Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) took overall victory in the Women’s Tour de Suisse after securing a powerful win on the fourth and final stage of the race, stealing the yellow jersey from Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco).
Faulkner edged Brand by just four seconds heading into the final day but had to chase her title rival in the final kilometers as Brand attacked with Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) 20km from the race. The pair had a 30 second gap with 10km to go, with Brand clearly producing an all or nothing attack for the overall win.
Brand’s long range attack looked measured, but Faulkner managed to catch it with one kilometer remaining in the race. Brand managed to hang on to Faulkner’s wheel at this point, before sprinting past the American before the final technical corners. The slippery surface unfortunately caused Faulkner to skid and crash into the barrier as well, allowing Brand to go the last hundred meters unchallenged to take the overall victory.
How did it happen
The fourth and final stage of the Women’s Tour de Suisse featured a 98.5km race from Chur to Lantsch/Lanz, with the toughest race to come. Riders gradually climbed 30km to Wolfgangpass in the early parts of the race, before rolling terrain, coupled with multiple descents, led to the final ascent with 7km to go.
Kristen Faulkner (BikeExchange-Jayco) entered the day with a four-second advantage over Lucinda Brand (Trek-Segafredo) on GC, helped by her victory in the second ITT stage.
The first half of the race passed without any attacks, proving largely uneventful as the peloton remained intact.
At the head of the official part of the Wolfgangpass, a 6.6 km climb at 6.8%, the peloton began to spread out. Several riders weren’t able to keep up the fast pace of the climb as they were eventually left behind on the steeper inclines. An attack by Sina Frei (Switzerland) towards the last part of the climb pushed the peloton further up the hill, but it was Pauliena Rooijakkers (Canyon//Sram) who topped the Wolfgangpass first.
Shortly after, Victorie Guilman (FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope), Valérie Demey (Liv Racing Xstra) and Alessandra Keller (Switzerland) attacked, Amber Kraak (Jumbo-Visma) followed suit and closed the gap. With 35 km to go, the leading quartet had 30 seconds on the peloton.
The peloton worked well together to close that gap on the slight descent, eventually catching the breakaway with 20km to go. However, a few kilometers later, Lucinda Brand and Jolanda Neff (Switzerland) attacked on the steeper descent. The pair quickly carved a gap down the hill, comfortably putting distance between them and the pursuers. Brand, just four seconds behind Faulkner, clearly saw his best opportunity to steal the overall win.
Brand and Neff managed to pull out a 30 second gap going into the final 10km with Brand taking the bonus seconds from Albula/Alvra. The climb to Lantsch/Lenz offered a runner of 5.6 km at 8.2% gradient. At the foot of the climb, the duo was 55 seconds ahead of the peloton. Leading the climb, Brand attacked from Neff, clearly giving everything Faulkner couldn’t reduce the deficit. Neff was quickly caught, with Brand now 30 seconds ahead of the chasing group in the final 4 kilometres.
Gaps opened up halfway up the climb, but Faulkner was part of a trio of runners in pursuit. They included Rooijakkers and Floortje Mackaij (Team DSM), both working hard as Faulkner slipped behind them in an attempt to conserve as much energy as possible. Mackaij however struggled to keep up the pace in the pouring rain, with only Faulkner and Rooijakkers now chasing Brand, whose gap was 25 seconds with 3km to go.
With his grip on the yellow jersey loosened, Faulkner took matters into his own hands. The American attacked from Rooijakkers, accelerating the climb to try to close the gap to the leader up front. In doing so, she had Brand in her sights, slowly but surely closing the gap. Faulkner caught her just a mile from the end and tried to sprint away from Brand. The latter however managed to keep her wheel, the winner of the race inevitably crowning the winner of the general classification.
What followed was a dramatic ending. Brand attacked before tight, technical turns, and Faulkner didn’t look like he had the legs to follow. With the surface slippery, Faulkner unfortunately crashed out at this point, leaving Brand a faultless run to the finish line as she took the stage win, securing her the overall win. Faulkner headed home 15 seconds later, despite looking most likely to triumph in the closing stages.
TOUR OF SWITZERLAND, FOURTH STAGE: FROM COIRE TO LANTSCH/LENZ (98.5 KM)
1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, in 2-52-20
2. Kristen Faulkner (USA) BikeExchange-Jayco, age 15
3. Brodie Chapman (Aus) FDJ Nouvelle-Aquitaine Futuroscope, in parallel
4. Erica Magnaldi (Ita) Team EAU ADQ
5. Pauliena Rooijakkers (Ned) Canyon//Sram, 36 years old
6. Clara Koppenburg (Ger) Cofidis, in her fifties
7. Floortje Mackaij (Ned) Team DSM, 59
8. Olivia Baril (Can) Valcar-Travel & Service, at 1-25
9. Ingvild Gåskjenn (Nor) Coop-Hitec Products, p. 1-26
10. Jolanda Neff (Swi) Switzerland, at the same time
FINAL GENERAL CLASSIFICATION
1. Lucinda Brand (Ned) Trek-Segafredo, in 7-52-46
2. Kristen Faulkner (USA) Team BikeExchange-Jayco, at 17
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, aged 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 (Australia) Canyon//Sram, at 4-57