Lauren Stephens wins women's GC at Joe Martin Stage Race
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Marlies Mejias (Virginia's Blue Ridge-TWENTY24) won stage 4 at the 46th Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race on Sunday. The Cuban rider won the sprint to the line ahead of Skylar Schneider (L39ION of Los Angeles) and Sarah Van Dam (DNA Pro Cycling) in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Lauren Stephens (EF Education-TIBCO-SVB) finished fifth in the criterium finale and secured the overall title ahead of Emily Ehrlich (Virginia's Blue Ridge-TWENTY24) and Emilie Fortin (Cynisca Cycling).
“It was amazing. I started racing my career here at Joe Martin in 2009, maybe in the [cat] 3/4 race, and I won there. I won a couple of other times but it’s been a long time so I’m really excited,” Stephens said.
The final stage of the Joe Martin Stage Race was a 16-lap criterium held on a technical 1.2km course with an uphill finish in Fayetteville. With only four riders left, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB was able to protect stage 2 winner and overall race leader Stephens on the tricky criterium.
“My team just rode incredibly today. We weren’t able to start with Emma [Langley] today, there were four and we rode like there were seven,” Stephens added.
Active throughout the stage, Ehrlich easily claimed the first sprint for points and bonuses ahead of Schneider and Stephens.
With 10 laps to go, time trial winner and revelation Alia Shafi (Fount Cycling) took a flyer to collect the first QOM points and was joined on the next lap by Schneider hunting for points. However, after splitting the second intermediate points, the duo was reeled in soon after under the impetus of the DNA-led field.
Lap after lap, the pace ramped up dropping riders off the back in the largest women’s field to compete at the 46-year history of the Joe Martin Stage Race.
The field was all together with two laps to go, with L39ION of Los Angeles, EF Education-TIBCO-SVB, DNA Pro Cycling and Miami Nights trying to get control to organize for the expected bunch sprint.
Mejias outkicked stage 1 winner Schneider and best young rider Van Dam for the victory.
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