Kristen Faulkner has taken several leaps of faith over the years, notably from investment banking to bike racing, and 2024 marks another meaningful manoeuvre before mixing it up in the women’s peloton. In February the US rider will make her racing debut with EF Education-Cannondale in Europe, in what she sees as ‘a really intense year’ with the Paris Olympic Games looming in late summer.
The Alaska native took one of those leaps of faith in 2020 when she invested herself full time into pro cycling with Team Tibco-SVB. It paid dividends, where she won two stages at the Giro d’Italia Donne and was sixth in the ITT at Road World Championships in Wollongong in 2022, her first year on the Women’s WorldTour level at Jayco AlUla.
Her 2023 campaign ended late last October with a gold medal at the Pan-American Games individual time trial, after overcoming a season of disappointments and injuries. She then gave herself a break knowing 2024 was going to be ‘a really intense year’. It was that TT victory that gave her self-assurance for a new team and a new start.
“I hadn’t done a time trial in over a year, so I didn’t know exactly how to pace myself, I didn’t know exactly what power I should try to hit. I was really able to just focus on the TT and that was definitely beneficial for me. To see that I had come back and I was fully healthy again, it was a lot of emotions,” Faulkner said about the Pan-Ams title.
“I am able to go into winter training with that confidence, that I can show up in 2024 quite fit and healthy is a big deal for me. And I’m not just ‘kind of back’, I’m fully back.”
Known for her aggressive style of racing, Faulkner hit her stride at Strade Bianche, using a solo attack to come close to a victory, but her podium spot evaporated when the UCI disqualified her for wearing a glucose monitor.
Then following La Vuelta Femenina, she suffered a hairline fracture in her leg when a driver of car struck her while on a training ride in California, and that led to a blood clot in her lung. She was on blood thinners for three months, during which time doctors would not allow her to ride outside.
So the time inside led to missing the Tour de France Femmes for a second time (the year before it was due to a COVID-19 positive) and the Road World Championships. “It was like COVID all over again,” she told Cyclingnews.
“I was really upset to miss the World Championships because I was hoping to use it as an Olympic qualifying…