To see victory slip away just moments before crossing the line can be one of the most painful ways to lose a bike race but Kristen Faulkner (Team Jayco-AlUla) was rightly proud of her aggressive ride out front and accepted third place in Siena behind SD Worx power duo Demi Vollering and Lotte Kopecky.
Faulkner was caught on Via Santa Caterina finishing climb, and couldn’t muster anything left in the tank to hang on after spending the last 32km off the front alone.
“It was a really rough finish,” Faulkner told Cyclingnews after she crossed the finish line in Siena.
“I was pretty gassed, and my legs were starting to cramp. I just gave it everything I had, but it wasn’t enough for the win, so I’m just glad we were able to get on the podium.”
Initially slated for the Strade Bianche as a reserve, Faulkner said Jayco-AlUla’s main objective was for her to attack right before sector five at San Martino in Grania.
Yet Strade Bianche‘s unpredictability can make it challenging for plans made on a team bus to become a reality out on the punishing sterrati, and, sure enough, that became true for the 30-year-old.
Moments before she was due to launch her move, Faulkner said she had to unclip after getting caught in a crash. She spent the majority of the 9.5km sector not off the front as hoped, but instead, she found herself out the back, frantically chasing back on through the dust kicked up by the convoy.
“I was like, well, we’re definitely not racing for me anymore,” Faulkner said.
“So I’m just going to attack and hopefully make other teams chase. It stuck for a little longer than we expected, which was good.”
The American took advantage of a chaotic, tired peloton and went for an attack with around 32km to go, catching the then-solo leader Karlijn Swinkels (Jumbo-Visma) and eventually dropping her a few kilometres later.
As Siena drew nearer, Faulkner’s substantial lead of almost two minutes allowed her to dream of victory.
“I thought it was possible,” Faulkner admitted.
“I just gave it everything I could and tried to stay calm. I was pushing because it was possible, but also not getting ahead of myself.”
Sadly it wasn’t to be for the American. Faulkner was caught on the steep final climb by Vollering and Kopecky just 700 metres before the finish line.
“I was like, ‘Shit!'” Faulkner laughed.
“At that point, my legs were completely cramping. I knew that I had given everything that I was giving everything I could. They were just stronger at the end. I think…
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