Stick a pin in Fayetteville, Arkansas on the international map for elite mountain biking and cycling races. This city, the first in the United States to be given a Bike City label by Union Cycliste Internationale, and Northwest Arkansas as a whole are now a global destination with purpose-built trails matching international standards and events that include Olympic hopefuls.
The first of four world-class events starts this weekend with cross-country mountain biking and continues throughout the year with a cycling stage race, 1,000-mile bikepacking event and a cyclocross race.
OZ Trails US Pro Cup
Centennial Park at Millsap Mountain in Fayetteville hosts the OZ Trails US Pro Cup as part of the 2021 U.S. Cup Mountain Bike Series, over the next two weekends — April 9-11 and April 16-18. Full of competitors hoping to make their way to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, the event features top men and women cross-country mountain bikers from throughout the globe.
While professional racers will get quality miles ahead of the Olympics, amateur races for all ages and skill levels are part of the weekend mix as well. Additionally, the OZ Trails US Pro Cup will offer UCI points for junior boys and girls – helping qualify select juniors for racing in Europe and to represent Team USA at the 2021 World Championships.
Spectators aren’t left out either. The courses on the 228-acre park use tunnels and crossovers to allow spectators to move around and take in more of the action without impeding the races. It’s free to attend and see this deep field of U.S. and international riders representing past and future Olympians, national champions and continental and world champions.
Complete details, including schedule, registration and lodging information, are available at uscupmtb.com.
Joe Martin Stage Race
Next on the calendar is the Joe Martin Stage Race, one of the top professional and amateur road cycling stage races in the country, returning to Fayetteville Aug. 26-29.
The Joe Martin Stage Race is the oldest continually held cycling stage race in the country dating back to 1978. Professional and elite amateur men and women road cycling teams gather in Fayetteville for a series of race stages that include time trials, road races and criteriums.
The weekend events culminate with the fourth and final stage, the spectator friendly Experience Fayetteville Criterium held on the streets of historic downtown Fayetteville.
The Joe Martin Stage Race is consistently ranked as one of the top stage races on both the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour and UCI America Tour calendars. This year will mark the 44th edition of the amateur races, 19th anniversary on the PRT and seventh year on the UCI America Tour schedule.
Originally known as the Fayetteville Spring Classic, the race was renamed in memory of long-time race director Joe Martin after his passing in 1989. Today, the Joe Martin Stage Race is one of the longest running annual events in Northwest Arkansas and was a deciding factor when the UCI recently awarded Fayetteville the Bike City label.
For more information on the Joe Martin Stage Race and the Experience Fayetteville Criterium, visit www.joemartinstagerace.com.
Arkansaw High Country Race
For fall, Fayetteville once again hosts the Arkansaw High Country Race. The race is a 1,000 mile loop following the Arkansas High Country Route, a series of three gravel and paved road loops that connect several of the state’s stunning natural regions, including the Ozark and Ouachita mountain ranges and the Arkansas River Valley. Quickly becoming known as one of the most challenging bikepacking routes in the country, this self-supported bicycle race departs from downtown Fayetteville on Saturday, Oct. 9.
Bikepacking combines cycling over difficult terrain with minimalist camping, requiring cyclists to strap camping gear to their bicycles. The list of supplies varies by season and includes shelter, clothing, food and water. Additionally, participants are equipped with a GPS tracking device using the Globalstar satellite network, allowing fans from anywhere in the world to follow their favorite riders along the route in real time.
New for 2021, race officials announced the creation of the Short Circuit Race and an opportunity to experience just the Northwest Loop of the Arkansas High Country Route. The shorter 240-mile distance is perfect for the weekend warrior or endurance athlete looking for a limit-pushing course. Racers will have 120 hours to complete the course, and the same standard race rules apply to the Short Circuit Race.
Registration for the 2021 Arkansas High Country Race and the Short Circuit Race opens June 1, 2021. Each race distance is limited to a field of 50 competitors.
Additional race information, including host hotel accommodations and links to register, can be found at www.rivervalley.ozarkoffroadcyclists.org/races-tours/arkansaw-high-country-race. For race information, contact Race Director Chuck Campbell at 501-725-1377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also in October is the cyclocross World Cup as part of the 2021-2022 cyclocross World Cup schedule.
The third annual FayetteCross, and first time World Cup event, is scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 13 at Centennial Park and will feature athletes from more than 25 countries.
As a World Cup event, FayetteCross 2021 will offer a preview of the championship course and an opportunity for spectators to see the world’s best racers compete before the 2022 UCI World Championships set for Jan. 29-30, 2022 in Fayetteville.
The course has been built over the past 16 months and contains daredevil chutes, a lung-busting climb, challenging off-camber sections, plus a 38 step climb that will test the racers. For spectators, most of the course is accessible with ease, even the wooded sections.
Event details are available at FayetteCross.com. As the host city to these events, Fayetteville boasts 100 miles of paved and single track trails within the city limits with iconic road and gravel riding waiting just outside of town. Visitors to Fayetteville will find numerous lodging options and plenty of food, craft beer and coffee venues. The city also has more than 60 businesses participating in its Outdoor Refreshment Area, which allows people to walk around with adult beverages in a designated area downtown. For more information on Fayetteville, visit experiencefayetteville.com.
Jill Rohrbach, travel writer