Tyler Stites (Project Echelon Racing) won stage 1 of the 2023 Walmart Joe Martin Stage Race and took the first leader’s jersey for pro men. He made his move around the final sweeping corner on the uphill finish, leaving Eder Frayer (L39ion of Los Angeles) in second place and Óscar Sevilla (Team Medellín-EPM) in third.
A breakaway of 10 riders stayed away for 111km on the Arkansas Tourism Devil’s Den Road Race and nine of them remained intact to battle in Fayetteville for the first leader’s jersey of the four-day stage race. Along with the victory, Stites took 10 bonus seconds at the line to pad a GC lead on the opening day.
Kyle Murphy (L39ion of Los Angeles) attacked with a long-range sprint with just under 800 metres to go, but was outkicked at the end by the seven other riders in the group, Stites leading the way for the victory.
The field remained together through the opening 35km, with Denver Disruptors and Team Medellín-EPM setting the pace. Attacks soon followed and 10 riders were allowed to escape, including four Medellín riders, Sevilla, Brayan Sánchez, Walter Vargas and Miguel Ángel López. Also in the pack were the L39ION of Los Angeles duo of Frayre and Murphy, Stites, Caleb Classen (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Sergio Henao and Riley Sheehan of Denver Disruptors.
López took the three points across the intermediate sprint point of the day, 75km to go, followed by Stites and Sanchez. The leaders maintained a gap of 2:40 on the chasers behind.
Inroads to the leaders were made by a group of four riders – Will Cooper (CS Velo Racing), Noah Granigan (Denver Disruptors), Colby Lange (Project Echelon Racing), Kaler Marshall (Expediters Elite), who worked to form a serious chase with under 30km, but the gap held at 1:30.
The breakaway then pushed away for another 1:15 seconds as they edged closer to the finish back in Fayetteville. With just under 15km to go, the break had a 2:10 advantage, with multiple riders for Team Medellí-EPM, Denver Disruptors and L39ion of LA.
Murphy and López were the first to animate the attacks in the closing kilometres, but Stites saved something for the push across the line.
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