Rivera Wins Joe Martin Stage Race Overall
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team wrapped up an immensely successful campaign at the UCI 2.2-ranked Joe Martin Stage Race this past weekend. In a team effort, the women's squad came into the final stage of the Arkansas race with the goal of defending both the individual and team General Classification leads. The women succeeded in both, with Rivera taking eight seconds in time bonuses on the final stage to take over the GC lead from teammate Linda Villumsen. Villumsen took second on the GC, ensuring the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team stayed ahead on the Team GC.
The criterium took over downtown Fayetteville on Sunday and was attended by huge crowds eager to see the final stage of racing action. The punchy finishing climb made for a tough test after three previous days of racing. With three stage wins already in the bank for women, the UnitedHealthcare Team rode in pursuit of the overall victory. With Villumsen and Rivera sitting 1-2 on the top of the overall classification, the team had multiple cards to play. With time bonuses on the line, the strategy was to get Rivera to the front of the pack. After a late race solo attack by the previous year's winner Lauren Stephens, the UnitedHealthcare Blue Train rode the front of the peloton to keep the advantage in check before setting up Rivera for the field sprint. Rivera bided her time on the sharp finish climb, and succeeded in coming across the line at the head of the field, taking second on the stage and taking eight crucial seconds of time bonuses to seal the victory.
Rivera was pleased with the team's performance, and happy to add an overall victory to her resume, "Personally, I wouldn't call myself a GC rider but the racing and courses at Joe Martin really suit my strengths. Going into the last stage we had really good cards to play with Linda in the lead and myself in 2nd. Following attacks on the intermediate sprints and finishing 2nd on the day resulted in Linda and I swapping places on GC, but what was most important was that we, as a team, came away with the GC win this weekend."
The men also celebrated a successful final stage, with Carlos Alzate sprinting back onto the podium in third position following his 1-2 sprint domination with John Murphy on stage 3. With wins, podiums, or top-5 results on each stage of the 2016 Joe Martin Stage Race in both the men's and women's fields, the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team once again showed their power and depth in races of all formats.
Linda Villumsen Proves Fitness in Run Up to Olympic Games
Linda Villumsen took the Joe Martin Stage Race by storm on the opening day's time trial as the only rider to break the 11-minute barrier on a short and punchy course. The lead she accrued on the opening day lasted another two stages of racing, and was only bested by teammate Coryn Rivera through time bonuses on the final stage. The performance hints at the training Villumsen has been putting in behind the scenes on the run up to her biggest goal of the year, the individual time trial at the Summer Olympic Games in Rio.
The current time trial World Champion is confident of her training and racing performance so far this year, "I am happy that it unfolded how it did. It was basically a 5km climb with a short downhill with 1.5km to go. It was a little test for myself to see how training has been going. As my coach Marco Pinotti said, I passed the test!"
Racing with the UnitedHealthcare Team this week gave Villumsen more to think about than just time trialing, though, and the New Zealander was pleased with the way the squad worked together over the course of the week, "We all had an amazing week. We have had a tough spring, so it was really good for us as a team to have some success and we were riding strong and enjoying racing at the same time."
Coming into the final stage, Villumsen worked selflessly in pursuit of the overall win for the team, even if that meant teammate Rivera taking the honors instead, "Coryn is going really strong at the moment, she managed to win after also working quite hard, and that is just impressive. So all together, with a 1-2 overall and three stage wins I think we should be very happy, and hopefully also bring good momentum toward the next block of racing."
With the overall success of the week, the positive atmosphere was palpable, and added to the experience of racing so well as a team. "We just had an amazing team atmosphere, I am really proud of all the girls," added Villumsen.
The UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team now moves west to the Tour of the Gila in New Mexico, beginning May 4th. Unlike the sprinter-friendly parcours of Joe Martin, the Gila is famed for its huge climbs out of the host town of Silver City. The UnitedHealthcare Team will focus once again on joint General Classification and Stage Victories. The race will be a huge indicator of form going into the prestigious Amgen Tour of California later in the month. For General Manager Mike Tamayo, the atmosphere and positive attitudes on display at Joe Martin are a huge part of racing well in the future, "We raced strongly as a single unit all weekend. The racing was coordinated and the post-race atmosphere was very happy. As a team, we're on track for a great season."