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Santesteban and Faulkner crash during Strade Bianche recon

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Women 2022 - 14th Edition - Gent - Ninove 129,1 km - 26/02/2022 - Kristen Faulkner (USA - Team BikeExchange - Jayco) - photo Gomez/SprintCyclingAgency©2022
Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad 2022 (Image credit: Sprint Cycling Agency)

The BikeExchange-Jayco women's squad will be down two key riders at Strade Bianche after Kristen Faulkner and Ane Santesteban crashed during course reconnaissance, with the Spanish rider hitting her head in the fall.

“The helmet saved my life and from more serious injuries,” Santesteban said on Twitter. “Luckily nothing broken, but a severe headache that I will need some time and space to recover from.”

"Wishing a speedy recovery also for Kristen Faulkner. We will be back."

Santesteban and Faulkner were among the most likely contenders to deliver a strong finish for the Australian squad, who was fronting up with a solid contingent of hopefuls. Before the crash, Head Sport Director Martin Vestby had said: “We are going to Strade Bianche with a strong team, we are confident we are lining-up in good shape and with multiple options.”

However, losing two riders who have finished in the top 20 at the race is clearly a blow ahead of Saturday’s 136km-long race over the Tuscan hills, which includes a total of 31.4 kilometres of gravel over eight sectors and six categorised climbs. Faulkner took 16th in her debut at Strade Bianche with TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank last year, while Santesteban finished 15th in 2020 while racing with Ceratizit-WNT.

Amanda Spratt, who has twice finished in the top ten, would usually be the clear top contender on the startlist for the team at Strade Bianche but has warned her ‘expectation for this race must be realistic’ as she is pinning on an number in Europe for the first time in more than five months following surgery to address iliac artery endofibrosis. Ruby Roseman-Gannon has had excellent form, coming second in stage 1 at Setmana Ciclista Valenciana, but it is her debut Strade Bianche and also her first Women's WorldTour race in Europe.

Georgia Williams and Jess Allen, who were both in the squads that supported former team leader Annemiek van Vleuten to victory in 2019 and 2020, add some strong in-race experience to the team. They will also now be joined by Urška Zigart and Arianna Fidanza after they received a late call up to replace the injured duo.

“It’s never nice to get a call like this, so the emotions are mixed, but I’m excited about one of the most beautiful races on the calendar and I’m happy to jump in and support the team tomorrow,” Zigart said on Twitter.

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Simone joined the team as Production Editor based in Australia at the start of the 2021 season, having previously worked as Australian Editor at Ella CyclingTips and correspondent for Reuters and Bloomberg.