American rider Kristen Faulkner secured her first WorldTour podium finish of the season after riding consistently throughout the three-day Itzulia, surviving the brutal climbs around San Sebastian on today’s final stage, to hold on for an impressive third place overall for Team BikeExchange-Jayco.
Despite only returning to racing earlier this week, after a long period off due to injury, the 29-year-old displayed her top form, taking third place on the opening stage from a breakaway trio and 10th place yesterday.
Driving all the way up the final steep climb the Murgil Tontorra, even after struggling with the initial pace on the very steep slopes, Faulkner’s motivation shone through as she dropped but then returned to the front group following a hard fight up and over the top of the climb and down the descent.
Crossing the line in 11th place, the Team BikeExchange-Jayco rider secured a podium finish, rewarding the hard-work of the team over the last days and giving herself confidence upon a valiant return to racing
Kristen Faulkner – 3rd place overall
“We worked really hard and I knew the final climb was going to be really hard for me. It was a really steep climb and I actually got dropped on it and the front group was riding away ahead. I just kept drilling and drilling it on the flatter part, over the top and then on the descent.
I just had to focus on not giving up and keep going every single second even if there were people on my wheel. I just held the front and drove it as long as I could and I was able to catch the group right at the bottom of the descent, and stay with them on the flat before I tried an attack.
I was trying to close the gap to Demi, the leader as much as I could to make sure I was able stay third on GC and ahead of Marta Cavalli who was fourth place just behind me.
The biggest lesson for the day was just to keep going. Sometimes you don’t think you can keep going but you never know what is going to happen.”
Alejandro Gonzales-Tablas – Sport Director
“The team rode incredibly well, we didn’t have many but they all committed to it and we put Kristen in the perfect position into the bottom of the last climb and she did just what she needed to do, pace herself on the climb.
She had the strength to come back to the front and even have a go on the flat run-in to the finish and in the end was able to finish on the podium. So, we can be very pleased with this and how she has come straight back into racing after some time off.
It actually wasn’t the plan for Kristen to be our GC leader for this race, but the racing went in this direction and this is how we race. Ee aren’t closed minded but always open to make changes.”
2022 Itzulia stage 3 results:
1. Demi Vollering 4:01:03
2. Lianne Lippert +0:15
11. Kristen Faulkner +0:15
Final General Classification:
1. Demi Vollering 10:11:54
2. Pauliena Rooijakkers +0:47
3. Kristen Faulkner +1:07
Photo: Getty Images