Joe Martin Stage Race – Race Report by Matt Staples

Team newcomer Matt Staples shares his thoughts on the team’s inaugural race of the season.

On March 28th, eight H&R Block Pro Cycling Team (HRB) riders: Quinton and Peter Disera, Conor O’Brien, Jure Rupnik, Alexis Cartier, Marc-Antoine Nadon, Travis Samuel, and myself (Matt Staples) arrived in Fayetteville, Arkansas for the Joe Martin Stage Race. Each rider was meeting someone on the team for the first time as it was our first race together as a team.

Norco Bicycles getting dialled in. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography.

Norco Bicycles ready for action. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography.

After a couple days in Fayetteville, the team was well aquatinted and comfortable riding with each other.

March 30th – Stage 1 of Joe Martin Stage Race included a short uphill prologue. Everyone rode respectably with highlights by Travis finishing highest on GC in 26th only 31 seconds behind the lead set by former HRB member, Adam de Vos now riding with Rally Pro Cycling, and Pete Disera finishing 7th in the U23 Classification.

Peter Disera in the Stage 1 uphill TT. Photo Credit Stirl and Rae Photography

Peter Disera in the Stage 1 uphill TT. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

March 31st – Stage 2, a 176Km day in the saddle, was a cold start but warmed up quickly. Under the guidance of new Team Director Maxime Martin, our goal was to make the breakaway and keep Travis and Peter closer to the front of the race. Constant relentless attacks with an HRB rider in each move, but nothing stuck until the 60km mark where a group of strong riders including breakaway specialist Alexis Cartier managed to get a gap that would stick. The team boys let the Rally Pro Cycling Team hit the front to chase, but all 7 riders of HRB boys would stay right behind them safe and out of trouble. As Rally Pro Cycling reeled the breakaway back in with 14km left, the speed began to ramp up and the team lined up to lead out our two Disera brothers for the kick to the finish. In the final corners of the race, we began to get pushed back but Quinton charged his way through to lead Peter to a strong 10th place.

Alexis Cartier riding the breakaway on stage 2. Photo credit Stirl and Rae Photography

Alexis Cartier riding the breakaway on stage 2. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

April 1st – Stage 3 was a 4-lap lollipop style course. The goal of the day was to keep us safe and once again get into a breakaway. After Stage 2, a 3 second gap was opened by Gavin Manion of UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team (UHC) which would create a 3-way tie for the GC lead. A time bonus at 30km in the race would create difficulty for the HRB guys to create a breakaway. The speed and wind of the race created a strung out field that was tough for everyone. No HRB riders would make the breakaway, which was okay for us, as it would leave a full squad for the fast finish. After riding behind Rally all day yesterday, we wanted to ride as a team again, which was made difficult by an aggressive UHC Team. As the break was reeled back and the finish was approaching, Conor O’Brien and myself would bring the team train together to prep for the lead out for Peter. In the closing kilometres everyone had done their best and a valuable final pull by Marc-Antoine would bring Peter from boxed in at 30th to launch to a 7th place finish.

Conor O'Brien after a tough Stage 3 riding at the front. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

Conor O’Brien after a tough Stage 3 riding at the front. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

In the two road stages the team proved to be extremely strong and the best I had seen by a team yet. The team rode tremendously together and it is only a matter of time until we see some huge results.

Jure Rupnik warming up in his Rudy Project Racemaster helmet. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

Jure Rupnik warming up in his Rudy Project Racemaster helmet. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

April 2nd – The final stage would be a 1-mile (1.6km) crit course. The course included 8 corners, a fast downhill and steep punch to the finish. The goal of the day was to move Travis and Peter up in this decisive stage GC. A technical crit would blow the field apart. Rally Pro Cycling would need to bring back everything to keep the yellow jersey on the shoulders of De Vos. Robin Carpenter of Holowesko-Citadel Racing Team however would go on to a solo breakaway to steal the Yellow Jersey under the nose of Rally and UHC. Travis and Peter would hang onto the small group to finish with Travis finishing the stage race in 20th along with Peter remaining in his 7th place in U23.

Travis Samuel during the rainy Stage 4 crit . Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

Travis Samuel during the rainy Stage 4 crit . Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography

Each rider and the staff were extremely pleased with how the team rode together. The H&R Pro Cycling Team riders are gearing up for the Tour of the Gila next in 2 weeks time. Look out for some great results!

H&R Block fans spotted in Arkansas. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography.

H&R Block fans spotted in Arkansas. Photo credit: Stirl and Rae Photography.