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‘The smartest rider in the bunch’

‘The smartest rider in the bunch’

Kristen Faulkner has been doing amazing things on a bicycle for a little while now. It all started with her stage win at the Tour of Ardèche in 2020 and the momentum built when she finished in the top-10 at the Tour of Flanders a year later. Two stage wins and the QOM classification at the Giro d’Italia Donne last season was confirmation, if anyone really needed it, that Faulkner is one of the most exciting talents in the women’s peloton at the moment.

But unlike many of her competitors who were born and raised on the cobbles of Belgium, or grew up flying down Alpine descents, or learnt how to ride in a peloton in their teenage years, Faulkner’s rise to the top of the sport has been unique, and this makes her performances in races even more impressive.

When she got that first professional victory in the Tour of Ardèche, Faulkner was still working as a venture capitalist, waking up early before stages to get her work done and then spending the afternoon racing her bike. It was the first time she had ever competed in a professional peloton, having only started cycling a few years prior. The Harvard graduate, who secured a BA in Computer Science in 2015, won stage four in the Ardèche by riding away from the peloton on the difficult climb to Mont-Lozère. After the race, she said she didn’t know how long the mountain was, or how the race really worked, but she just did her best effort and was able to take the win.

Fast forward two seasons, and last weekend Faulkner was putting pressure on women’s cycling’s de facto super team, SD Worx, at Strade Bianche after she made a convincing solo move for victory. The American woman attacked with just under 40 kilometres of the race remaining on the white roads of Tuscany and built up a gap of nearly two minutes. Behind her, the pre-race favourites began to panic as the race reached its later stages, it became clear they had underestimated the gutsy Jayco-Alula rider. Faulkner was riding with war wounds too from an earlier crash in the race, her blood mixing with dust and running down her left thigh. As she powered over the gravel, she’s was vision of strength, bravery and tenacity.

Image: Luc Claessen/Getty

Behind her, Lotte Kopecky and Demi Vollering of SD Worx were chasing hard, but still Faulkner was holding the gap. The duo only caught her in the final 700 metres of the race and Faulkner held on for third place on the podium, her best ever result in a one-day race.


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