Entering the winner’s circle for the first time in 2013, Optum Pro Cycling presented by Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Joelle Numainville captured victory this weekend in the tough, rainy third stage of Fayetteville, Arkansas’ Joe Martin Stage Race. The sprinter also took home the race’s green jersey for her efforts.
Following up a top-ten in the opening time trial, where rookie sensation Brianna Walle turned in an impressive 4th, Numainville showed off her powerful kick in the fast finish of stage two, narrowly losing to Shelley Olds of Now and Novartis for MS, and moving up the GC standings to 5th overall, thanks to some great finishing support from Walle.
“Brianna and Joelle made a great team this weekend at Joe Martin, and it shows how well our leadout is starting to click,” said Performance Director Rachel Heal. “We had some near misses for sure, but it felt great to capture a win in one of the race’s most difficult stages.”
Coming into the queen stage of the race, Numainville and rest of the potent orange and black team knew that they had the speed to pull off a win if they could control the uphill finish. With an early breakaway hovering around the 30-second mark, the team was able to sit in, letting the rival Team Tibco handle the bulk of the pulling in efforts to protect their yellow jersey. With five kilometers to go, the peloton kicked it up another notch, reeling in the breakaway. This lead to repeated attacks, but all were quickly neutralized, and it became evident to Heal that the race would end in a sprint.
“After an array of attacks late in the race, things settled down, and Brianna nailed the leadout. Joelle timed her sprint to perfection and took a hard-fought stage win.”
The stage win was Numainville’s first, and also vaulted her into the lead in the sprinter’s jersey fight.
In the final criterium, the team had their work cut out for them if they hoped to defend Joelle’s green jersey, with several opportunities for points on the course. From the gun, the team weathered non-stop attacks and worked in unison to place Walle and Numainville in the early breakaway. The duo worked together, gathering points at the intermediate sprint line to further increase the lead. Walle set up her sprinter nicely through the final corner, and Numainville gave it her all, finishing third on the final stage podium. The team’s efforts were enough to capture the Canadian sprinter her first green jersey of 2013.
“Joelle has repeatedly shown her ability to compete in every race she has entered, and we are confident that she will be able to meet the goals she has set for 2013,” added Heal.
The women and men of Optum p/b KBS head next to New Mexico’s hot, dry, mountainous SRAM Tour of the Gila. It will be another chance to show America what its top team is capable of in a stage race setting.