Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) secured overall victory at the Tour de Suisse Women after producing a powerful victory on the fourth and final stage of the race, stealing the yellow jersey from Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco).
Faulkner led Brand by just four seconds heading into the last day, but she had to chase her title rival down in the final kilometres as Brand attacked with Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) with 20km remaining in the race. The pair had a gap of 30 seconds with 10km to go, Brand clearly producing an all-or-nothing attack for the overall victory.
Brand’s long-range attack looked measured, but Faulkner managed to catch her with a kilometre remaining in the race. Brand managed to hang onto Faulkner’s wheel at this stage, before sprinting ahead of the American ahead of the final technical turns. The slippery surface unfortunately caused Faulkner to skid and crash against the barrier, too, allowing Brand to complete the final hundred metres unchallenged to take the overall victory.
How it happened
The fourth and final stage of the Tour de Suisse Women featured a 98.5km race from Chur to Lantsch/Lanz, with the race’s toughest to come. Riders would gradually climb for 30km to Wolfgangpass in the early parts of the race, before an undulating terrain, coupled with multiple descents, led into the final ascent 7km from the end.
Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) came into the day with a four-second advantage over Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) on GC, aided by her stage two ITT win.
The first half of the race passed without any attacks, proving largely uneventful as the peloton stayed intact.
Heading up the official part of the Wolfgangpass, a 6.6km climb at 6.8%, the peloton started to spread out. Multiple riders were unable to maintain the quick pace up the climb, as they were ultimately dropped on the sharper inclines. An attack by Sina Frei (Switzerland) towards the final part of the climb further strung the bunch out on the hill, but it was Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon//Sram) who passed the Wolfgangpass summit first.
Shortly afterwards, Victorie Guilman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Valerie Demey (Liv Racing Xstra) and Alessandra Keller (Switzerland) attacked, with Amber Kraak (Jumbo-Visma) following suit and bridging across the gap. With 35km remaining, the quartet out front had 30 seconds on the peloton.
The peloton worked well together in bringing this gap down during the slight descent, eventually catching the breakaway with 20km remaining. However, a few kilometres later, Lucinda Brand and Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) attacked down the sharper descent. The pair quickly built up a gap as they powered down the hill, comfortably putting distance between themselves and the chasers. Brand, just four seconds behind Faulkner, clearly saw this as her best opportunity to steal the overall victory.
Brand and Neff managed to build a 30-second gap heading into the final 10km, with Brand taking the bonus seconds at Albula/Alvra. The climb up towards Lantsch/Lenz offered a 5.6km rider at 8.2% gradient. As they hit the foot of the climb, the duo were 55 seconds ahead of the peloton. Heading up the ascent, Brand attacked from Neff, clearly giving everything to ensure Faulkner couldn’t reduce the deficit. Neff was soon caught, with Brand now 30 seconds ahead of the chasing group into the final 4km.
Gaps were opening up midway up the climb, but Faulkner was part of a trio of riders chasing. They included Rooijakkers and Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM), both working hard as Faulkner tucked in behind them attempting to conserve as much energy as possible. Mackaij struggled to maintain the pace in the pouring rain, though, with just Faulkner and Rooijakkers now hunting Brand down, whose gap stood at 25 seconds with 3km left.
With her grip on the yellow jersey loosening, Faulkner took matters into her own hands. The American attacked from Rooijakkers, powering up the climb to try and close the gap to the leader out front. As she did this, she had Brand in her sights, bringing the gap down slowly but surely. Faulkner caught her with just a kilometre remaining, and attempted to sprint away from Brand. The latter managed to hold onto her wheel, though, with the winner of the race inevitably crowning the overall victor.
What ensued was a dramatic ending. Brand attacked ahead of some tight, technical turns, and Faulkner didn’t look like she had the legs to keep up. With the surface slippery, Faulkner unfortunately crashed at this stage, leaving Brand with a clear run to the finish line as she took the stage win, in the process securing her the overall victory. Faulkner came home 15 seconds later, despite looking the most likely to triumph in the closing stages.
TOUR DE SUISSE, STAGE FOUR: CHUR TO LANTSCH/LENZ (98.5KM)
1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, in 2-52-20
2. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco, at 15s
3. Brodie Chapman (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at same time
4. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ
5. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon//Sram, at 36s
6. Clara Koppenburg (Ger) Cofidis, at 50s
7. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team DSM, at 59s
8. Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar-Travel & Service, at 1-25
9. Ingvild Gåskjenn (Nor) Coop-Hitec Products, at 1-26
10. Jolanda Neff (Swi) Switzerland, at same time
FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, in 7-52-46
2. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Team BikeExchange-Jayco, at 17s
3. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon-SRAM, at 1-19
4. Brodie Chapman (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, at 2-39
5. Jolanda Neff (Sui) Swiss Cycling, at 3-01
6. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team DSM, at 3-14
7. Clara Koppenburg (Deu) Cofidis, at 3-18
8. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) UAE Team ADQ, at 3-22
9. Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar-Travel & Service, at 3-44
10. Neve Bradbury (Aus) Canyon//Sram, at 4-57
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