It was one of the most dramatic conclusions of the season as yellow jersey Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) and Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) raced head-to-head into the summit finale of stage 4, mere seconds separating them the overall classification at the Tour de Suisse.
It was always going to come down to the wire but as Brand led the pair through the technical finish across rain-soaked roads and into the tight final corner, Faulkner slid out and hit the pavement losing both the stage win and the overall victory in one stroke.
"It was all up to the final climb, and Kristen had an awesome ride. She was able to catch Brand on the last kilometre, but unfortunately it wasn't enough to drop her, and unfortunately she crashed on the final corner," said BikeExchange-Jayco sport director Alejandro Gonzales-Tablas.
"But it was a good day, all positive, and a really strong performance by the team. We're now looking forward to the next races."
Faulkner won the stage 2 time trial and maintained her overall race lead through stage 3 and into the final day of racing. She started stage 4's 98.5km between Chur and a summit finish at Lantsch/Lenz with four seconds on Brand, but understood that the race would come down to the final 6km climb at Lantsch.
Faulkner earned a one-second time bonus at the first intermediate sprint, padding her lead out to five seconds.
However, Brand and Jolanda Neff (Swiss) – who started the day fifth overall – attacked on the final descent and opened a small gap. The pair gained 50 seconds on the chasing field and Brand took three time bonus seconds at the next intermediate sprint, which meant she was now only two seconds behind Faulkner in the overall classification as the race hit the final climb.
Brand pushed up the last climb, distancing Neff, but her efforts were not enough to hold off a remarkable performance from Faulkner, who closed the gap just outside the final kilometre of racing.
Together they raced through the pouring rain into the final twists and turns, both hunting the stage win and the overall title. The stage win offered 10 bonus seconds to the winner and six to the second-placed rider, a difference that could decide the overall.
However, as Brand launched her sprint through the final bend, Faulkner slid out. The yellow jersey hit the pavement as Brand crossed the line celebrating the stage 4 win and sealing the overall victory. Faulkner crossed the line in second 15 seconds back.
Faulkner, racing in her first season with BikeExchange-Jayco, may have lost the race but it was nevertheless a commanding performance that bodes well for her next objectives on the Women's WorldTour.
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