arkansas for the 39th annual Joe Martin Stage Race, which started Thursday (April 21) in Devil's Den.

Thursday's event included timed trials for the men's and women's pro and elite classes in what's become known as the "race of truth."

"[It's] just very hilly," Australian cyclist Michael Rice said. "Get ready for the hills."

This is Rice's first time in Arkansas, but he's not the only one coming from afar. The competitors are representing 23 countries and all 50 states.

Annie Byrne, who is visiting Arkansas for the first time as well, traveled for the race from Chicago.

"It doesn't look like this in Chicago," she said. "Right now, buds are starting to come out, but spring has not hit."

Byrne said she's looking forward to meeting people from all over the globe who share her passion.

"That's the great part about racing is that there's so many like-minded people you get to meet and chat with and rehash after the race," she said.

Byrne said she's also been enjoying the climbs the area has to offer.

"Especially being from the Midwest, we don't have a lot of elevation," she said.

The race at Devil's Den consists of climbing three miles out of the state park on a new course and although the ascent is challenging, the cyclists said it's worth it.

"People are all lovely," Rice said. "It's really, really pretty. I'm impressed with the scenery."

Events will be held through Sunday.

Friday's course will take cyclists out to Canehill on Highway 82, then down to Cedarville on Highway 59 and back to Fayetteville on Highway 71.

On Saturday, the race course consists of a loop north of Devil's Den through Prairie Grove, Hogeye and Strickler.

Sunday's race will take place in downtown Fayetteville on Dickson Street, West Avenue, Spring Street, Church Street, Mountain Street, Block Street, Center Street and East Street.