It was a mixed bag of emotions on Wednesday for Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank at La Flèche Wallonne. Overall, the team had a solid ride during the second outing of Ardennes Week, with Kristen Faulkner finishing inside the top 20. However, Australian Sarah Gigante was forced to abandon after involvement in an early crash.
Kristen Faulkner and Eri Yonamine wait for the start of Flèche Wallonne. Photo/Twila Muzzi
Gigante suffered several injuries, including a broken clavicle. Despite this, she got back on her bike for several km and managed to rejoin the front group before eventually abandoning. Gigante is in good spirits and will see a specialist to see if surgery is necessary.
With Gigante out of contention, team director Rachel Hedderman said the team still did a fantastic job of staying near the front and in contention when it counted. Nina Kessler, in particular, successfully guided the others into position before the first climb, which the team identified as a critical point in the 130km route.
Faulkner on the Mur de Huy. Photo/Twilia Muzzi
“We had numbers in the front as it split,” Hedderman said. “As expected, the race was attrition, and Lauren (Stephens) and Eri (Yonamine) focused on getting Kristen in position for the fourth climb at 80km, which was also likely to be a splitting point. Kristen made the front group of 25 riders.”
“The race split again before the final time up Mur de Huy, and from it, a group of nine favorites emerged, with Kristen in the group behind. It’s so unlucky to have lost Sarah, as I think she would have made that front group of favorites. We all wish her the best in her recovery,” Hedderman said.
Eri Yonamine and Lauren Stephens take on the steep section of the Mur, which pitches up to 19 percent. Photo/Twila Muzzi
Faulkner finished the day in 17th place, and La Fleche Wallonne was won by world champion Anna van der Breggen, who took victory for the seventh consecutive time on the Mur de Huy.
The team heads to Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday for the final race in the Ardennes and the eighth stop on the Women’s World Tour calendar.