American all-rounder Kristen Faulkner put on an incredible show at Strade Bianche on Saturday 4th March for Team Jayco AlUla. Fighting her way through the 136 kilometre iconic Italian Classic and leading the race solo for the final 31 kilometres, Faulkner secured a well-deserved podium finish.
Despite crashing early on, Faulkner displayed her true grit and determination, jumping across to solo leader Swinkles with 38 kilometres remaining. With power in her legs, the 30-year-old left her breakaway companion behind on a small uphill rise and took the race on, leading solo through the 32 kilometre to-go mark and heading towards the finish in Siena.
With a dangerous chasing group establishing itself behind, it was no easy feat for the Team Jayco AlUla rider, yet Faulkner maintained a sizeable gap of around one minute 30 seconds into the final 10 kilometres of the race. Faulkner used her time trialling ability to pace herself up the climbs and through the challenging final gravel sections.
A duo of SD Worx riders, Lotte Kopecky and Demi Vollering came together behind in hot pursuit of the American, but Faulkner did not falter, powering on ahead at her own blistering pace and making it a tough ask for the two chasers to make the junction.
As Siena approached and the tough 16% final climb up to the famous Plaza, Faulkner remained ahead, giving everything she had in what was a thrilling finale, only to be caught agonisingly close to the finish line with just 600 metres remaining. Not letting her head drop, the Team Jayco AlUla rider continued to push on the pedals and crossed the line to take third place, after an exceptional and entertaining performance.
“It was a bit of a hectic day,” Faulkner concluded after the race. “There was a crash before section five that I was caught behind, so I had to spend time chasing and then after I got back to the group again at the end of the section, I caught my breath a little bit and my role for the day was to try and follow or initiate an attack, and so I did that. I attacked again and went solo and unfortunately I didn’t have the legs at the very end to take the win, but it was a good day out overall and a good result for the team to finish on the podium in this iconic race.”
Sport Director, Shawn Clarke added, “That was a pretty exciting day. We are super excited for Kristen. She came in as a reserve and we gave her an open role and it was a really nice to see her take advantage of that and get a great result. It is clear she is in great form right now and we are happy that it translated into a top result for the team. The rest of the team rode super well too. Ane Santesteban was a protected rider today and she was very well protected by the others and so it is a really great day out and well deserved result for Kristen.”
2023 Strade Bianche results:
1. Demi Vollering 3:50:35
2. Lotte Kopecky ST
3. Kristen Faulkner ST