Fayetteville, AR – After Sea Otter, H&R Block Pro Cycling continued their season with a 26 hour drive east to Fayetteville, Arkansas for the first UCI Stage race of the year, the Joe Martin Stage Race.
Stage 1 was a 2.5 mile up hill Individual Time Trial (ITT). With an average grade of 6.5%, it’s a tough climb to judge. Go too hard at the base, and you’ve got nothing towards the top; wait too late and you’ve lost out on some major time at the bottom of the climb. The H&R Block athletes put in some respectful times in the ITT.
Up next for the stage 2 Road Race was 177km course full of rollers leading up to the final 25 minute climb, finishing with a 30km descent towards the finish. This road stage became really stressful!! With small roads, wind and rain we could say it was very similar to some European classics. H&R Block was represented within all the major splits, but it wasn’t until 90 minutes into race the days breakaway of 8 would get away. Ryan was their for H&R Block riding out a hard day up the road. The guys behind set up our best lead out train we could coming into the tough final 1km giving Peter a very close shot to a stage victory. He was able to finish 7th.
Stage 3 Is the hardest day of Tour. Unfortunately we started one rider down with Stuart getting sick. He was wasn’t the only one who was starting to get hit by the Sick Bug though! Bailey, Ryan, Nathan and Travis all started to feel the effects of a sore throat. Knowing the deciding GC attacks were more likely to come on the third and fourth time up the circuit’s hard two stepper climb. We had decided to save the few bullets we had to make sure Peter, Garrett and Travis would make the lead group. With six of us within the lead group, we looked to leading Peter out for the sprint. Our plans were dashed when he got caught in a crash with 1km to go, then as well as Garrett getting caught in one with 300 meters to go. Ryan was able to make a last minute effort to score another top 10 for the team.
Stage 4 was an 85 minute criterium with a steep 200 meter climb up to the finish! This is arguably one of the hardest races on the North American Criterium Circuit. With some of us feeling the efforts of the sickness even more, it made a hard race even harder. After the break had gotten away within the opening first few laps, UHC set hard tempo for the rest of the race slowly shedding the field smaller and smaller. H&R Block didn’t walk away with the major result that we came in looking for but Peter was able score 4th on the U23 GC!
Next up for H&R Block Pro Cycling is the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico! Starting today with the Silver City to Mogollon Road Race, H&R Block is ready to challenge the field for a victory! Follow along throughout the weekend as we update you with results and insights into the life of the team.
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The M1 Project will be posting regularly on what it’s like to plan, prepare, and compete as a UCI Continental Professional Cycling Team.