Stephens leads virtual Tour de France
With the U.S. still under various degrees of lockdown, we are trying to navigate the waters to get back over to Europe. In the meantime, however, Zwift's virtual Tour de France presents us with terrific racing challenges. This past weekend, Team TIBCO Silicon Valley Bank was put to the test and came out on top after stellar performances in the opening stages. Kristen Faulkner stormed to second after a reduced field sprint on the first day, and Lauren Stephens won stage 2, which put her into the race lead and the yellow jersey!
Lauren Stephens, fresh off an overall win in the virtual Joe Martin Stage Race, started the Tour de France on stage 2. Motivated by her teammates' success the previous day, Stephens said she went into the race hoping to carry the positive momentum forward. "With each rider only being able to race four of the six stages, I was not on the roster for the first stage," Stephens said. "But that didn't mean I wasn't part of the race. My alarm went off at 7 a.m. I made some coffee, logged on to Discord to chat with the team, and logged in to Zwift to follow the team on fan view. It was so exciting to watch every intermediate sprint. We were getting points, and in the finish, we had two riders in the top five. At the end of stage 1, we were second in both the sprint and the yellow jersey. "During stage 2, I was patient and used the knowledge I've gained from racing on Zwift the last few months and the aero power-up, of course! Virtual or real life, it is a huge accomplishment for the team to win a stage of this level. I'm looking forward to the next couple of weekends as we work to keep yellow."
Stephens teammate, Kristen Faulkner, was an important presence during both stages, claiming second on the opening day. On stage 2, Faulkner worked hard to help Stephens to victory, and in doing so, finished in the top five after racing the Watopia Mountain course. "Stages one and two were tough - a lot of climbing, sprints, power-ups, and splitting of the peloton into smaller groups," Faulkner said. "I am thrilled by how well our team communicated and worked together during different parts of the race. We have strong riders that work together, and that teamwork is really showing up in our results." "Zwift has really boosted coverage for women's racing, and I hope to continue seeing equal coverage for men and women going forward." Team director Rachel Hedderman said she's pleased with how well the team has adapted to virtual racing. "We have spent the last few months racing on Zwift, and the experience paid off with our biggest win to date," Hedderman said. "It was great to see the whole team work together for a well-deserved win. I'm happy with the way the team has embraced the challenges that this season has brought, and even though we were racing from three continents, the teamwork was evident in the way we raced together."