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Kristen Faulkner wins Stage 2 of Trofeo Ponente in Rosa

It was another day of jubilation for EF Education-Cannondale, as they triumphed in the 71.5 km stage from Diano Marina to Diano Marina, thanks to Kristen Faulkner, who crossed the line 4 seconds ahead of the chasing group, led by her teammate, race leader and yesterday’s winner, Kimberly Cadzow. Leonie Laubig claimed the third spot, with Monica Trinca Colonel securing fourth place, the best among the Italians, and Elisa Valtulini, her young BePink Bongioanni teammate, finishing fifth and earning the new white jersey of the race.

Following their one-two finish in Pietra Ligure in the initial road stage, the American team, under the leadership of Carmen Small, confirmed their dominance with another double victory. With the general classification in hand, Cadzow and Faulkner will contend for the pink jersey in tomorrow’s final stage from Marina degli Aregai to Diano Marina.

Despite the withdrawals of two expected contenders, Polish rider Malwina Mul (who crashed near the finish in Pietra Ligure yesterday) and German rider Antonia Niedermaier (due to a virus), the EF Education-Cannondale dominance seemed unassailable. However, Jolanda Neff posed a challenge: after resisting the attacks on the climbs from her rivals, the Olympic mountain biking champion launched an attack on the descent of Colle San Bartolomeo, 30 kilometres from the finish.

She had a maximum advantage of 35 seconds, but a few metres before the last mountain prize of Capo Berta, located 4km from the finish, Faulkner, Cadzow, Laubig, Valtulini, Trinca Colonel, Victoire Joncheray, and Clara Emond, another EF Education-Cannondale athlete, caught up with her. The numerical superiority proved decisive in the last 1500 meters of flat terrain, with Faulkner launching a decisive counterattack and crossing the finish line alone on Via Roma.

Kim Cadzow leads Jolanda Neff
(Photo Credit: Flaviano Ossola)


“Did we control the stage? No, I wouldn’t say that: Jolanda Neff made us sweat buckets,” said stage winner Kristen Faulkner. “We wanted to repeat yesterday’s strategy, making the difference on the climbs, but the Swiss rider didn’t give up an inch and attacked the descent; we had to push hard to catch her, which we managed to do 4 km from the finish. There, we exploited our numerical advantage, and being at the back of the leading group, I could launch the decisive counterattack.”

The importance of teamwork was also emphasised by the pink jersey holder, Kimberly Cadzow. “We confirmed ourselves as a solid group, managing the most complex race situations, like Jolanda Neff’s descent attack. And it’s with this spirit that we’ll approach the final stage: we’ll try to bring home the full result for the team, regardless of individual ambitions.”

Proud of her performance but also disappointed by the near miss, Jolanda Neff, the day’s protagonist, said, “I’m happy with the performance; I’m aware that I’m here to prepare for mountain bike races, but after 30 km of escape, one hopes to reach the finish line. EF Education-Cannondale is strong, and breaking their block is really difficult. We’ll try again tomorrow, but today I spent a lot.”

Bergamo native Elisa Valtulini, fifth at the finish line and the new leader of the youth classification, expressed her satisfaction, saying, “Being in my second year among the elites and finding myself up there with these athletes gives me a lot of confidence. And it also allows me to grow and gain experience: in the last kilometre, I made a mistake that penalised my teammate Monica Trinca Colonel, but even today, we were up there together, and that’s important for me and the team.”

2024 Trofeo Ponente in Rosa Stage 2 result

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Main photo credit: Flaviano Ossola