Kristen Faulkner attacks a leading group and wins stage 4 of Le Vuelta Femenina

Written by: Niels Goudriaan
Posted 4 weeks ago

Kristen Faulkner of EF Education-Cannondale claimed victory in Stage 4 of La Vuelta Femenina by Carrefour.es after a decisive attack in the final 3 kilometer of the race after being in the breakaway for more than 75 kilometer. 142,3km racing, from Molina de Aragón to Zaragoza saw echelons, as predicted, and a leading group of 19 riders got to go together to the finish line in Zaragoza

The American EF Education Cannondale rider broke away from a select group of riders in the final kilometers, showcasing her strength by maintaining a lead that none could close. Crossing the finish line with her arms held on her handlebars, she secured a 14-second lead over her chasers. This stage victory added to EF Education-Cannondale’s success, being their second win in the ongoing tour.

The stage was fast-paced right from the start, with a slight downhill parcours to Zaragoza and strong crosswinds. The route from Molina de Aragón to Zaragoza is notoriously open, making it susceptible to winds that can cause significant splits in the peloton, as witnessed during the race. This factor played into the hands of teams well-versed in echelon formation, where positioning and teamwork are crucial for maintaining a spot at the front.

The early kilometers were marked by cautious riding until the peloton hit the first significant open sections where the wind started to have its effect. Several teams tried to assert their dominance early on, with SD Worx-Protime and Visma | Lease a Bike putting considerable pressure on the peloton, and echelons were formed. SDWorx-Protime had all riders in the front and broke the peloton into several large groups.

It led to the major breakaway of the day. This breakaway saw a group of 19 riders, including all the main contenders for the General Classification (GC), pulling away from the main group. The front group consisted of:

Niamh Fisher-Black, Mischa Bredewold, Elena Cecchini, Marlen Reusser, Blanka Vas, Demi Vollering (SD Worx-Protime), Elisa Longo Borghini (Lidl-Trek), Kasia Niewiadoma, Maike van der Duin (Canyon//SRAM), Erica Magnaldi (UAE Team ADQ), Juliette Labous (Team dsm-firmenich PostNL), Marianne Vos, Riejanne Markus, Sophie von Berswordt (Visma | Lease a Bike), Georgia Baker, Silke Smulders (Liv-AlUla-Jayco), Kristen Faulkner, Alison Jackson (EF Education-Cannondale) and Sheyla Gutiérrez (Movistar Team).

Besides Elisa Longo Borghini. LidleTrek missed the cut and saw GC contender Gaia Realini struggle to hang on and together with Spanish rider Mavi Garcia she managed to link to a second large group chasing the front group of around 40 riders. In this group were most of the FDJ Suez riders and DSM Firmenich PostNL riders.

The second group struggled to work together as the most teams had a rider in the leading group and they never got closer than one minute.

The intermediate sprint at Santa Fe was a crucial point in the race, offering bonus seconds that could impact the GC standings. Marianne Vos of Visma | Lease a Bike showcased her sprinting ability, wearing the green sprint points jersey and led out by Riejanne Markus, by taking maximum points and bonus seconds, thus propelling her for a perfect position to gain in into Kat Blanka Vas for the overall lead and maybe securing the Red jersey.

Getting into the streets of Zaragoza, the wind didn’t play a pat anymore being covered by the city’s buildings. The lead group knew they were going to the finish line and awaited the reduced bunch sprint.

Kristen Faulkner, realizing the potential to gain time on her rivals, didn’t want to be led to the slaughter house for a sprint with Vos, Baker and vd Duin and  launched a daring solo attack. Her impressive determination saw her increasing her lead, with the chase group unable to organize an effective pursuit!

The American never looked behind, rode like a time trial and didn’t even took her hands off her handlebars until she crossed the finish line completely, winning the fourth stage of La Vuelta Femenina by Carrefour.es. This stage victory added to EF Education-Cannondale’s success, being their second win in the ongoing tour.

Behind Faulkner, the battle for the remaining podium spots was still on. Demi Vollering kept the speed high in the final 300m when in the final 100meter, Marianne Vos of Visma | Lease a Bike started her sprint with Maike van der Duin of Canyon//Sram right beside her. From behind Georgia Baker of Liv-AlUla-Jayco emerged from the sprint among the chasers to claim second place, while Marianne Vos secured third, claiming 4 bonus seconds, reinforcing her position in the GC.

This stage resulted in a shift in the GC. Marianne Vos’s strategic moves during the intermediate sprint and her third place put her in the Red jersey, overtaking Kata Blanka Vas of SD Worx-Protime, who is now second. Faulkner’s stage win catapulted her into third place overall, setting the stage for a highly competitive remainder of the race.

Tomorrow 113,9km in stage 5, from Huesca to Jaca will aid the climbers to their needs as they climb a second category climb in the middle of the stage and has a mountain top finish in Jaca.

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