Faulkner, Stephens finish 1-2 at Tour de l'Ardeche

Kristen Faulkner burst onto the radar today in her first-ever professional road race, winning stage 4 of the Tour de l'Ardeche after a solo move with 15km to go. Her teammate, Lauren Stephens, sprinted to second, 45 seconds back. Stephens remains in third place overall with three stages left.

Photos courtesy of Velofocus

"Other than the virtual Tour de France, this is my first real pro race, my first European race, and my first race with Team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank," Faulkner said. "To win is incredibly special and motivating. I have incredibly supportive teammates who have helped me learn the ropes quickly. They've constantly given me tips and guidance after each stage. I've learned so much in a short amount of time, and it's because I have a team that's willing to invest in me." The 133km stage from Meyrueis to Mont-Lozère began with an 11km climb, followed by a long technical descent and long, sustained climbs. The last 30km was mostly uphill with steep pitches in gradient in the final four kilometers.

"It was another hard stage today," team director Rachel Hedderman said. "We thought a break would have a decent chance of survival given the GC has such big gaps. So we worked hard to made sure we were up there." Faulkner was part of a seven rider break that formed after the descent. The breakaway gained a maximum of 6'50" on the peloton.

On the penultimate climb, the gap quickly fell to under a minute. Faulkner responded to an attack by Rally's Sara Poidevin, then, sensing the chase group was still close, countered with 15km to go. "I knew I had to go by myself," Faulkner said. "The final 3km was the hardest 3km of my life." Faulkner gained an advantage of 45 seconds and held it to the finish in Mont-Lozère. "I am speechless, and yet, not surprised at the same time," Hedderman said. "We knew how strong Kristen is, and she really proved it today with an incredibly hard-fought victory. Having Lauren make it a one, two for the team is the icing on the cake."

Tour de L'Ardeche continues through Sept. 9 with three stages remaining. Tomorrow stage is 134.5km from Pont du Gard to Ruoms with three QOMs on the menu.

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