Miguel Ángel López returns to US at Joe Martin Stage Race

 Miguel Angel Lopez (Medellin-EPM) wins stage 1 of the 2023 Tour of the Gila at Mogollon
Miguel Angel Lopez (Medellin-EPM) wins stage 1 of the 2023 Tour of the Gila at Mogollon

Miguel Ángel López's season of exile from the WorldTour will continue at this week's Joe Martin Stage Race in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

The Colombian was sacked by Astana Qazaqstan in December over alleged links to a doping scandal and has filed a wrongful dismissal appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

In the meanwhile, he has had a successful season with Team Medellin-EPM, racing alongside fellow WorldTour refugee Oscar Sevilla. He won the overall Vuelta a San Juan, the Colombia time trial title, the Vuelta al Tolima, the Vuelta Bantrab and the opening stage of the Tour of the Gila.

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López crashed out while leading the Tour of the Gila on stage 2 after hitting a pothole on a descent. A week later, however, he was back in action at the UCI 2.2-ranked Tour de Catamarca in Argentina.

Team Medellin is one of 20 teams entered in the four-stage race along with the Tour of the Gila winner Alex Hoehn (Above and Beyond Cancer), Redlands Classic winner Tyler Stites (Project Echelon) and another ex-WorldTour Colombian, Sergio Henao, who is competing with the Denver Disruptors in the National Cycling League this season.


The women's field is also packed with talent, including Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Valente, Redlands winner Emily Ehrlich, Pan American road champion Skylar Schneider, criterium champion Kendall Ryan and last year's overall winner of the Joe Martin Stage Race, EMmal Langley (EF Education Tibco).

The race begins with the Devil's Den stage (146.2km for men, 109.1km for women), which is typically one for the sprinters. Stage 2's Mount Sequoyah stage is considerably shorter than previous years, down to 143.9km for men and 107.1km for women and is the first stage that produces major overall classification gaps.

Saturday's uphill time trial is just 4.84km long but steep and difficult, while the race ends on Sunday with a tricky criterium that has eight turns and a small hill before the finish.