Stephens claims third on stage 2 of Tour de l'Ardeche, sits third overall
After a top 20 at last week's La Course by the Tour de France, Lauren Stephens continues her good form at the notoriously hilly Tour de l'Ardeche, taking fourth on the opening stage and third on stage 2. Stephens, who was recently selected for the US world championships road team, currently sits third overall, just 37 seconds behind the race leader.
Stage 1 saw the peloton race 90.3km from Saint-Martin-d'Ardèche to Bourg-Saint-Andéol. Team director Rachel Hedderman said Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank had a fantastic start to the seven-day race, and were well represented at the front of the race.
The race stayed together until the final climb, when eventual race winner Mavi Garcia attacked with 30km to go and won solo. Stephens was part of a 13-rider chase and sprinted to fourth place on the day.
Today was a brutal 130km test in the mountains, with over 3500m (11,482ft) of climbing and technical descending on the menu. Kristen Faulkner found herself in an early move after an aggressive start to the race. "It was perfect because I knew I'd have a teammate there to help me late in the race," Stephens said.
On the first major climb of the day, the race split with Stephens and Faulkner in the front group. The grueling terrain made the stage a battle of attrition. One by one, riders dropped off due to the pace and gradient. When they hit the final climb, just Stephens and two riders remained at the front. "With about 10km to go, a rider from the Austrian National Team attacked, and Garcia followed," Stephens said. "I hesitated a bit to see if anyone was going to react. When they didn't, I jumped across. Luckily the Austrian rider was happy to pull Garcia and me along."
With three kilometers to go, Garcia attacked to take the win solo, and Stephens finished solidly in third place. Faulker finished in the top 20 on the stage and now sits 18th overall on GC. Unfortunately, the team started stage 2 without Diana Penuela. The Colombian crashed in the final kilometer of stage 1, fracturing her collarbone. We wish Diana a quick recovery!